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Lockyer edges Smith as best captain of past 30 years

Two Queensland and Kangaroos greats went head-to-head but Darren Lockyer pipped Cameron Smith to be the fans' choice as the best captain of the past 30 years.

More than 95,000 votes were cast on and on the NRL's official Facebook and Instagram accounts, with Lockyer coming out on top in head-to-head voting after Smith had been the initial front-runner in the first stage of voting.


✌🏽 of the greats! VOTE: Who is the best Captain of the modern era?

Posted by NRL - National Rugby League on Tuesday, 23 June 2020 recently called on the fans to vote 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 Telstra Premiership advertisement.

After more than 850,000 votes, the Simply the Best team of the last 30 years was made up of superstars across the board with both Smith and Lockyer featuring. 

Lockyer's win in this week's poll was somewhat of a comeback in the final stage of voting, with Smith the clear front-runner when fans were asked to select from's 10 nominees.

Simply The Best captain nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Kangaroos captain Boyd Cordner.
Kangaroos captain Boyd Cordner. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Boyd Cordner

The Kangaroos captain has a lot of runs on the board – he's not only the leader of the Australian side but also current State of Origin champions NSW and is the co-captain of back-to-back premiership winners the Roosters. Not a big talker but a leader by his actions.

Brad Fittler holds the shield aloft after NSW won the 2000 series.
Brad Fittler holds the shield aloft after NSW won the 2000 series. ©NRL Photos

Brad Fittler

An Australian Schoolboys sensation who became instant star at Penrith, Fittler captained the Panthers, NSW, Australia and finally the Roosters to a premiership win. He led NSW at Origin level 14 times – one short of the all-time record – and retired with 25 internationals as captain to his name, second only to Clive Churchill.

Knights captain Paul Harragon and Andrew Johns after the memorable 1997 grand final triumph over Manly.
Knights captain Paul Harragon and Andrew Johns after the memorable 1997 grand final triumph over Manly. ©NRL Photos

Paul Harragon

You can't get a much better example of "leading from the front" than Harragon, a man mountain who would launch himself into the teeth of the opposition defence as Newcastle's star prop and captain. The inspiration behind the team's first premiership win in 1997, "The Chief" played 14 Tests and 20 Origins.

Allan Langer

Perhaps because of his jovial personality, Langer was under-rated as a skipper but his record is extremely good - he was captain of the Broncos when they won their four premierships in the 1990s and also led Queensland to their upset State of Origin series win in 1998.

93. Allan Langer - Hall of Fame

Darren Lockyer

A born leader, Lockyer took the reins of Queensland aged 24 in 2001 and became one of the Maroons' greatest captains in the State of Origin era. There were doubts about his position in 2006 but he responded by leading the Maroons to a series win and the Broncos to the title.

100. Darren Lockyer - Hall of Fame

He enjoyed a run of near-flawless success at representative level for Queensland and Australia until his retirement in 2011.

Mal Meninga

The prototype for the lead-by-example style of captain, Meninga wasn't afraid to deliver a verbal barrage to his teammates when necessary but he got the best out of his sides by showing exactly what was needed on the field.

13th Immortal - Mal Meninga

The record-breaking centre captained Canberra to three premierships from 1989-94, took over the Queensland captaincy from Wally Lewis and also maintained Australia's dominance in the international arena before retiring at the end of the 1994 Kangaroo Tour.

Steve Price

A three-time Dally M Captain of the Year, twice with the Bulldogs in 2002 and 2004 and once with the Warriors in 2007, Price helped guide Canterbury out of the wilderness of a season in which they were stripped of competition points and towards the 2004 premiership.

Steve Price and Andrew Ryan after the 2004 grand final.
Steve Price and Andrew Ryan after the 2004 grand final. ©NRL Photos

A knee injury prevented him from lining up on grand final night for the Dogs in 2004 but stand-in skipper Andrew Ryan insisted that he also came onto the podium to jointly hold the trophy aloft.

Cameron Smith

Let's be honest, Cameron Smith has done it all. A five-time Dally M Captain of the Year with Melbourne, Smith has won grand finals at club level, led Queensland during most of their eight-year reign of State of Origin dominance.

He captained Australia for the majority of his 12-year international career as he racked up 56 international appearances (second behind Darren Lockyer on the all-time list).

A look back at the 2015 Grand Final

Johnathan Thurston

A player who took a few years to develop into a leader, Thurston overcame a few early hiccups to become North Queensland's talisman on and off the field.

Combining with prop Matt Scott, he led the Cowboys to their memorable 2015 grand final win over Brisbane and has shown in the last few years in retirement that he is a true leader off the field with his tireless community work, particularly in raising money for Indigenous education.

Geoff Toovey

It's not the size of the skipper in the fight but the size of the fight in the skipper.

Manly great Geoff Toovey.
Manly great Geoff Toovey. ©NRL Photos

No Manly player could ever have an excuse for not aiming up when their captain, who was pretty much always the smallest player on the field, would rip into the opposition in attack and defence. Toovey was at the forefront in taking Manly to three straight premierships in the mid 1990s, including the 1996 triumph, and also captained NSW to victory the following year. 

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