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NRL Grand Final preview

No doubt it will be a very tactical game, but which of these two very different teams will have the goods on the day.

PT8M27S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-26l4n 620 349

ANDREW JOHNS' grace on the field was matched by a humility off it, after he was named rugby league's eighth Immortal last night. ''I'm lost for words,'' Johns said. ''The game's given me everything; to be honoured in this way is so overwhelming.''

And clearly unexpected. Asked how he felt just being nominated, Johns said: ''I don't know if I was worthy. I still don't, to be honest … it feels like I'm in a dream. I hope I don't wake up. This is without doubt one of the most special nights of my life.''

Just over five years after he played his last NRL game, Johns joined the exclusive club at the Men of League gala dinner in Pyrmont, bumping off the challenges by Mal Meninga, Norm Provan and Ron Coote, to do so.

The elite ... Andrew Johns has joined Bob Fulton, John Raper, Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis and Arthur Beetson in the exclusive club.

The elite ... Andrew Johns has joined Bob Fulton, John Raper, Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis and Arthur Beetson in the exclusive club. Photo: Quentin Jones

That he did so so soon after retirement, against a hot field, is testament to his enormous talents. ''I don't know when it will sink in,'' Johns said. ''The other guys that were nominated, Norm and Mal and Ron; they're icons of the game. Mal - I played in his era, so it's just blown me away. It's hard to put into words. I nearly started crying [on stage]. I can't believe it. It doesn’t get any bigger. I’m fully aware of the history of the game, what’s happened before me, so to join this group, I don’t know how to put it into words.’’

Some wondered whether Johns should be inducted, given his admission that he had taken illicit drugs during his career. But the original Immortals judges made their decisions based on on-field talents only, and that route was clearly followed again. Johns, who won two premierships with Newcastle, is widely considered the greatest halfback of all time, having been named in the Team of the Century in 2008.

The Immortals concept was created in 1981 by Rugby League Week magazine, with Clive Churchill, Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier and Bob Fulton the inaugural inductees. Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis followed in 1999, and the late Arthur Beetson joined in 2003.

Immortal nominee: Norm Provan, arriving. Click for more photos

Johns pronounced Immortal

Immortal nominee: Norm Provan, arriving. Photo: Quentin Jones

  • Immortal nominee: Norm Provan, arriving.
  • St George's Norm Provan (L) and Western Suburb's Arthur Summons (R) leave a muddy Sydney Cricket Ground after the 1963 Rugby League Grand Final, Sydney, 24 August 1963.
  • Immortal nominee: Mal Maninga, looking confident.
  • Mal Meninga and Dean Lance with the Winfield Cup trophy after winning the 1990 grand final against Penrith at the SFS.
  • Immortal nominee: Andrew Johns, and his wife Cathrine, avoided the red carpet and entered through a side door.
  • Andrew Johns holds the shiel after the NSW v Queensland in the third Rugby League State of Origin match at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland, 16th july 2003.
  • Eastern Suburbs stars Ron Coote (L) and Arthur Beetson share (R) the joys of victory in the dressing-room after the Rugby League Grand Final between Easts and St George on the 20th of September, 1975.
  • Immortal inductee: Andrew Johns, winner of the 8th spot of the immortals of League.
  • Immortal inductee: Andrew Johns, winner of the 8th spot of the immortals of League.
  • Immortal inductee Andrew Johns, centre, winner of the 8th spot of the immortals of League with 4 other immortals. From left: Greame Langlands, Bob Fulton, Wally Lewis, and John Raper.
  • Pic shows Andrew Johns, of the Knights, celebrates the win over the Sharks to put them in the Grand Final on the 22nd of September, 2001.

Johns won many important battles over the Maroons, and his latest is worth claiming; the Blues can at least celebrate something of a victory over Meninga, who has coached Queensland to seven consecutive State of Origin series wins. Johns has beaten him to eighth.