Norm Provan (left) with Arthur Summons re-create their iconic Gladiators image.
Norm Provan (left) with Arthur Summons re-create their iconic Gladiators image. PAUL MILLER

Immortal must be big Norm

FORGET Darren Lockyer, Brad Fittler, Peter Sterling, Alfie Langer, Laurie Daley - even forget the great Mal Meninga.

The ninth rugby league Immortal must be Norm Provan.

The announcement this week by NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg that another Immortal will be named sometime this year will no doubt be well received by fans of the game.

The subject has been a hot potato since the controversial selection of Andrew Johns as the eighth Immortal back in 2012.

Norm Provan (left) with fellow former rugby league great Arthur Summons.
Norm Provan (left) with fellow former rugby league great Arthur Summons. MICK TSIKAS

When the previous seven Immortals were named - over a 22-year period from 1981 - each announcement was greeted with much fanfare and almost unanimous acceptance.

But because of his many off-field indiscretions, that wasn't the case with Johns.

Not that controversy and rugby league don't go hand in hand. They in fact thrive together, and as someone who has worked alongside the game for just on four decades, nothing fires up the fans more than a good argument.

But not this time.

Andrew Johns was named the eighth Immortal.
Andrew Johns was named the eighth Immortal. DARREN PATEMAN

Without letting the cat out of the bag, Norm Provan was right in the voting mix when Johns was given the nod six years ago. Since then he has obviously done nothing to enhance his credentials, but his health has slipped alarmingly.

Big Norm has had dementia for the past five years and in 2014 suffered spinal damage in a fall while walking his dog. Although he remains the big, strong human he always was, the man whose image sits atop the NRL premiership trophy is - medically speaking - running out of time.

In announcing the impending selection of the ninth Immortal, Greenberg uttered a veiled criticism of the involvement of Rugby League Week magazine when he said the concept was now where it should be - under the banner of the NRL. And he claimed the selection process would be more diligent and more transparent.

Well, if that is the case, now is the time for the NRL to honour one of the true stalwarts and icons of the game.

Norm Provan was named in the second row in the Rugby League Team of the Century.
Norm Provan was named in the second row in the Rugby League Team of the Century. Matt King

Not only did Norm play 18 Tests for Australia, he wore the big Red V of St George in 10 successive winning grand finals, and was captain-coach in four of them.

Norm is also a member of the Australia Sports Hall of Fame, the ARL Hall of Fame and in 2008 was named in the Australian Team of the Century.

With the death of Graeme Langlands in January, four of the nine Immortals have now passed away. The time has arrived for the game to immortalise the great man known as 'Sticks' before - as his wife Lindy fears - it is too late.

As a former editor of Rugby League magazine, which instigated the Immortals concept back in 1981, Tony Durkin was a member of the previous voting panels.


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