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Vote for rugby league's greatest ever British XIII

In the first of an exciting series of articles, John Ledger outlines how Yorkshire Post readers can help him to pick the best Great Britain team of all time.

HOW do you measure greatness? What separates the good from the gifted? Who are the best of British?

The answers to those questions have troubled many rugby league experts down the years and tonight it is the judgment of Tony Smith, in his first match as Great Britain coach, that comes under the spotlight in the Frontline Test against France.

Selecting the best players of the moment is tough enough but what of the greatest British players of all time? How hard could that be?

In a year which marks the centenary of international rugby league – and a last chance to see Great Britain play Test matches on English soil – the Yorkshire Post is giving readers an opportunity to name the ultimate national team.

It is not going to be an easy task, especially as over 700 players have represented Great Britain in Test and World Cup matches since the New Zealand 'All Golds' arrived in 1907, and the process is likely to spark controversy.

Some of the sport's most celebrated figures are going to find themselves out in the cold and, perhaps inevitably, many of those who have featured in recent internationals may not get the credit they deserve.

The rules of rugby league have changed considerably down the years and the roles of players in many positions are very different now to how they were in the days of unlimited possession. However in sport, like elsewhere in life, the cream always rises to the top and there is absolutely no reason why a modern forward could not pack down alongside one of the game's expert scrimmagers in the greatest Great Britain team of all time.

A team you, dear reader, can help select.

Click here to submit your 13 with a note on why they made it, along with your name and address.

To prick a few memories, over the next three weeks we will publish shortlists of five players in every position divided into three categories.

We start today with The Creative Department and 15 candidates for the scrum-half, stand-off and loose forward positions.

Next Saturday, it's the turn of the props, hookers and second rows who work in The Engine Room and a week later the full-backs, centres and wingers who comprise The Fast and the Furious.

Like the legends in your team had to in their day, there are a few rules you must adhere to. And bend occasionally.

Firstly, every player must have spent a significant part of their club or representative career in the position in which they are named.

It is not acceptable, for example, to name a scrum-half on the wing simply because your No 7 jersey is already filled. David Waite tried that one – enough said?

Secondly, each player should, ideally, have represented Great Britain or any of the individual home nations. Consideration could be given to an uncapped player who qualifies under the residency ruling, providing he has not played at international level for another country. Brian Bevan on the wing, anyone?

Thirdly, although the players on the short-list have been named for guidance only, some words of justification (on a separate piece of paper attached to the entry form) would be appreciated for any player selected out of left field.

Once all the entries, both through the post and online, have been received we will sit down and compile and publish the definitive Great Britain team.

The rest, as they say, is up to you...

Alex Murphy, Scrum-half

Alex Murphy, pictured above, was just 19 years of age when he established himself as the world's best half-back with a series of outstanding performances against Australia's experienced scrum-half Keith Holman on the 1958 Lions tour. From then on Murphy would become one of the most colourful and skilful characters the sport has ever seen.

Some said his fine balance came from having a chip on each shoulder but no-one can deny that scrum-half play has never been bettered than that produced by an on-song Murphy.

His pace was electric, his tongue even faster and his will to win a legendary assett.

On the 1958 tour Murphy scored 21 tries in 20 appearances and four years later added another nine in 11 matches, including one in each of the second and third Tests.

Caps: 27 (1958-1971).

Clubs: St Helens, Leigh, Warrington.

Jonty Parkin, Scrum-half

Jonathan Parkin was born in Sharlston in 1894, the year before the breakaway of the Northern Union, and would go on to become one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.

A crafty, elusive runner who was full of cunning, Parkin was noted for the wide variety of play he would bring to his team's attack. Parkin proved himself on the 1920 Lions tour and two years later captained England to a 5-4 win against Australia at Arsenal's Highbury Stadium.

One Australian opponent described him thus: "He was a strategist to the fingertips and as cunning as a fox... when he turned to the blind side his work was perfect for he had a grubber kick that has never been equalled."

Caps: 17 (1920-1929).

Clubs: Wakefield, Hull KR

Roger Millward, Scrum-half

Standing just 5ft 4in in his stocking feet and weighing in at less than 11 stones, Roger Millward was not the most statuesque player to have donned a Great Britain jersey but his record marks him out as a giant of a man.

Millward scored his first Test try in Britain's 16-11 victory over Australia at Leeds in 1967 but his finest hour came in 1970 when he played a major role in Great Britain winning the Ashes for the last time.

MIllward scored 20 points in the series-levelling 28-7 second Test victory and struck with the winning try in the third Test decider with commentator Eddie Waring remarking: "Millward seemed to be skipping with joy as he scampered past four opponents to score."

Caps: 29 (1966-1978).

Clubs: Castleford, Hull KR.

Alan Hardisty, Stand-off

Few players sporting a No 6 on their backs have possessed the grace and elegance of one half of Castleford's famous H-bombs.

Alan Hardisty, whose partnership with Keith Hepworth was instrumental in the Wheldon Road club earning the nickname 'Classy Cas', was the supreme support player and possessed an uncanny knack of fashioning tries out of nothing.

His sense of timing was impeccable, as the mighty Australians found to their cost in the first and third Tests of the 1966 Lions tour.

Caps: 12 (1964-1970).

Clubs: Castleford, Leeds.

Willie Horne, Stand-off

A two-time tourist in 1946 and 1950, Willie Horne was a stand-off whose timing of a pass and reading of a game made him a respected colleague and feared adversary.

Born and raised in Barrow, Horne served his home-town club with distinction and led them to three Challenge Cup finals in the 1950s. Horne's forte was as a creator rather than a finisher and Barrow's two other Great Britain players of the time, Phil Jackson and Dennis Goodwin were deeply indebted to their captain for helping launch their international careers.

Caps: 8 (1946-1952).

Club: Barrow.

Lewis Jones, Stand-off/centre

Lewis Jones had rugby league clubs clammering for his services after making a massive impression on his international union debut for Wales in 1950 and it was Leeds who won the race, paying a 6,000 signing on fee to lure him from Llannelli.

'The Golden Boy' went on to set a host of records for Leeds, including an amazing 496 points in club and representative matches in the 1956-57 season when his deadly accuracy with the boot and 'hitch kick' step brought him 36 tries and 194 goals.

Caps: 15 (1954-1957)

Club: Leeds.

Malcolm Reilly, Loose forward

Malcolm Reilly's explosive contribution to Great Britain's successful Ashes tour in 1970 curtailed his international career with Australian side Manly paying Castleford a 15,000 world record fee to secure his valuable services.

Reilly, who had won the Lance Todd Trophy in Castleford's win over Salford at Wembley in 1969, was possessed of remarkable strength, pace and determination as well as ball-handling skills which have rarely been bettered by any player, British of Australian.

Caps: 9 (1970).

Club: Castleford.

Derek Turner, Loose forward

A rugged, tough tackler, Derek 'Rocky' Turner was one of the best defensive loose forwards to represent his country.

Quiet and unassuming off the field, Turner was a tower of strength on it where his unyielding professionalism earned him the respect of all who played with or against him. Turner made his name at Oldham but enjoyed most success as a key figure in the all-conquering Wakefield

Trinity side that dominated the game in the 1960s.

Caps: 24 (1956-1962)

Clubs: Hull KR, Oldham, Wakefield.

Dave Valentine, Loose forward

A former Hawick and Scotland RU back row, Valentine was a magnificent leader of men with both Huddersfield and Great Britain, who he captained to victory in the 1954 World Cup final in his last appearance. Agile and swift of thought, Valentine played the game hard up front but was always willing to play football with the backs. He was a member of the Ashes-winning sides in 1948 and 1952 and took on the Great Britain captaincy for the World Cup on his return from the 1954 Lions tour when Willie Horne turned it down.

Caps: 15 (1948-1954).

Club: Huddersfield.

Shaun Edwards, Stand-off

The most decorated player in domestic rugby league may never have got to play in an Ashes-winning team but Shaun Edwards made a massive impact during a career which saw him collect 32 winners medals while at Wigan. The fourth most-capped player in Test history, Edwards made his Test debut as an 18-year-old against France.

Caps: 36 (1985-94).

Clubs: Wigan, London, Bradford.

Don Fox, Scrum-half

Don Fox is living proof that Henry Ford got it right when he said 'History is bunk.' To most people Fox will remembered for his famous missed conversion for Wakefield in the 1968 Watersplash final at Wembley (when he also won the Lance Todd Trophy), a situation which does a great injustice to one of the most naturally talented footballing half-backs rugby league has ever seen. A non-Test playing tourist in 1962, Fox gained his solitary cap against Australia the following year but subsequently saw his Test ambitions dogged by injury.

Caps: 1 (1963).

Clubs: Featherstone, Wakefield, Batley.

Andy Gregory, Scrum-half

Of the three 'As' required of an international standard scrum-half there is little doubt that Andy Gregory was possessed of as much attitude as he was artisanship and ability. The cock-sure Gregory lived tough and played tough and will long be remembered for his magnificent contribution in the third Test of 1988 when he delivered a rousing display as Great Britain beat Australia 26-12 in Sydney, their first win over the old enemy in 16 starts.

Caps: 26 (1981-1992).

Clubs: Widnes, Warrington, Wigan, Leeds, Salford.

Ellery Hanley, Loose forward

Phenomenal try-scorer at club level, Ellery Hanley was also one of the most versatile players in the history of international rugby league representing Great Britain at centre, stand-off, loose forward and on the wing. On the ill-fated 1984 Lions tour Hanley scored 12 tries in 17 appearances from the wing but it was at No 6 and No 13 that he was to exert most influence for Great Britain. Appointed as tour captain in 1988, Hanley led the Lions to a 26-12 win in the third Test at the Sydney Football Stadium and toured for a third time in 1992, when injury restricted him to just one appearance.

Caps: 36 (1984-1993).

Clubs: Bradford, Wigan, Leeds.

David Watkins, Stand-off

The 16,000 Salford paid to get the Welsh fly-half in 1967 was a small fortune at the time but no player can have given as much value for a signing on fee as David Watkins. He started just two Tests for Great Britain – both at centre – but that cold statistic cannot disguise the fact that Watkins was a rugby league player of the highest order. Blessed with lightning pace which saw him score or set up tries through the tiniest of gaps, Watkins also had a tactical kicking game that was years ahead of its time.

Caps: 6 (1971-1974).

Clubs: Salford, Swinton, Cardiff.

Johnny Whiteley, Loose forward

ONE-club players like Johnny Whiteley are becoming increasingly rare in the modern era and, even more sadly, so too are No 13s blessed with the ball-handling skills of one of rugby league's great gentlemen. Whiteley's undivided loyalty to his beloved Hull – together with the presence of Vince Karalius and Derek Turner in the same era – probably prevented him from having a more prolonged international career but when he did step out in the red, white and blue, usually in the second row, few forwards acquitted themselves as well.

Caps: 15 (1957-1959).

Clubs: Hull.

 
 
 

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