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1. Jack Gibson
The Motivator
Position: Coach
Played for: Eastern Suburbs Coached: Eastern Suburbs 1967-69, St George 1970-71, Newtown 1972-73, Eastern Suburbs 1974-76, Souths 78-79 Parramatta 1981-83, Cronulla 1987-88

A devoted student of legendary American Football coach Vince Lombardy, Gibson was the first Rugby League coach to seek innovation from outside the rugby codes. To Rugby League he bought 3 things. Firstly, he revolutionised training methods from a few laps of the oval and a few hours in the pub, as was the standard of the time. He introduced the Nautilus machine, and other sophisticated gym equipment into the training regime, with the result of fitter and more injury free players. Secondly, he was not afraid to innovate, introducing planned moves, especially from tap restarts. Finally, he broke everything down into the most basic level, and taught his players accordingly. He had a gift for being able to say exactly the right thing, by breaking everything down to basics. He was responsible for introducing a strict fitness regime to Arthur Beetson, allowing the big prop to realise his immense potential during his years at the Roosters. His simple message to young Peter Sterling to 'kick to the seagulls' (ie the open spaces), unleashed the best kicking game of modern times.

Gibson sought character in his players, taking into account such things as the demeanour of the players father, players intelligence and personal health as much as raw ability. Gibson became legend for picking players in seemingly ludicrous positions. Often, the reserve grade halfback would fill in at second row in the firsts for example, but almost always these gambles would pay off. The most dramatic example was the make up of Easts 1975 grand final side. Not only did he make Arthur Beetson make his debut as a second rower, but, he replaced injured test centre Mark Harris with obscure lower grader John Rheinberger, in his only ever first grade experience. The rest is history. As coach of Parramatta, he dealt with a lazy performance by test winger Eric Grothe in the first half of a match by putting him into the front row for the second. Parramatta won the match.

Gibson's innovative technique achieved outstanding success. His 3 straight premierships with Parramatta is the biggest winning streak in limited tackle football. Easts 38-0 win in 1975 is the biggest in grand final history. But maybe his best achievement was with struggling Newtown in 1973, inspiring the club to their only ever club championship.

2. Duncan Thompson
Contract Football: The Modern Halfback
Position: Halfback
Played for: Ipswich, North Sydney, Toowoomba, NSW, Queensland, Australia

Thompson was a talented halfback when he answered the call of duty, and joined the ANZACs in 1916. On the Western Front, he was shot, and subsequently lost a lung. He returned to Rugby League, in the belief that he could still be effective. To do this, he remodelled his game down to the bare essentials, so as to conserve his energy. Thus, the modern halfback was born.

The 'Downs Fox' would stand behind his forward pack, urging them on to greater effort. With them going forward, he was free to dictate play as he wished. At North Sydney, his coach and mentor was former Kangaroo and Wallaby captain Chris McKivett, himself a former halfback with Glebe. Together they supervised the birth of 'contract football'. This was a philosophy that encouraged ball movement. The idea was to keep the ball alive, with the onus on security on the receiver as well as the passer. Thus, sweeping, skillful ball handling was the trademark of Norths play. Their premierships in 1921 and 1922 were the result. Thompson and his charges took this philosophy onto the Kangaroo Tour, where wingers Blinkhorn and Horder achieved try tallies unmatched in tours since. It was this evolution in play that established the halfback as the fulcrum of a side's attack, and developed the idea of organising the play of many men to put one through a gap. Rugby League has not evolved from this basic trait in the years since the great North Sydney side of 1921-22 demolished all opponents. Even current Brisbane coach Wayne Bennet is a devoted disciple of Thompson's philosophies. The success of the Broncos is a result of the brilliance of the Downs Fox 80 years ago!

3. John Gray
"The Around-The-Corner Goal Kicker"
Position: Hooker
Played for: Wigan, North Sydney, Manly Warringah, Great Britain

Pommy forwards on big pay packets were usually an odd lot. John Gray was no exception. North Sydney paid Wigan a huge transfer fee to get the skillful ball playing hooker to Bear Park. However, when he got here, it wasn't his huge sideburns that raised the eyebrows. In a land that worshipped toe poking goal kickers like Simms, Cronin and Eadie, John Gray was a true oddity. He used to put the ball vertically, not pointed to the posts. Then he would kick it from the side, running around a corner to get there!

This style of kicking had taken hold in soccer mad England. In theory, by kicking with the side of the foot, a greater surface area made contact with the ball. Hence, the kicker had more control over the ball. Hence, more accuracy. The downside of this style was the lack of raw power that could be applied in a kick. Mick Cronin was always kicking balls out of the ground. However, he would sometimes miss sitters from right in front. Gray rarely did.

With the advent of 4 point tries, the advantage of the goal from halfway diminished. Therefore, kickers could sacrifice distance for accuracy. The result was a complete evolution in the way kicks are taken. Modern day kickers like Daryl Halligan, Jason Taylor and Ryan Girdler have since amassed a season long 90% success rate, unheard of in the past.

4. Ken Kearney
"The Softening Up Period"
Position: Hooker
Played for: Parramatta, NSW, Australia (Rugby Union), St George, NSW, Australia (Rugby League)

"Killer" Kearney was, in modern day terms, a thug. However, in postwar Rugby, one had to be. Kearney perfected the art of brutal defence in the slow and tight world of Rugby Union forward play, so much so that he became Wallaby captain in 1946. He turned professional in 1948, and joined Leeds, gaining a reputation as a skilful yet tough hooker. He joined St George in 1952, and brought with him a new philosophy in Rugby League.

Up until then, League had a reputation as a sometimes brutal game. However, most of the brutality was one off, and spontaneous. Kearney's philosophy was to make the brutality more methodical. With this in mind, secretary Frank Facer amassed a perfect pack for Kearney's football to unfold. The St George style became to hand over possession early, and bash the opposition forwards in defence. Then, as the game wore on, the opposition would wear down, and the Saints would finish stronger. This style of play win them the premiership in 1956, so beginning a golden era of 11 straight premierships. In fact, the style found it's way into the Kangaroos, with Killer as captain. His 25 tests for Australia were enough to instill that style into their play, and was the basis for a golden era that began with the 50-12 Ashes triumph at Swinton in 1963, and still exists today. The softening up period became a mandatory part of grand finals, and, despite the crackdown on brutal play in the 1980's, was the platform for Newcastle's 1997 premiership win. The State of Origin concept is built around this philosophy. Is it any coincidence that the huge following of Origin football is like the huge following Rugby League, and St George, had in the 1950's and 1960's?

5. John Peard
"The Bomb"
Position: Five Eighth
Played for: Eastern Suburbs, St George, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

John Peard was an immense talent with a football. A competent goal kicker (he kicked 6 goals in Easts 1975 grand final win), and a skills ball player, he came to Parramatta in 1976 as a veteran of 10 seasons in first grade. With Terry Fearnley, he utilised the up and under kick to great advantage. The philosophy was, when near the opponents goal line, kick the ball extremely high, allowing the forwards to intimidate the fullback by contesting the ball. With the immense pressure this placed on even the best fullbacks, tries often resulted. Parramatta worked on having players like Jim Porter and young Ray Price leap above the opposition to catch the ball, Aussie Rules style, and score. The move was used so frequently, it became known as 'the bomb'.

While some critics labelled it as nothing more than a lottery, this very trait made it a perfect move on the last tackle. The success was such, that Parramatta made their first grand final on the back of the move. After Peard's retirement, players such as Steve Mortimer, Peter Sterling, Allan Langer, Ricky Stuart, Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns put their versions to it. Today, despite numerous rule changes to try and nullify it's use, it is an integral part in a teams attacking portfolo, and a fullback's duty.

6. Warren Ryan
"Forward Power and Defence"
Position: Coach
Played for: St George, Cronulla, Country.
Coached: Newtown, Canterbury Bankstown, Balmain, Western Suburbs, Newcastle, Country

Warren Ryan was the next phase on the coaching evolution started by Jack Gibson. This is ironic, as Ryan's first grand final as coach was with Newtown, against Gibson's Parramatta. If you get a chance to see that match, notice the many intricately delivered tactical ploys, mainly from play restarts, that was evident at the time. Ryan was a keen student of the science of Rugby League, and, like so many others before him, believed in forward power. At Canterbury, he transformed their forward back into brutal heavyweights, via a strength program in the gym. Combined with the Ryan invented umbrella defence, Canterbury dominated the close grand finals of the mid 80's. No less than 8 Bulldog forwards played Origin or Test football under Ryan, which was duplicated at Balmain where he again moulded a brutal, unforgiving pack. His conditioning of forwards from large, heavy toilers to fit, powerful impact men has transformed the modern game far beyond what it was in the 70's. Today, 5 coaches (Gould, Anderson, Folkes, Farrar and Pearce) have become coaches, with the first two snaring premierships, the third achieving a grand final berth, and the final one wining an Origin series.

7. Frank McMillan
"The Running Fullback"
Position: Fullback
Played for: Western Suburbs, NSW, Australia

This Magpie legend changed the role of fullbacks and backline play, when he elected to play in the front line in attack. The move would give his side an extra man in the line, and create an overlap. This was lethal when combined with brilliant legend Vic Hey at five eighth. Hey was a visionary, who could read the play like no other. His deft passes were perfect food for McMillan, who would pass a defensive line with a full threequarter line available to use to continue progress. The combination, and McMillan's extra man play netted Wests 3 premierships, and both men the honour of captaining their country.

Some of Australia's greatest legends, like Clive Churchill, Les Johns, Ken Thornett, Greame Langlands, Graham Eadie and Garry Belcher all perfected this style to great career advantage. It is the basis of attacking fullback play today.

8. Ben Elias
"The New Age Hooker"
Position: Hooker
Played for: Balmain, City, NSW, Australia

It wasn't actually Elias that thought up the idea of putting a halfback's talents at hooker. That honour goes to Elias' junior coach, who gave the plum halfback's job to his son! However, Elias soon eschewed the vast benefits of having such a player at dummy half. A clever ball player, Elias could give perfect service to his halfback, as well as make valuable gains from dummy half when the opposition forwards grew tired. His ball playing abilities were a constant headache around the rucks, and he has the rare ability to be able to kick a ball from dummy half. When his abilities consolidated in first grade, the big, cumbersome old scrummaging workhorses of the past had become obsolete.
Elias' legacy is still the trademark of hookers today. So much so that test halfbacks like Geoff Toovey and Andrew Johns are quite familiar with the position.

9. Bob Fulton
"The Interchange"
Position: Coach
Played for: Manly Warringah, Eastern Suburbs, City. NSW, Australia
Coached: Eastern Suburbs, Manly Warringah, Australia

The head bin rule was introduced into the code after successful lobbying by the medical profession. This rule allowed players who were concussed or dazed to spend some time on the sideline, while a replacement took their place temporarily on the field. In the 1987 grand final, Fulton organised backrowers Ron Gibbs and Noel Cleal to act groggy every 10 minutes or so. Gibbs and Cleal would be subsequently replaced, spend some time on the sideline to freshen up, and return to the field. They would then play at full throttle until the next headbin was applied. Thus, Cleal and Gibbs were 'interchanged'. The result was a win to the Sea Eagles.

Fulton's tactics were seized upon by opposing coaches, and it wasn't long before the League capitulated, and allowed players to be 'interchanged'. This evolution killed the old style endurance forward, and hastened the arrival of the impact forward into the modern game.

10. Bob McCarthy
"The Wide Running Second Rower"
Position: Second Row
Played for: South Sydney, Canterbury Bankstown, NSW, Australia

The advent of limited tackle football in 1967 changed the code dramatically. As coaches and players struggled to come to terms with this new philosophy, Bob McCarthy exhibited it's first dramatic consequence. With the old idea of sending the forwards up the middle in a slogfest becoming obsolete, McCarthy was free to roam wide. Rather than being bullied by big men, he found himself facing the smaller backs. Being a fast man with 100kg bulk behind him, he began to decimate opposition defences. His famous intercept try in the 1967 grand final was made possible by his wide positioning.

Many back rowers have made brilliant careers using this technique, which is now standard practice for a second rower in attack The careers of Les Boyd, Noel Cleal, Bob Lindner, Paul Sironen and Bradley Clyde were made possible by this innovation

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