84. Peter Sterling

In 1978, with his team facing a semi-final replay against Manly, Parramatta coach Terry Fearnley made the stunning move to promote his under-23s five-eighth, the schoolboy Peter Sterling, to play his first top-grade game ... at fullback! Fearnley was well aware of Sterling's talents.

He had invited Sterling to move from Wagga to Sydney, where he spent his final year of school at Fairfield Patrician Brothers.

Sterling was a class above his schoolboys opponents, displaying a maturity and footballing instinct that were to become hallmarks of his career.

After that semi-final, which Manly won 17–11, Sterling spent time ''toughening up'' in the lower grades before cementing a regular place in first grade by 1980.

As the playmaker, Sterling took charge of the Eels' celebrated backline, which featured stars such as Mick Cronin, Brett Kenny, Steve Ella and Eric Grothe, his vision and timing bringing out the best in the players around him.

The club's first title in 1981 brought delirium to a district that had been starved of success for generations.

Then winning became a habit. Further titles in 1982, 1983 and 1986 propelled the Eels to the competition's heavyweight division and Sterling was guiding their fortunes all the way.

If coach Jack Gibson was the general, Sterling was the battlefield commander. The blonde maestro also starred in an unprecedented era of dominance by Australia.

He played in two undefeated Kangaroo tours, tasted defeat only twice in 18 Test matches and was a shining star for Hull in two off-season stints in the mid-1980s.

Position: Halfback.

Clubs: Parramatta 1978–92; Hull 1983–85.

Club landmarks: Won premierships with Parramatta 1981–83, 1986.

Games for NSW: 13 (1981–88).

Tests for Australia: 18 (1982–88).

Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1982, 1986.