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Simply The Best: Five-eighth poll down to final two

It's time to decide which five-eighth has been the pick of the talented bunch of superstars who have excelled in rugby league's pivotal position during the past three decades.

NRL.com recently launched the search for the Simply The Best players from 1990 to now to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner promotional campaign, which was again featured in this year's advertisement for the Telstra Premiership, and is calling on the fans to have their say.

You can no longer vote via the poll at the bottom of this article on the 10 nominees but the candidates have been trimmed to two finalists going head-to-head in polls on the NRL Instagram and Facebook accounts to decide once and for all which player is Simply The Best.

It comes down to Darren Lockyer in the maroon corner versus Brad Fittler in the blue corner.

The NRL.com newsroom initially narrowed the race to be the best five-eighth down to a shortlist of 10.

To underline how many brilliant performers there have been in the No.6 jersey during the past three decades there was no room for players the calibre of Storm star Cameron Munster, 1990s stalwarts Matthew Johns and Greg Florimo, Dragons premiership winner Jamie Soward, or former internationals Scott Hill and Braith Anasta, ex-Raiders playmaker Terry Campese or current Broncos dynamo Anthony Milford.

As he played the vast majority of his career in the No.7 jersey, Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston is not in the five-eighth poll but Darren Lockyer, who was also in the fullback race, has been included as his efforts in both positions were enough to rank him in the top 10 in both categories.

And the King, Immortal Wally Lewis was not included in the 10-man shortlist as he only played the first three seasons of this period, his last at Brisbane and a couple of lean years at the Gold Coast Seagulls.

Simply The Best five-eighth nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Trent Barrett in action for NSW in 2003.
Trent Barrett in action for NSW in 2003. ©NRL Photos

Trent Barrett

A teenager when he burst onto the scene with Illawarra in 1996, he represented NSW the following year and starred in St George Illawarra's charge to the 1999 grand final. The 2000 Dally M Medal winner, he represented the Blues 15 times and also played 11 Tests and after a stint with Wigan, finished his 235-game NRL career with two seasons at Cronulla.

94. Laurie Daley - Hall of Fame

Laurie Daley

The protoype for the modern five-eighth following in the mould cast by Wally Lewis in the 1980s. Big and strong with an ability to break the line or set up support players, Daley was a standout performer in three Canberra premiership wins and also captained NSW and Australia in a stellar representative career which included 26 Blues appearances and 21 Tests before his retirement in 2000.

Origin Moments: Fittler's farewell

Brad Fittler

Another player who starred in first grade while still a teenager, Fittler graduated to the NSW and Australian ranks early in his career while also playing a leading role in Penrith's 1991 premiership victory. After 119 matches as a Panther, he switched to the Roosters in 1996 and racked up 217 more games, leading the team to the 2002 title, before retiring following the 2004 grand final loss to Canterbury. 

Kieran Foran in action for New Zealand in 2015.
Kieran Foran in action for New Zealand in 2015. ©Grant Trouville./NRL Photos.

Kieran Foran

The Kiwi international made an instant impact with Manly in his 2009 debut and partnered with Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves when the Sea Eagles won the grand final two years later. A veteran of 22 Tests for New Zealand, his later stints with the Eels, Warriors and Bulldogs have been hampered by injuries but he is renowned as one of the best halves of the modern NRL era.

Modern stars on why Lockyer was their idol

Darren Lockyer

One of rugby league's all-time greats, Lockyer spent the first decade of his career at fullback before coach Wayne Bennett controversially switched him to five-eighth in 2006. The Broncos won the title that year and Lockyer repeated his club success in the No.6 jersey in the representative arena, becoming captain of each team before retiring in 2011 after playing for Australia 63 times, Queensland on 38 occasions and Brisbane a club record 355 appearances.

Cliffy Lyons owned the Sevens

Cliff Lyons

A crafty playmaker in the old-school mould, Lyons relied on clever passing and kicking to make an impact. He formed one of the most potent attacking combinations in the modern era with Steven Menzies, laying on countless tries for the back-rower during Manly's successful mid-1990s run highlighted by the 1996 grand final win.  

Maloney slots the match-winning field goal

James Maloney

One of the most enigmatic characters of recent times, Maloney had stints at Melbourne, the Warriors, Roosters, Sharks and Panthers but enjoyed success at every stop along the way while also reaching higher honours with NSW and Australia. He won titles with the Roosters in 2013 before being at the forefront of Cronulla's drought-breaking premiership three years later.

Marshall takes centre stage in 2005 decider

Benji Marshall

When it comes to attacking brilliance, there have been few better players in rugby league history than the Wests Tigers' favourite son. After making his NRL debut in 2003, he was the star of the team's golden run to the title two years later and following brief stints in rugby at Auckland, then back in league at St George Illawarra and Brisbane, the 31-Test Kiwi returned to the Tigers and in 2019 reached his 300th NRL appearance.

Walters Brothers highlights

Kevin Walters

When it comes to winning premierships, Walters has one of the best records of any player, being part of Canberra's 1989 triumph and then five more with the Broncos in their glory days from 1992-2000. The perfect foil for long-time halves partner Allan Langer, he excelled at club, state and international level with his superb passing and pin-point kicking game.

Gareth Widdop's 2018 season highlights

Gareth Widdop

The English-born playmaker was originally a fullback but switched to the halves at Melbourne due to the presence of Billy Slater and shone in a 70-game stint at the Storm over four seasons which included the 2012 grand final win. A veteran of 29 Tests, he added 125 matches to his resume at St George Illawarra before returning to the UK to try his hand at Super League this year.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.