The NRL will say goodbye to more outstanding players at season’s end and I have focused on six premiership winners who have left an indelible mark on the game and will be missed.
Paul Gallen, Matt Scott, Robbie Farah, Cooper Cronk, John Sutton and James Maloney all deserve the accolades that will continue to come their way.
Paul Gallen will always be remembered fondly at the Sharks for being the first captain of a premiership-winning side.
I saw that famous photo the other day of Gallen and Andrew Ettingshausen in tears after the 2016 grand final and that said a lot to me. Gallen inspired Cronulla to win the title guys like ET had craved and I reckon the gritty style of play Cronulla are now famous for has mostly come from Gal.
When I played against Cronulla they weren’t known for that as much. They were a bit more free-flowing in the backs and open. Through Gallen they built this grittiness which is almost Bulldogs-like in the way they grind out a win. Gallen’s leadership has been second to none.
A great bloke off the field, on it he has just been tough. If he could, he would take a hit-up five times in a set of six. He has always bullied his way in to get the ball because he is the ultimate competitor and has been at club, Origin and Test level.
Gallen has also been great for the promotion of rugby league. He’s embraced that "villain" role in Origin and seemed to get a real buzz out of it.
For a decade Matt Scott was the best prop on a consistent basis for the Cowboys, the Maroons and Australia.
At every level he has gone out on the field and just ripped in and the 2015 premiership was a great reward for him. His teammates say he is that inspirational player that they just want to run out with because they know what you are going to get.
I’ve listened to Matt speak over the years about the influence Petero Civoniceva had on his career and there are a lot of similarities. They both played a tough, uncompromising style of football but you never saw them involved in any rubbish.
Scott epitomises to me what an aggressive and tough front-rower is. He’s done his job as a no-nonsense and inspirational prop.
I was saddened to learn Matt had suffered a stroke recently but glad to know he is on his way to a full recovery. I am certain he will be a great ambassador for the game in whatever sphere he gets involved in beyond his playing days.
Robbie Farah: The Leichhardt wanderer
There is no doubt Robbie Farah would have played more Test football if Cameron Smith hadn’t been on the scene.
Whether Robbie gets to play at Leichhardt Oval or not in the final round game this year he will always be one of the Tigers’ favourite sons. He was born to play for them and loves the club where he won the 2005 title.
You think of the modern-day Tigers and Farah and Benji Marshall are the two guys that come straight to mind as club legends. It was fitting Farah came back to finish his career with the club.
As a footballer Farah is smart and he is super-competitive. He had a bit more pace when he was younger but, like Smith, Robbie Farah has a really good footy head. He is as quick between the ears as any of the champion hookers and should be proud of his career.
There is no player in the game who has extracted as much out of his ability as Cooper Cronk. He has worked very hard at his trade and become one of the best halves of the modern era.
You can’t have a successful team just full of players with natural ability. You need the dedicated hard workers who dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ in their apprenticeship.
Cronk is also a deep thinker so he's both an elite tradesman and "the professor" of rugby league. You see that with his kicking game where he has mastered the art and knows the mechanics of kicking inside and out.
What he did in last year’s grand final for the Roosters playing with basically one arm was just amazing. The Roosters won it with 12 players. They sacrificed a player and gained an on-field coach. He was the director of a masterful performance. At all levels of the game, Cronk has won it all.
I have always been a big fan of John Sutton and the way he has played his footy whether it be at five-eighth or in the forwards.
You see his remarkable game sense in the back row these days and he is still coming up with the big plays like he did last week against the Broncos when he put Cody Walker away with a great offload.
Sutton is the ultimate South Sydney fairytale story. He grew up as a Souths junior and got to captain them to a 34-year drought-breaking premiership in 2014. No player deserved it more.
I talk to Wayne Bennett and the boys that play with him and he is another guy they all want in the team, and especially at Souths because he is a Souths boy through and through. He was there for the bad times as well but stayed loyal and will retire as the longest-serving Rabbitoh of all time.
Teammates reflect on Sutton
Jimmy Maloney is not retiring of course but is leaving the NRL for the Super League where I am certain he will be a huge success with Catalans.
The French public are going to embrace Maloney because he is an ultra-confident competitor, and a winner.
Wherever Maloney goes success seems to follow so it was no surprise that he won titles with the Roosters and Sharks and played in a decider with the Warriors.
There are few players that are more confident in themselves than Maloney. It’s infectious. He came into the NSW side with belief this year in Game Two of the Origin series and it transferred to the entire squad.
Maloney is bullet proof. He can make a mistake on the footy field but minutes later then comes up with the match-winner. He is an outstanding half and his mental approach to playing rugby league is second to none.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.