The ten greatest players in rugby league history

With the NRL set to restart next week, we have taken on the impossible task of naming the best 10 players ever. The debate is always enhanced by those incredible players who fail to earn a spot in such a list.

It is also tough to rank those players whom you never had the privilege of watching in the flesh; it is often the strength of their legend that carries them through.

10. Ron Coote

If you ever have a chance to watch archive footage of Rabbitohs and Roosters games during Ron Coote's playing days you will notice that most match highlights involve the lanky forward. A difficult man to tackle, he would slice through even the best defences and always managed to set up support players with perfectly timed passes. In defence, the lock forward had a roving commission; Coote was among the best cover defenders the game has ever seen.

9. Wally Lewis

Many would have Lewis higher based on his dominance of State of Origin and international rugby league, but at NRL level his career never rose to the heights of others. Lewis spent his best years in the Queensland club competition before stints with the Broncos and Gold Coast Seagulls. At his best he was a match-winning ball-runner with a long and lethal passing game. He also possessed one of the best short kicking games ever seen.

Vote for Australia's greatest ever footballer

8. Bobby Fulton

Fulton was hailed as one of the game's great attacking geniuses. He had elusive speed to accompany his ball skills and regularly carved up defences at club and international level. Fulton's organisational skills and ability to read a game placed him ahead of many of his contemporaries. He played with Manly before moving to the Roosters, and he represented Australia 35 times. Fulton was named one of the original four Immortals and went on to successful coaching and administrative careers.

7. Johnathan Thurston

Thurston started out with the Bulldogs where he was part of their 2004 premiership winning team before heading home to Townsville to play out the rest of his career with the Cowboys. The wirey young man with the colourful headgear would go on to be one of the game's greatest ever halves, whether wearing the No.7 for his club or the No.6 for Queensland and Australia. Thurston led the Cowboys to their only premiership in 2015 and was a key part of Queensland's incredible run of 11 from 12 series victories.

6. Arthur Beetson

Beetson started his career with Redcliffe Dolpins in the Brisbane competition before being lured to Sydney to play with the Balmain Tigers. The Roosters secured the hard-to-tackle, deceptively quick ball-playing prop forward and he enjoyed premiership success while at the club. He played 29 Tests with distinction for Australia and led Queensland to victory in the first ever interstate game played under State of Origin selection rules. Beetson was added to the list of Immortals in 2003.

5. Darren Lockyer

Lockyer started his career at the Broncos in the fullback position and established himself as one of the premier custodians before a switch to the No.6 jersey, where his game went to another level. Lockyer's running and passing game developed as he represented his state and country, but his strongest attribute was always his competitiveness. Never beaten, Lockyer led teams by example.

4. Reg Gasnier

The prince of centres, Gasnier was a key part of St George Dragons' record premiership run in the 1960s. Fleet of foot and ever-elusive, he averaged over one try per game during his nine years at the Dragons, as well as setting up plenty for his winger Johnny King. One of the original Immortals, he also played 39 Tests for Australia. Gasnier's career was cut short by a bad leg break at the age of 28, but his swerving runs and ability to accelerate through the slightest of gaps live long in the memories of those who saw him play.

3. Andrew Johns

Many would name Johns the greatest ever, he is certainly in our top three for the same reasons. Johns dominated the halfback position during his days for the Knights, New South Wales and Australia. As naturally talented as he was, it would be fair to say that no player dedicated more time to improving his wide ranging skills as Johns did. He made a science out of his kicking game and his passing was unrivalled.

2. Brad Fittler

Fittler was one of the most complete and versatile players to ever play the game. He started his career as a schoolboy in the centres for the Panthers and was playing for New South Wales and Australia not long after. He won premierships with the Panthers before moving to the Roosters where he established himself as one of the game's greatest five-eighths and captain. Pushed into the pack occasionally at representative level, Fittler was capable of mixing it with the forwards in defence as well as dazzling with his footwork, speed and passing game.

1. Cameron Smith

Smith will go into the history books as the most prolific player in the history of rugby league. His unquestionable dominance at club, state and international level is only enhanced by the toughness of the position he plays. The middle of a rugby league field isn't a place where someone typically carves out such a long and influential career. Smith has somehow avoided major injury setbacks while revolutionising the hooker role, steering his club, state and nation to enviable success. If you support an opposing team you hate him, which is testimony to how competitive and commanding he has been.