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Hindmarsh crowned greatest player to never win a grand final

Sorry, Hindy - another bittersweet title is headed your way.

NRL.com asked the fans who is the best player of all time who didn't win a premiership and after more than 15,000 votes, Eels forward Nathan Hindmarsh is the runaway winner, which will surely provide more fodder for his long-time Fox Sports sparring partner, Bryan Fletcher.

Hindmarsh received 23% of the vote, beating home a cast of big names from the past, including runner-up Wayne Pearce (15%), Kiwis legend Stacey Jones and Cronulla's late, great centre Steve Rogers, who each ended up on 14%.

Another Sharks stalwart, Andrew Ettingshausen, rounded out the top five with 10% of the votes.

There have been several Hall of Famers, including an Immortal, who did not get to do a lap of honor on grand final day.

There were so many candidates for this bittersweet title, NRL.com could not find room in the top 10 nominees for players the calibre of Balmain duo Steve Roach and Paul Sironen, Sharks stalwart David Peachey, Bears pair Greg Florimo and Jason Taylor, Warriors legend Simon Mannering, Maroons great Kerry Boustead and former Kiwi captain Mark Graham.

For the purposes of this list, we did not include the likes of Wally Lewis, Gene Miles and Chris Close, players who spent the vast majority of their career in the Brisbane competition before joining the Sydney premiership in the twilight stages of their playing days.

Best players to never win a premiership

(In alphabetical order)

Keith Barnes

One of Australian rugby league's top players between 1955 and 1968. A Hall of Famer, he landed 954 goals in premiership and representative football, including 742 for Balmain — Barnes was also a natural leader and champion fullback. The Tigers won the title the year after he retired in a massive boilover against South Sydney.

Barnes was not just a goalkicker of freakish abilities but an accomplished all round player who could ignite an attack, as shown here during a burst in England.
Barnes was not just a goalkicker of freakish abilities but an accomplished all round player who could ignite an attack, as shown here during a burst in England.

Frank Burge

The only Immortal on the list. Burge  set new standards for forward play, and often loomed up in support of his three-quarters after long breaks.

Burge scored tries at a phenomenal rate - he maintained an average of better than a try per game in a career that lasted 17 seasons.

He played predominantly for the old Glebe club, but in his final years spent two seasons playing in the Maher Cup with Grenfell before a final season with St George in 1927.

He later became a respected coach with St George, Easts, Newtown, Canterbury, Wests and Norths. However, despite his wonderful achievements, Burge never won a premiership as player or coach.

Ben Elias

A player who changed the hooker's role in a rugby league team in the 1980s with his skilful dummy-half play, Elias was a key part of Balmain's teams which twice just fell short at the final hurdle. A mainstay for NSW and Australia at Origin and Test level, he was part of the 1988 Tigers team which lost to Canterbury and his field goal hit the crossbar late in the decider the following year, which would have given his club the win but the ball bounced back into the field of play and the rest is history.

Andrew Ettingshausen

Another Hall of Famer, he went oh so close with Cronulla when they won the minor premiership in 1988 but failed to make the grand final, then in ‘97 when they were beaten by Brisbane in the Super League decider. His last chance was in 1999 when Cronulla led St George Illawarra at half-time in a grand final qualifier but lost 24-8. He retired the following year with 27 Origins, 25 Tests and 328 matches for Cronulla on his resume but no premiership.

Ettingshausen on the fly. During his career with Cronulla he posted 166 tries.
Ettingshausen on the fly. During his career with Cronulla he posted 166 tries.

Nathan Hindmarsh

Poor old Hindy cops a lot of jokes about his inability to celebrate grand final success despite Parramatta going close on several occasions during his 330-game career from 1998-2012. The workaholic second-rower represented NSW in 17 Origins and Australia in 23 Tests but suffered grand final defeats with the Eels in 2001 to Newcastle and 2009 to Melbourne, which was made worse for the Blue & Gold brigade when the Storm were later found to have breached the salary cop and were stripped of the title.

Nathan Hindmarsh was a stalwart for Parramatta in the second row.
Nathan Hindmarsh was a stalwart for Parramatta in the second row. ©NRL Photos

Keith Holman

As a young halfback, he landed a contract with the Magpies in 1948 and quickly rose through the ranks. By 1950 he was a Test player, figuring prominently in Australia's first Ashes conquest in 30 years and was a regular in the Test side until 1958. The Hall of Famer missed Wests' premiership victory in 1952 because of that year's Kangaroo tour and back in those days, the touring party had to leave before the end of the season.

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Stacey Jones

The Kiwi legend, who was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2019, gave his all for the Warriors during an illustrious career which coincided with their first year of the competition in 1995. He was the catalyst for their run to the grand final in 2002 but after putting up a good fight, they were swamped by the star-studded Sydney Roosters in the second half.

Wayne Pearce

Few can forget the images of Wayne Pearce distraught after the 1989 grand final loss to Canberra in extra time in which his beloved Balmain blew a 14-2 lead in going down 19-14. It was the second straight defeat in the season decider for the Tigers and the Hall of Fame back-rower, who represented NSW and Australia with distinction during his playing days throughout the 1980s, retired the following year without tasting premiership success.

Balmain's Wayne Pearce in the 1989 grand final.
Balmain's Wayne Pearce in the 1989 grand final. ©NRL Photos

Tom Raudonikis

“Tommy Terrific” gave his heart and soul for Wests in the 1970s before finishing his Hall of Fame career on the Sydney scene with Newtown. He was a key part of the Jets’ memorable run to the 1981 grand final but they were outclassed on the day by the Parramatta juggernaut which went on to win three straight premierships.

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Steve Rogers

A supremely talented centre who was a teenager on the field at the SCG in the brutal 1973 grand final which Cronulla lost 10-7 to Manly, he was a seasoned international by the time the Sharks made the decider again five years later. Alas, they lost to the same opponents in the replay after the first grand final was drawn. The Hall of Famer switched to St George in the early 1980s for a couple of years and again went close to a club trophy but did not play in another decider.

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