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Wing commanders: Sailor, El Masri named Simply The Best

Two players of differing skill sets have been crowned Simply The Best wingers - Wendell Sailor and Hazem El Masri.

Sailor was renowned for his power and speed during his many years racking up tries for the Broncos, Maroons, Kangaroos and Dragons while the much smaller El Masri was no less effective during his 14-season stint at Canterbury, piling on the points with a mix of craftiness and peerless goal-kicking prowess.

After rising to prominence from 1993-2001 at Brisbane, scoring 110 tries while also representing Queensland and Australia, Sailor became a dual international after a successful switch to rugby before ending his career with a couple of seasons at St George Illawarra.

El Masri became the all-time leading scorer in premiership history with 2418 points, all as a Bulldog, before it was broken last year by Cameron Smith. A prolific try-scorer as well as an immaculate goal kicker, he was part of Canterbury's 2004 grand final victory over the Roosters.

More than 150,000 fans voted in the online poll as well as the official NRL Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Sailor destroys Dragons with career best four-try haul

Sailor was uncharacteristically dumbfounded when he was informed of the honour.

"It’s quite humbling. I know humbling and me don’t go together much. It does make you feel good. That’s why you play the game, is to be the best. I’m over the moon. It’s a good feeling," he said.

"The blokes in there, it’s a pretty fair field. The bloke who I thought might probably get me would be Brett Morris because he’s been outstanding the last 10 years.

It’s quite humbling. I know humbling and me don’t go together much.

Wendell Sailor

"I came through a golden era. I think people saw me change the wingers game. Eric Grothe senior set a standard.

"If it wasn’t for Willie Carne and Mick Hancock [I wouldn’t have won]. They set the standard and from then on, I knew what the standard had to be.

"El Masri was always an under-rated player. I’ve played some tough games against him."

El Masri was also thrilled to get a place on one of the wings.

"It's humbling to hear that and good to see the fans have still got good memories. There's a lot of quality wingers out there that it could've gone to anybody," he said.

"The bigger guys who had speed and agility like Wendell, Lote and Manu Vatuvei were fantastic, they were a nightmare to mark.

"I had a look at the list and a lot hadn't been mentioned. It's a great honour and I thank everyone for voting. The good thing about it is it wasn't only Bulldogs fans who voted."

The best of Hazem El Masri

NRL.com this month launched the search for the Simply The Best players from 1990 to now to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner promotional campaign, which was again featured in this year's advertisement for the Telstra Premiership.

A poll will go live each Friday for each of the nine positions on the field as well as the coach who has been better than all the rest during the past 30 years. Billy Slater kicked off proceedings by winning the fullback poll in a landslide.

Sailor and El Masri won after the NRL.com newsroom narrowed the race to be the best winger down to a shortlist of 10, which was trimmed to four finalists also including Roosters star Brett Morris and former Warriors "Beast" Manu Vatuvei.

NRL.com will call on the fans to have their say from midday on Friday to decide which centre was Simply The Best over the past three decades.

Such was the talent on offer among wingers, we could find no room in the initial top 10 for Fijian flyers Noa Nadruku and Semi Radradra, former Knights star Adam MacDougall, modern-day internationals Josh Addo-Carr and Valentine Holmes, or greats from yesteryear in the form of Brett Dallas, Willie Carne, goal-kicking guru Daryl Halligan and prolific try-scorers Nathan Merritt and Timana Tahu.

Simply The Best winger nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Former Dragons speedster Nathan Blacklock.
Former Dragons speedster Nathan Blacklock. ©NRL Photos

Nathan Blacklock

A prolific try scorer, the winger from Tingha was a fan favourite during his career, particularly during a golden run from 1998-2001 with St George Illawarra in which he scored 96 tries in just less than one per game. Although he never played Origin for NSW and represented Australia just twice, he finished his decade-long NRL career after crossing the stripe 121 times in just 142 games.

Bulldogs great Hazem El Masri.
Bulldogs great Hazem El Masri. ©NRL Photos

Hazem El Masri

The second-greatest pointscorer in premiership history had to be on this shortlist even though he was also rarely given a call-up by representative selectors. El Masri ended his 317-game NRL career, all at the Bulldogs, with 159 tries and 891 goals for the grandest of all grand totals of 2418 points and was also a key member of the 2004 premiership-winning side.

Michael Hancock during his final game for Brisbane, the 2000 grand final win over the Roosters.
Michael Hancock during his final game for Brisbane, the 2000 grand final win over the Roosters. ©NRL Photos

Michael Hancock

The Brisbane stalwart's career coincided with the Broncos' entry into the premiership, racking up 123 tries in 276 appearances for the club before his retirement after the 200 grand final. A member of four premiership-winning squads, he also represented Queensland 16 times and Australia in 14 Tests.

Brett Morris picks the favourite tries of his career

Brett Morris

One of the most accomplished finishers in NRL history, the Kiama Knights junior kicked off his first-grade career with St George Illawarra in 2006 and after a four-year stint with the Bulldogs, is still going strong at the Roosters after joining the club last year. Morris has scored 153 tries in 254 games at club level and represented NSW in 15 Origins and Australia in 18 Tests.

Sharks winger Mat Rogers represented Australia in league and union.
Sharks winger Mat Rogers represented Australia in league and union. ©NRL Photos

Mat Rogers

A teenage prodigy and son of club legend Steve Rogers, he made his debut for Cronulla in 1995 and rose to representative level with Queensland and Australia while shining for the Sharks in their finals teams of the late 1990s. After becoming a dual international at the Wallabies, he returned to the NRL to play for the Titans before retiring in 2011.

Wendell Sailor.
Wendell Sailor. ©NRL Photos

Wendell Sailor

One of the most naturally gifted athletes in premiership history, Sailor embodied the flashy and powerful Broncos premiership-winning sides of the late 1990s. He also excelled for the Maroons and Kangaroos, became a dual international after switching to rugby before returning to league to finish his career with two seasons at St George Illawarra.

Matt Sing at his elusive best for the Kangaroos in 2004.
Matt Sing at his elusive best for the Kangaroos in 2004. ©NRL Photos

Matt Sing

An under-rated performer, he enjoyed a lengthy career over 14 seasons with Penrith, the Roosters and North Queensland, scoring 159 tries along the way. Sing represented the Maroons in 24 Origins and Australia in 12 Tests, retiring at the end of the 2006 season.

Lote Tuqiri was a powerhouse for the Broncos early in his career.
Lote Tuqiri was a powerhouse for the Broncos early in his career. ©NRL Photos

Lote Tuqiri

Another phenomenally athletic powerhouse, the Fijian-born burst onto the NRL scene in 1999 with the Broncos and scored a try in their grand final win the following season. After representing the Maroons and Kangaroos, he also became a Test player in rugby with the Wallabies before returning to rugby league with four seasons at the Wests Tigers and then bowing out following South Sydney's 2014 grand final victory.

Manu Vatuvei dives over in the corner for the Kiwis in 2015.
Manu Vatuvei dives over in the corner for the Kiwis in 2015. ©NRL Photos

Manu Vatuvei

The "Beast" was just that to opposing wingers for the Warriors over a memorable career from 2003-16, which also included 28 Tests for New Zealand and two more for Tonga. He touched down a club record 152 times for the Warriors, often overpowering opponents with his raw power close to the try line.

Wishart takes a walk down memory lane

Rod Wishart

A goal-kicking centre from Gerringong, he was quickly switched to the wing after making his debut with Illawarra in 1989 and graduated to Origin level with NSW the following year and the Test arena, representing Australia in 1990. A mainstay for the Blues and Kangaroos throughout the decade, he retired after St George Illawarra's grand final heartache in 1999 with 78 tries, 1092 points, 22 Origins and 15 Tests in his resume.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.