86. Wayne Pearce

No Australian rugby league player had a greater influence on fitness than Balmain lock forward Wayne Pearce.

A non-drinker and non-smoker, Pearce's strict adherence to exercise and diet helped to modernise the game as he became a role model for younger players and fans.

Pearce's greatest assets were his athleticism and endurance. Not heavily framed at 88kg, his boundless enthusiasm was an inspiration to teammates.

After making his debut with the Tigers in 1980, Pearce quickly rose to the Balmain captaincy in 1982, a position he held until his retirement.

It was no coincidence the Tigers reached the finals seven times (1983 and 1985–1990) during his reign, which included heart-wrenching grand-final losses in 1988 and 1989.

Pearce toured with the 1982 Kangaroos at a time when Ray Price had a monopoly on the Test lock position.

So he moved into the second row before succeeding Price on the Parramatta champion's international retirement in 1984.

Pearce's form was acknowledged in 1985 when he won the Rothman's Medal as the best-and-fairest player in the NSWRL competition.

In 1986, he captained NSW to its first-ever Origin series clean sweep against Queensland. He led the Blues in 10 of his 15 appearances between 1983 and 1988.

Balmain front-rower Steve Roach said of his captain: ''Junior was the toughest bloke I ever saw. He had an inner strength of character and a never-say-die spirit that was indomitable''.

Position: Second row/Lock.

Club: Balmain 1980–90.

Games for NSW: 15 (1983–88).

Tests for Australia: 18 (1982–88).

World Cup matches: One (1988).

Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tour 1982; World Cup 1988; Australian tour of New Zealand 1985.