Daley picks NRL top 10 from his era

Captain Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns (right) of Australia hold the trophy after the Kangaroos won the 1995 Rugby League World Cup. Photo: Mark Leech/Getty Images

Captain Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns (right) of Australia hold the trophy after the Kangaroos won the 1995 Rugby League World Cup. Photo: Mark Leech/Getty Images

When I think of the best players I played against at club level in the halves and at centre during my career, there are plenty of names that spring to mind. Settling on a top 10 and putting them in order makes it even tougher but here's my list and the reasons why.

1. BRAD FITTLER

Freddy and I played together for Australia and we had a great relationship but there was also a great rivalry there whenever we played against each other. He always tended to bring out the best in me because he was such a dangerous player.

He could step off both feet and was a great runner of the footy but he also had really good ball-playing instincts and a superb passing game. He commanded respect with his presence and was always heavily part of any game plan when we played his sides.

2. ALLAN LANGER

Alfie was already a dominant figure when I came on the scene. Just a wonderful player with as good a bag of tricks as any player that I've come across in the game. He was a little bloke but that didn't stop him being at you all game, probing around the ruck and looking to pounce on a tired forward having a bit of a breather.

His short kicking game - that little tap in behind the defence line - was outstanding and his show-and-go was as good as any in the game.

3. ANDREW JOHNS

Joey's great years came probably more after I retired but I still saw plenty of glimpses of the player he would become. Early on, I'm not sure I would have predicted he would turn into one of the greatest ever and the Eighth Immortal but he turned himself into that through sheer hard work and natural ability.

I loved watching him play and his all-round game is probably unrivalled because at the peak of his powers, he could do just about anything on the footy field.

4. GEOFF TOOVEY

The toughest pound-for-pound competitor I ever played against. I remember playing against Toovs for the first time in a Jersey Flegg game and looking across at this little blond-haired bloke in the Manly opposition and thinking 'I'll run at that bloke'.

First time I did, he sat me on my backside. I had nothing but respect for him. Skill-wise, he may not have been up there with others but his heart was as big as anyone's.

5. KEVIN WALTERS

Ricky Stuart and I used to love coming up against Kevvie and Alf when we played against the Broncos because you just knew you were going to be in for a huge challenge.

Kevvie was a great competitor who combined really well with his forwards and would work your middle over time after the time but he then had the ability to suddenly find his centre Steve Renouf with a wide pass that invariably put him into space. A top-line player.

6. GREG ALEXANDER

Brandy was such a talented player who made everything look so easy because of the smooth and graceful way he ran. The Raiders had a great rivalry with Penrith and he was their linchpin and leader and always a threat. He had great instincts with the footy, either going on his own or setting up a support and he also had a fantastic kicking game, both short and long.

7. CLIFF LYONS

Cliffy was probably the only player we played against who forced us to change our defensive systems because of the unpredictable nature of his attack.

I used to think the only two players on the field who knew what Cliffy would do next were Cliffy himself and Beaver Menzies and sometimes, I'm not sure if Cliffy actually knew. He could pick a defensive system apart and more often than not, Beaver was the benefactor of his brilliance.

8. ANDREW ETTINGSHAUSEN

A Ferrari with the footy in his hands and a great try-scoring centre with pace to burn. But ET didn't get the credit he deserved for his toughness or his defensive capabilities. He was a good looking fella and I think rival players used to take him on a bit because of his pretty-boy image.

Invariably, they were sorry they did because he could take a whack and get straight back up with the best of them and wasn't afraid to dish it back out defensively when you had the footy.

9. STEVE RENOUF

Had the swerve and the speed and one of the best right-hand fends in my time in the game. Put them altogether and you had a player who could make you look second rate real easy if you took the foot off even slightly in defence.

Brisbane loved to go to him early when they were coming off their own line with the opposition defence compressed. He scored plenty of long distance tries as a result.

10. GREG FLORIMO

Not the most talented by a long shot but Flo was an opponent I never enjoyed coming up against because he was such an in-your-face competitor who never gave you an inch.

He was always up that quick in defence, I used to think he was off-side all the time and whenever he ran the footy, it was as if it was the last hit-up he was ever going to make. I had a great deal of respect for him because he set out to mess with your rhythm and invariably, he did.

This story Tough opponents: Daley ranks 10 best players from his era first appeared on The Canberra Times.