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Leader of men: Smith voted rugby league's greatest captain

Every great team in the history of our game has boasted a great leader, from Red V royalty Norm Provan to King Wally and Big Mal, but standing above them all is Captain Cam, who has been voted rugby league's standout skipper.

Arguably the greatest player of the modern era, Smith took to captaincy like a duck to water and enjoyed unbelievable success with the Storm, Queensland and Australia.

Smith captained Melbourne to three premierships, led the Maroons in 21 Origins and the Kangaroos on 26 occasions - inspiring his men by word and by deed, and demanding excellence from all those around him.

In the final analysis, Smith polled 38 per cent of the vote to beat home another legendary Queenslander Wally Lewis (12 per cent) with Mal Meninga, Arthur Beetson and Provan tied for third.

Greatest captains

Arthur Beetson

A true icon of the game, Beetson became the first Aboriginal to captain Australia in any sport in 1973 before leading Queensland to victory in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980. The ball-playing genius captained Eastern Suburbs to back-to-back grand final victories in 1974-75 and became rugby league’s seventh Immortal in 2003.

72. Arthur Beetson - Hall of Fame

Clive Churchill

'The Litttle Master' captained the Kangaroos 27 times – the second-most ever – and captained them in their first World Cup campaign. The diminutive fullback won five premierships in the 1950s with his beloved Rabbitohs. In 1981 he was named one of the original Immortals alongside Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier and John Raper.

43. Clive Churchill - Hall of Fame

Boyd Cordner

Cordner’s tough brand of play and relentless will to win made him the ideal captain for the Roosters, Blues and Kangaroos. Cordner captained NSW to their first back-to-back series wins in 14 years (2018-19) and became the first player to captain back-to-back premierships in 26 years when he led his Roosters to grand final glory in 2018 and 2019.

'A leader of men': Robinson pays tribute to Cordner

Allan Langer

Led Brisbane to their maiden premiership in 1992 and repeated the dose in 1993, before leading the club to a Super League premiership in 1997 and an NRL premiership in 1998. That year, Langer and supercoach Wayne Bennett became the first captain-coach duo to win a premiership, Origin series and Test series in the same year.

Langer immortalised in bronze with statue at Suncorp

Wally Lewis

They don’t call him 'The King' for nothing. The Maroons maestro captained the Kangaroos 24 times and Queensland in a record 30 Origin games, leading them to series victories in 1982, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1991. Lewis' fierce will to win made him the ideal captain at state and Test level and perhaps his finest achievement was captaining the 1986 Kangaroos on an unbeaten tour of Great Britain and France, emulating the feats of the 1982 Invincibles.

The Maroons celebrate their 1987 Origin series triumph.
The Maroons celebrate their 1987 Origin series triumph.

Darren Lockyer

The man who holds the record for most Test matches as the Australian skipper (38), Lockyer’s mix of longevity and skill is almost mythical. The Roma product captained his Broncos to a 15-8 grand final win over Melbourne in 2006, before becoming the 100th inductee in the NRL’s Hall of Fame.

Mal Meninga

Meninga appeared in 46 Tests for the Kangaroos, 24 as captain. The only player to make two Kangaroo tours as captain and the only man to make four Kangaroo tours as a player. He captained Canberra to a famous victory in the 1989 grand final, before captaining two more premiership-winning sides in 1990 and 1994.

Great Grand Final Moments: 1994 Mal Meninga Intercept Try

Norm Provan

The legendary Dragons back-rower played in a record 10 grand final victories and was captain-coach for four of them. Provan, whose name is sprawled across the NRL’s premiership trophy, was named an Immortal in 2018 after one of the most impressive careers the game has seen. Revered by his Red V teammates and respected by rivals, 'Sticks' was born to lead.

Norm Provan - Immortal

John Sattler

Sattler captained his Rabbitohs to five straight grand finals from 1967 to 1971, winning four of them. Sattler will forever be remembered for his courage in playing on with a smashed jaw in the 1970 grand final and leading his team to a 23-12 win over Manly. One of the most inspirational performances by a captain in the game's history.

Farewell to a legend: Paying tribute to Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith

Arguably the greatest player of the modern era, Smith’s name is synonymous with success. Holds the record for most NRL games (411) and points scored (2602) and also captained Melbourne to three premierships. Led his country on 26 occasions and Queensland in 21 Origins. Led by example every time he took the paddock across a stellar two-decade career.   

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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