Little legend simply the best Origin player
NAMING your best State of Origin players can only land you in a fight because such things are based purely on opinion, and usually involve a leaning to whatever side of the border you were born.
In my case, that was Manly on Sydney's north shore.
As a kid I spent many Sundays at Brookvale Oval cheering the likes of Bob "Sticks" Batty, Alex Tennant, Bob Fulton, Freddie Jones, John Morgan, John McDonald and Billy Bradstreet and, before moving to Queensland, one of the toughest players I've ever seen, Englishman Malcolm Reilly.
But with my daughters Kelly and Trista born in Queensland, married to Queenslanders, and my two grandchildren Sienna and Tahlia born in Brisbane, I've adopted the Maroons and confess to being a true blue "turncoat".
Apart from family reasons, I support Queensland for the attractive style it plays and its never-say-die attitude which was honed from the early years of always being underdogs.
Arthur Beetson gets the title of Origin's "most inspirational" player for what he did for Queensland in just 80 minutes, planting one on the chin of his Parramatta teammate Mick Cronin 99 Origins ago at Lang Park.
That single act more than any other to set in stone forever what it should mean to any young player intrusted with a Maroons jumper.
So who are my top Origin players?
Surely the King, Walter James Lewis.
He was so good he was hated with a passion by NSW fans, so much so they even booed him in an Australian jumper.
Or perhaps it was legendary Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns, last year named rugby league's eighth immortal despite admitting to regularly taking drugs while playing?
Two Golden Boots and three Dally M awards as the NRL's best player certainly puts him up alongside the best to have played the game, no doubt.
But we're talking State of Origin, and for mine he misses out because he spent many of his 23 Origins on the bench behind Manly's mighty mouse, Geoff Toovey.
Unlike Lewis, who collected eight Origin man-of-the-match awards, Johns really only dominated in one or two series, including 2005 when he came in for game II with NSW 1-0 down in the series, and led the Blues to victory.
So, who is my best Origin player in 99 games since 1980?
Allan Jeffrey Langer beats Lewis in a photo finish.
Langer's size, or lack of it, which everyone feared would make him a one-Origin wonder after his debut alongside Lewis in 1987, turned out to be his biggest attribute.
He made 34 Origin appearances for Queensland, including his much-feted recall from the UK and never turned in a bad game.
For sheer courage, heart and toughness Alfie gets my vote from Lewis, Darren Lockyer, Johns, Laurie Daley and Brad Fittler.