Each of the fabulous five were recognised by an expert selection panel for their unique playing abilities and charisma that brought fans to games and then on to their feet, leaving them thrilled and often in disbelief.
More than 600 people attended the gala event at Star City Casino to show their support for rugby league charity, the Men of League Foundation, and the announcement of the game’s greatest Entertainers.
Those honoured include Dragons Immortal Graeme Langlands, fellow Immortal and Team of the Century five-eighth Wally Lewis, Team of the Century half Andrew Johns, Parramatta Eels fullback Jarryd Hayne and Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater.
Slater described the announcement as “a huge honour, possibly the greatest achievement of my career” and said he felt flattered to be named alongside fellow champion fullbacks in St George legend Graeme Langlands and fellow modern day hero Jarryd Hayne.
“It’s hard to relate this to my current achievements because this is comparing me to so many legends of the game, some of whom played before I was even born,” Slater said.
“For the great league people on the panel to have chosen me as one of the top five is very humbling.”
Billy Slater has scored 112 tries in 178 matches for the Melbourne Storm, 13 tries in 9 Tests for Australia and 8 tries in 12 appearances for Queensland, including one of the greatest tries ever seen when he chased a Darren Lockyer grubber, chipped and re-gathered to score to win the Origin series for the Maroons and the man-of-the-match in only his second Origin appearance.
Whether you are a Queenslander who loved him or a New South Welshman who hated him, there’s no doubting Wally Lewis’ entertaining qualities.
Lewis’ charm and charisma kept his loyal Broncos, Gold Coast, Test and Queensland fans absorbed in his every move. Despite his mounting career accolades, the man they call “The King” was overwhelmed when told he was one of the five greatest Entertainers.
“Looking at the vast array of rugby league talent the Game has produced, it’s just bewildering...staggering,” Lewis said.
Now a rugby league commentator with the Nine Network, he said that to him, the perfect entertainer is one who can master his trade when it is most needed.
“Rugby league entertainment is a wonderful pairing of a player’s individual brilliance with the power of the mind to produce their skill in a difficult situation.”
One man who had that brilliant ability to produce his breathtaking best under pressure is the mercurial Andrew Johns. The Newcastle half is a worthy ‘Entertainer’ having earned 24 Test caps, making 23 State of Origin appearances, including his leading hand in NSW’s last win in an Origin Series in 2005 and two Premierships – in 1997 he set up Darren Albert’s match winning try to give the Knights their maiden Premiership and was captain in 2001 when the Knights claimed their second title with Johns Clive Churchill Medal. Johns also amassed 2176 points in his career with some freakish goal kicking.
Graeme “Changa” Langlands
Graeme “Changa” Langlands scored spectacular tries and could change the outcome of a game with a single play. There is no doubting his status as one of the game’s greatest Entertainers. Langlands played in four of St George’s Grand Final winning teams, including 1964 where he fielded a kick near halfway by leaning over the touchline and controlling the ball with his fingers. He set off on an amazing diagonal run which resulted in a try in the corner to Johnny King.
Like Andrew Johns, Chang was equally devastating with the boot. In the 1966 decider, Langlands kicked seven goals to beat Balmain. He was the competition's leading point scorer in the 1971 and 73 seasons. He was also the Dragons’ top point scorer in first grade in 10 seasons between 1963 and 1975. He finished with 1554 points for the famous St George club.
Jarryd Hayne is the NRL’s newest superstar, creating unbelievable sparks of brilliance to ignite his club team, Parramatta Eels, his state and Australia. The 2009 NRL season is, thus far, the highlight of his young career. In the second half of the season he had an amazing 86 tackle busts in 9 games, he won 6 successive man-of-the-match awards and scored a career high 57 points, culminating with the Dally M Medal and an unlikely Grand Final appearance for the Eels.
Hayne went close to emulating his feats of 2009 in three amazing rounds in 2010. In round 18, he scored three scorching tries in a 36-24 rout of the North Queensland Cowboys.
He backed this up with one of the greatest tries ever seen, an 87m try from a kick return that helped the Eels to a 34-28 win over Penrith, after being down 22-0. The try earned Hayne the 2010 ‘Peter Frilingos Memorial Award for Headline Moment of the Year’.
Hayne continued this amazing streak of brilliance against the Bulldogs in round 20.
Rugby league historian David Middleton was at the game: “In the first 20 minutes of the game he was in a world of his own. When he plays like that, no one can come near him.”
“After the game, I said to myself, ‘I wonder if this was what it was like to watch Bradman at his best?’”
The announcement of the Entertainers coincided with the launch of a world first memorabilia piece that comes alive with illuminating ink technology made available by Southern Cross Printed Electronics - www.scprintedelectronics.com.
The night also saw Dragons Immortals Reg Gasnier, John Raper and Graeme Langlands inducted as Men of League Honourees and Brett Kimmorley and Luke Priddis were recognised for joining the 300 Club; while former referee, now video referee, Bill Harrigan started the night with his rendition of the National Anthem - Advance Australia Fair.