He Played How Many Games For NSW? (Part One)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I would like to welcome you today to the official naming of the nominees for the first ever ballot in the He Played How Many Games For NSW?” Hall Of Fame


For all of Queensland’s bragging about their pick and stick philosophy, NSW have shown over the years that they are willing to do the same thing; albeit with the wrong players.

It is a large and strong field, which will be a surprise to few, comprised of players that have achieved both little and much in the game of Rugby League.


So without further ado, I will present the nominees, along with the arguments both for and against inclusion in the “He Played How Many Games For NSW?” Hall Of Fame


Michael Vella


NSW Matches – 10

NRL Matches – 159

Other Representative Matches – 8 (5 Tests and 3 World Cup matches for Australia)

Played more games than – Mark Carroll, Ian Roberts, Robbie Kearns

The case FOR inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

If it weren’t for me writing this column, I would have completely forgotten Michael Vella existed. He’s one of the most decorated reserves in the history of the sport* and the guy even managed to win the Dally M Rookie of the year award – in his second season.
His career peaked very early (his representative career was done and dusted by his 5th year in the competition – before he even reached 100 NRL matches) and he was initially picked for the NSW side only because of suspension. Then in one of the instances of NSW selectors doing the patented QLD ‘Pick and Stick’, he managed to hold a bench spot for several years in spite of doing almost nothing to earn it. I cannot remember a single game of his career that he had any significant impact on, nor do I recall ever seeing him in any highlight package ever used to promote anything. He did however leave us with this amazing image. Doesn’t sound like the sparkling career of someone whose Origin matches are in the double figures to me.

The case AGAINST inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

The guy managed to get a call up for Origin after just 22 first grade games. He then managed to get a call up for Australia after 32 first grade games. They were both Bradbury call ups, but it’s still no mean feat to manage that in such a short space of time. In his 9 years at the Eels, they made the finals on 7 occasions, including a Grand Final in their record breaking 2001 season. After his 159 NRL matches, he went over to the English Super League where he played another 121 matches. 280 matches is nothing to sneeze at for a front rower. He had his career severely inhibited by his cancer diagnosis in 2005, but managed to still battle on and be a consistent first grade player in England once he had beaten it.


Anthony Mundine


NSW Matches – 3

NRL Matches – 127

Other Representative Matches – 1 (NSW City)

Played more games than – Phil Blake, Ken Nagas, Jason Taylor

The case FOR inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

I have always been a Mundine supporter, but the truth is, he has spent his entire sporting life crying foul about the injustices of his non selection for representative teams. In fact he has spent so much time talking about it, you could be forgiven for thinking that he never actually played a representative game in his entire career. And perhaps he shouldn’t have. When you consider that his position was Five-Eighth (outside of a couple of unsuccessful games at Centre and Lock early in his career) and you look at who he was up against, he can claim he was the better player all he wants, but that doesn’t make it true.
The Five-Eighth’s of his era were Matthew Johns, Brad Fittler, Trent Barrett and Laurie Daley.
He came through in an era of great players that happened to play his position.
His 3 appearances were tokenism at best, and sympathy at worst.
He never earned it and didn’t deserve it.

The case AGAINST inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

Since becoming a regular starter in 1995, he played 5 full seasons (before leaving 10 games into the year in 2000) and his team made the finals in all 5 seasons, including 3 Grand Finals, with one win. That’s actually a pretty staggering record for a player playing in such a pivotal position on the field.
He was always an influential player in matches where he was switched on, and his call up to the bench could have been just the beginning of a fruitful representative career, but we will never know

This is a Hall Of Fame of players undeserving to play so much for the Blues, and Mundine simply didn’t get enough time in the game to show us if he should be on this list or not.


Jamie Ainscough


NSW Matches – 12

NRL Matches – 228

Other Representative Matches – 3 (2 NSW City, 1 Australia)

Played more games than – Adam MacDougall, Eric Grothe Snr, Ryan Girdler

The case FOR inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

He only got his Origin start by coming off the bench for 3 matches in 1996, in what can only be described as a baffling decision to carry a winger on a four man bench. This then parlayed into him starting on the wing in 1997 because the Super League meant that most of the players that should have taken his spot were gone. He was rightfully out of the squad for several years after this until an inexperienced, and frankly pretty poor, coach was looking for a winger and saw that Ainscough had 6 Origin matches under his belt, so he somehow managed to double his tally by the time he left the NRL in 2001. He finished with 2 tries in 12 matches, which is poor for a winger and considerably poor given the NSW domination in the 4 series’ he played in. In fact he played on the wing in all 3 games of the 2000 series where NSW scored a record total of 104 points. He scored none of them, yet was somehow retained the following year.

The Case AGAINST inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

His NRL career is long and dignified, with 228 appearances and 94 tries and but for some unfortunate timing on one of his own tackles in the 1999 Grand Final he would have an NRL title win to add to his resume that also includes the 1995 Dally M Centre of the Year. There is a simple justification for each one of his selections and his winning percentage at Origin level (75%) is the highest winning percentage of any player to have played at least 12 matches.  NSW could only wish to have such a successful player in their team now.


John Simon


NSW Matches – 4

NRL Matches – 230

Other Representative Matches – 6 (5 NSW Country, 1 Australia)

Played more games than – Brett Finch, Ben Hornby, Tom Raudonikis

The case FOR inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

He was picked to partner Laurie Daley in the halves for NSW in 1992 due to injury to every other available candidate on the face of the planet. Then in the crisis of 1997 when every decent playmaker from this side of the QLD border was playing in the Super League, he managed to pick up three more games. The definition of a journeyman Rugby League player, he played at 5 different clubs throughout his 12 year career and only made the finals 3 times. A Bradbury selection in every representative team he ever made, you can’t help but think that even though his total Origin games only tally up to 4, that this Hall Of Fame was made for him.

The case AGAINST inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

This man was our saviour in a time of great need and he deserves much higher accolades than this!
Of those 4 Origins that he was called upon for, he won three of them – including kicking the winning field goal to clinch the 1997 series! You don’t throw players like this to the wolves, you build statues of them! He was a regular fixture in the NSW Country side in the early and mid 90’s and went on to represent Australia after his series clinching performance for NSW. It was only the line of NSW halfbacks of his generation that stopped him from playing far more Origin matches not his lack of talent.


Geoff Toovey


NSW Matches – 15

NRL Matches – 286

Other Representative Matches – 14 (4 NSW City, 10 Australia)

Played more games than – Ricky Stuart, Peter Sterling, Steve Mortimer

The case FOR inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

This might seem a harsh inclusion, but consider these facts: In 15 games, he did not score a single point. The only person to have played more games without a point is Blocker Roach. Of the 6 times that he played at halfback, 5 of those times he wasn’t even the best halfback in the team and was somehow forcing future Immortal Andrew Johns into playing at Hooker. He has the most annoying head ever to play the game. Lastly, and most importantly, look at that list of NSW greats that he has played more games than. Nobody can tell me that he is a better player than any of those players. By my estimation he should have had an absolute ceiling of about 8 Origin Matches. 15 is almost double that.

The case AGAINST inclusion in the Hall Of Fame –

If the above facts are to be considered then, these facts should also be contemplated: He has an amazing winning record at this level, having only lost 3 of his 15 Origin matches. He led his Manly side to 3 consecutive Grand Finals, including winning one and collecting the Clive Churchill Medal for man of the match. He played 10 tests for Australia (winning 80% of those too). He was a tough player who was made for Origin and NSW were lucky to have him and his winning streak for as long as they did.


There are still 6 more nominees to come but feel free to add your feedback/vote some of the nominees in between now and when I’m able to release Part 2!


*His 10 Origin matches and 5 tests were all off the bench. This is only bettered by one other player – to be featured in part 2

2 thoughts on “He Played How Many Games For NSW? (Part One)

  1. Pingback: He Played How Many Games For NSW? (Part Two) | Ed Burton is a pseudonym

  2. Pingback: Rugby League Mailbag | Ed Burton is a pseudonym

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