Former Kiwis captain and North Sydney Bears stalwart Mark Graham is set to be the first New Zealander inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame.
Graham, 62, was named as an inductee on Tuesday night, alongside five others, including stars from rugby league’s golden 1990s era – Manly’s Cliff Lyons and Steve Menzies, Canberra’s Ricky Stuart and Brisbane’s Gorden Tallis – and Broncos and Panthers veteran Petero Civoniceva.
The half-dozen were recognised for their playing achievements and will join the 100 inaugural members from 2008.
The six will be formally inducted at a ceremony at the Sydney Cricket Ground on August 1, which will also announce up to two new Immortals. They were selected by a panel of 25 judges.
Graham was a North Sydney stalwart and New Zealand Test captain in the 1980s.
He played 145 matches for the Bears from 1981 to 1988, scoring 29 tries, and represented the Kiwis 28 times between 1977-1988, scoring seven tries. He signed with Wakefield Trinity after the 1988 NSWRL season, playing 14 games in the Northern Hemisphere before retiring.
Graham also coached the Warriors in the NRL for two seasons, posting an 18-2-30 record.
The NRL honour adds to a long list of accolades for Graham.
In 1995, Graham was one of the initial inductees of the NZRL Legends of League. The following year, he was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.
In August 2006, Graham was named in the second row in the North Sydney Bears’ Team of the Century. In 2007, he was named in the second row in the New Zealand Kiwis Team of the Century and also further honoured as New Zealand Rugby League’s Player of the Century. He is an Auckland Rugby League Immortal and in 2008, Graham was also named in the second row in an all-time greatest team for Brisbane club side Norths.
Longevity, individual achievements and representative appearances were all considered in the make-up of the players to be added.
Between the other five inductees there was a total of 1393 premiership matches, 123 Tests and 90 State of Origins played – as well as 12 premierships won.
Front rower Civoniceva was known for his uncompromising approach on the field but for being a gentleman off it and logged 309 NRL games between Brisbane and Penrith as well as 33 Origins for Queensland.
Former Manly teammates Lyons (332) and Menzies (349) were at the core of a strong Sea Eagles team in the 1990s; the former a deft playmaker, the latter a seemingly unbreakable utility who became the highest try-scoring forward in the game.
Stuart was a scheming halfback who spent much of his career with Canberra and played 14 State of Origins for NSW and nine tests for Australia before embarking on a coaching career.
Tallis was perhaps the most dominant forward in the competition during the mid to late 1990s with the Brisbane Broncos and went on to shine for both the Maroons and Australia.