Meninga humbled, praises decision on historic night

One of rugby league's newest Immortals Mal Meninga has applauded the NRL's decision to induct pioneers Dally Messenger, Frank Burge and Dave Brown into the game's elite group.

The judging panel deemed there was no better time to include the pre-war trio, with the reception to that decision by the rugby league community proving it was the right one.

A humbled Meninga was chuffed by the early announcement made by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg as proceedings got underway.

Messenger, Burge and Brown were represented by family members to receive the prestigious honours on behalf of the men, who died in 1959, 1958 and 1974 respectively.

"That was fantastic, that was like a surprise out of the box, the game got that right," Meninga said following the announcement.

"It was a really good decision. The selection committee had the forethought and were brave and courageous enough to do it tonight.

"It was a great time to do it. I was proud of the game when those names appeared. I was chuffed, I thought it was fantastic."

 Meninga was unveiled as the final inductee at the SCG on Wednesday night and officially the 13th Immortal. Norm Provan was named the 12th Immortal.

The Australian Test coach paid tribute to his family, friends, former teammates, coaches, and colleagues at the announcement.

"The 13th ... a bit of black voodoo, I don't mind that," Meninga grinned.

"It might be unlucky for some but lucky for me. I'll take it.

"It is surreal, I'm so proud of the fact I've been named that, but I'm more proud of the fact mum and dad, the people that were around me in my early years, coaches and all the players I played with, it's recognition and acknowledgment of that as well.

"It's a fantastic feeling, a very humbling experience. I fully understand there are so many players that could be standing in my spot right now.

"It's one of the best things that's happened to me personally."

He said he was humbled to be named alongside Provan.

The Dragons legend was too ill to attend the announcement, with his daughter Sue McLeod and extended family present to accept the award.

"He's always been very humble so it's never really worried him, these sorts of accolades. But he is very proud I've been told. He's grateful because football was everything to him," McLeod said.

"It's wonderful, he's always been elite to us, I think this was the final accolade that dad should've got. He was an exceptional man, player, coach and captain.

"He's 86 now, he had a fall a couple of years ago so that's given him a bit of spinal damage. I think it might be the end of the time he comes down to Sydney, that's why the family stepped up to take his place.

"He deserves it off the field and on the field." 

Mal Meninga with the Provan family and other Hall of Famers.
Mal Meninga with the Provan family and other Hall of Famers. ©NRL Photos

Provan's wife Lynne accompanied her daughter to the SCG. 

"This is obviously an incredible honour for Norm and the entire family. It's fair to say Norm has had to wait a while for this, but it is wonderful to know he has been acknowledged in this fashion," Lynne said.

"Norm had a wonderful career as a player, a captain and as a coach, and I know that he would want to thank all of his teammates and everyone involved over the course of his career. St George was a family for him. He is very proud to be named as an Immortal."

The 'other half' of the Telstra Premiership trophy is Provan's good mate and former combatant, Arthur Summons of the Wests Magpies.

"It's long overdue," Summons said.

"To be part of 10 grand final wins, and captain coach in four of them, is amazing. You can't even win them back-to-back these days.

"They were a great club side. He was a player of great stature, and he certainly warrants inclusion in the Immortals. I've been blessed in life to have an association and a friendship with him.

"To be able to play in an era which included some of the greatest players of all time - Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier and also Norm - is very special for me. I'm sorry I couldn't be there tonight to share this with Norm's family but I am so happy for him."