The best 20 players from the 1990s.
The best 20 players from the 1990s.

Champion playmakers, fearless enforcers: The best 20 rugby league players of the 1990s

SUPER League. Darren Albert's try. Broncos' dominance. Tina Turner belting out ballads.

The 1990s certainly was a memorable era for rugby league in Australia.

But who were the best players who made the decade so special?

Foxsports.com.au writers have put our heads together to vote on the best 20 players of the '90s.

 

This is what we came up with.

 

1 ALLAN LANGER

Dally M player of the year in 1996, Dally M halfback of the year in '94 and '96, representative player of the year in '91 and '98 ... among other individual accolades.

Langer steered Brisbane to premierships in 1992, '93, '97, and '98 alongside his partner in crime Kevin Walters and was a key cog in the club's most dominant era.

Between 1990 and 1999 he also represented Australia 23 times and Queensland 21 times, and captained his club and state.

 

Allan Langer makes a break in 1997.
Allan Langer makes a break in 1997.

2 ANDREW JOHNS

Arguably the greatest player of all time and the eighth Immortal, Joey's stellar rugby league career kicked off in 1993 at home in the Hunter.

By the turn of the century he had won Newcastle a premiership, won two Dally M medals, named halfback of the year three times, and won a Golden Boot.

He also played eight Tests for Australia and 16 Origins for NSW before the year 2000, making his debut for the Kangaroos and Blues as a 21-year-old.

Of course his most famous 1990s moment came in the '97 grand final, when his blindside run set up Darren Albert for the winning try.

Andrew Johns in action in 1997.
Andrew Johns in action in 1997.

3 MAL MENINGA

Meninga's career ended in 1994 and he was a colossus of the game right to the end.

Considered one of the greatest leaders in the sport's history, there wasn't much Meninga didn't achieve during his rugby league career.

He led Canberra to premierships in 1990 and 1994, captained his state and country and was two-time Dally M centre of the year during the 90s.

He was also named Dally M captain of the year in 1991 and 1994.

 

Mal Meninga celebrates victory in 1994.
Mal Meninga celebrates victory in 1994.

4 BRAD FITTLER

'Freddy' was the first person to graduate from an Australian Schoolboys team to the Australia's men's team in just one year, making his Kangaroos debut as a teenager in 1990. That year he also became the youngest player in State of Origin history.

The following year he played a crucial role in Penrith's 1991 premiership, still yet to turn 20 years old.

By the time the 1990s had ended Fittler had been named the Dally M centre of the year twice ('92, '93), Dally M lock of the year once ('94), and Dally M five-eighth of the year twice ('98, '99). He was also Dally M captain of the year in 1999 at the Roosters, having jumped ship from the Panthers.

He also captained his state and country.

Brad Fittler tackled by Allan Langer.
Brad Fittler tackled by Allan Langer.

5 RICKY STUART

Stuart's first standout season was 1990 when he steered Canberra to a title with a man-of-the-match performance in the grand final, came runner-up in the Dally M voting and then got called up to the Kangaroos tour.

In 1990 and again in 1993 he was the Dally M halfback of the year, and won the Dally M medal in 1990 when the Raiders were bundled out of the finals series early.

He would also play 14 Origins for NSW and nine Tests for Australia in a fruitful 1990s.

Ricky Stuart accepts the Churchill Medal after the 1990 grand final.
Ricky Stuart accepts the Churchill Medal after the 1990 grand final.

6 LAURIE DALEY

The man from Junee made his first grade debut for Canberra in 1987, but it was in the mid-90s when Daley was at the peak of his powers.

In 1995, the crafty playmaker took out the Dally M Player of the Year to go with five-eighth of the year.

The following season he again took out five-eighth of the year as well as Dally M captain of the year.

By the end of his career, Daley had won two premierships (1989 and 1994), and had represented Australia on 26 occasions, NSW (26) and NSW Country (seven) - all of which he captained at various times.

Laurie Daley runs with the ball during Canberra Raiders v St George during a 1995 RL Winfield Cup game.
Laurie Daley runs with the ball during Canberra Raiders v St George during a 1995 RL Winfield Cup game.

 

7 PAUL HARRAGON

The fierce rivalry between 'The Chief' and Mark 'Spud' Carroll is one of the enduring memories of the 90s.

There was actual hatred between the Knights and Sea Eagles enforcers, and during a game in Newcastle in 1995 it came to a head when Harragon went gunning for Carroll off a kick-off and came off second best in a brutal collision.

But that was Harragon, always looking to inspire his troops, refusing to take a backward step.

His leadership as skipper was a major factor in the Novocastrians first premiership in '97.

He was one of the first men picked every year for the Blues after making his Origin debut in 1992 (finishing up with 20 caps) and helped the Kangaroos retain the Ashes that year.

Paul Harragon at his aggressive best.
Paul Harragon at his aggressive best.

8 KEVIN WALTERS

Alongside his little mate Langer, Walters steered Brisbane to four premierships during a fruitful decade in the sunshine state.

Not to be overshadowed, Walters was in his own right a genuine elite of the competition.

He also represented Queensland 22 times and Australia 11 times during the decade, famously setting up Steve Renouf for the winning try in the 1992 World Cup.

Kevin Walters and Allan Langer celebrate another premiership.
Kevin Walters and Allan Langer celebrate another premiership.

9 GLENN LAZARUS

Considered the best prop in the world for a large chunk of his career, success seemed to follow Lazarus wherever he went.

He's the only player to win three premierships at three different clubs - Canberra, Brisbane, and Melbourne.

The 'Brick with Eyes' finished his career by captaining the Storm to their maiden title in 1999.

All 21 of his Test matches also came during the 1990s.

Glenn Lazarus in action for Melbourne.
Glenn Lazarus in action for Melbourne.

10 CLIFF LYONS

Lyons was 28 during the 1990 season but he certainly didn't slow down. Not only did he win the Dally M Medal that year, his hot form was rewarded with selection on the Kangaroos Tour.

Despite leading the Sea Eagles to the 1987 premiership and winning the Clive Churchill Medal, it was the first time the gifted playmaker had been picked for Australia, and he showed all his tricks on that tour of Britain.

His partnership with a young Steve Menzies back in club land saw him recapture his best form and pick up his second Dally M in 1994 as a 32-year-old.

Cliff Lyons gets around Allan Langer.
Cliff Lyons gets around Allan Langer.

11 STEVE RENOUF

Well the Pearl's tally of tries speaks for itself. His Broncos career spanned the entire '90s after debuting in 1989, and he notched 142 tries in 173 games.

Incredibly, he bagged at least one four-try haul in five different seasons, and scored a hat-trick in Brisbane's Super League grand final win over Cronulla in '97.

The flying centre was also prolific at international level, scoring 11 tries over 10 matches, and helping the Kangaroos claim the 1994 Ashes series.

Steve Renouf in action in 1996.
Steve Renouf in action in 1996.

12 DARREN LOCKYER

Probably the best player of the 2000-2009 era, Darren Lockyer is often one of the forgotten stars of the '90s.

Beginning his career as an 18-year-old in 1995, Lockyer finished the decade with two premierships, seven Test caps and a State of Origin shield to his name.

By 1997 Lockyer had already established himself as the premier fullback in rugby league, a mantle he owned well into the 2000s before famously switching to five-eighth.

Broncos legend Darren Lockyer at Suncorp Stadium.
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer at Suncorp Stadium.

13 GREG ALEXANDER

One of the great halfbacks of the 80s (winning the 1985 Dally M medal), Alexander took his career to even greater heights by leading Penrith to a first grand final in 1990 - then a historic maiden premiership a year later.

His masterful kicking game, creativity, point-scoring ability and strong defence were pivotal in a golden era for the Panthers, earning himself NSW State of Origin and Test call-ups (six appearances in each) in the process.

After Alexander's life took a tragic turn when his brother and teammate Ben was killed in a 1992 car accident, he later moved to Auckland to play a pivotal role in the fledgling Warriors' early development. He returned to Penrith in 1997, with his form still strong enough to warrant selection as NSW halfback in the Super League Tri Series.

Greg Alexander in action.
Greg Alexander in action.

 

14 STEVE MENZIES

You just have to look at Beaver's accolades to see how influential he was during the '90s.

In his first full season as a 20-year-old in 1994, he scored 16 tries, picked up Dally M rookie of the year, Dally M second-rower of the year and selection on the Kangaroos Tour.

He went on to rack up a mind-blowing 104 tries from 150 games over the decade (including one in the Sea Eagles' 1996 Grand Final win) - an unbelievable stat for a back-rower, but indicative of his lethal partnership with Cliffy Lyons.

Menzies also enjoyed an outstanding international career, highlighted by the 1995 World Cup, in which he bagged doubles in three successive matches and was named in the team of the tournament.

Steve Menzies scores a try for Manly.
Steve Menzies scores a try for Manly.

15 ANDREW ETTINGSHAUSEN

By the time the '90s rolled around 'ET' was already a superstar of the game.

But the Cronulla speedster went to another level in the '90s, transitioning from a winger to a fullback/centre for NSW and Australia.

During the decade he scored 96 tries over 176 games, including 18 in 1994 - a club record. He claimed Dally M centre of the year in '94 and '96.

He won six out of the eight Origin series he played in during the '90s, and was named at centre in the Sharks' team of the half century.

Andrew Ettinghausen in action for Cronulla.
Andrew Ettinghausen in action for Cronulla.

16 BRETT MULLINS

Mullins features heavily in '90s highlight reels, not surprising considering how effortlessly the mercurial fullback turned half chances into meat pies.

Who can forget his double chip and chase try against the Broncos in 1995 prompting Ray Warren to scream - "This will be a miracle… it is a miracle".

He has the rare distinction of never being a part of a losing NSW Blues team.

He played in a total of seven Origin games, including the '97 Super League tri-series, and scored seven tries without tasting defeat.

Mullins' best year was undoubtedly 1994. He scored a staggering 22 tries as the Raiders marched to their third premiership, and was the first-choice fullback during the last Kangaroos tour - in which Australia beat Great Britain 2-1.

Brett Mullins in action for Canberra.
Brett Mullins in action for Canberra.

17 SHANE WEBCKE

Having made his debut in 1995, Webcke quickly established himself as the competition's most uncompromising big-bopper, a man who'd take the hit-up when the going was at its toughest.

He was a vital cog in the Broncos engine room during their back-to-back premierships, leading by example alongside front row partner Andrew Gee.

In his first Origin series in 1998, Webcke claimed man-of-the-match honours in the decider - a rare feat for a prop. And he was a mainstay in the Kangaroos pack from 1998 onwards.

Broncos hardman Shane Webcke.
Broncos hardman Shane Webcke.

18 WENDELL SAILOR

At the end of his second year in first-grade Big Dell was selected to make his Kangaroos debut. He couldn't be ignored after bagging 14 tries from 22 games during the season with the Broncos.

His power and speed made him a constant threat to opposition defences and he was an integral member of Brisbane's 1997-98 double.

He finished the 90s by claiming man-of-the-match honours when the Maroons retained the Origin shield in Game Three 1999, and then scored the match-winning try against the Kiwis in the final of the '99 Tri-nations.

Wendell Sailor of the Dragons against his former side.
Wendell Sailor of the Dragons against his former side.

19 GORDEN TALLIS

Once the Raging Bull moved to Red Hill from St George his career exploded. The then second-rower helped the Broncos win the 1997 Super League title before they went back-to-back in '98 in the first season of the NRL. He scored a try in that GF and was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal.

He will go down as one of the most feared men to have played the game but his ability to sniff out a four-pointer separated him from the other enforcers of the time. He scored 35 tries from 118 games in the 90s - and famously took a 12-month hiatus in 1996 as he was reaching his prime.

He played for the Maroons on seven occasions and the Kangaroos on six during the decade and of course was recently inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

Broncos legend Gorden Tallis all smiles.
Broncos legend Gorden Tallis all smiles.

20 BRAD CLYDE

Clyde was the beating heart of the early '90s Green Machine. He helped them top the table in 1990 (when he was Dally M lock of the year) before missing out on their grand final win with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

He returned to his best in 1991 and although the Panthers spoiled their party in the decider, he was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal.

The tireless back-rower finally played in a second grand final win (after his first in '89) when the Raiders made easy work of the Bulldogs in 1994. He was awarded the Provan-Summons Medal.

By that stage he'd been a starting Blues and Kangaroos representative for half a decade. And in 2005 he was named in the 25 greatest ever players for NSW.

Bradley Clyde for Canberra in 1994.
Bradley Clyde for Canberra in 1994.


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