Hall of Fame: How panel will resolve impossible debate

To those about to select the six inductees to the NRL's revamped Hall of Fame, we salute you.

If rugby league's love of a debate – from the pub to the papers and back again – tells us anything, few others will.

From the 9827 players to lace a boot since 1908, an elite 25 have been presented in a shortlist.

A voting college of 25 experts must now boil that list of legends down to the six most worthy of joining the 100 Hall of Fame members announced in March.

Such is the pressure on this judging panel – comprising 10 current Hall of Famers, five media members, five historians and five independents – their identities will be kept under wraps, from the public and each other.

No collusion, no conspiring, no comparing of notes as has been whispered, rightly or wrongly, at plenty of selection tables through league's history. Just votes on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.

How do you weigh up Ruben Wiki's cement-cast shots and record 55 Kiwi Tests against Ian Moir's 105 tries in 110 games for Souths?

Or Kevin Walters' six premierships as a critical cog in champion Raiders and Broncos teams of the 90s?

Or Paul Harragon's Churchill-esque leadership in 1997 of Newcastle, a town brought to its knees by the closure of BHP steelworks, then reinvigorated by a footballing fairy tale?

A sounding board and a stiff drink for all involved. Guiding principles too, hand-crafted by a 10-man group with a combined century of first-grade experience, who were asked in essence "how do you measure excellence on the field?"

Among them are Nathan Hindmarsh, Andrew Ryan, Jason King and Dene Halatau, who have created a 14-point list of criteria for candidates to be evaluated on – from vision and kicking ability in attack, to defensive technique, leadership, tenacity and consistency.

Each member of the voting college has a copy of these guiding principles, but their own way to skin a cat.

The latter retains the beauty of rugby league's boundless want for an argument, the subjectivity and passion of a selection stoush.

The former, according to NRL Awards manager Frank Puletua, a bit of method to the madness.

"The process has been implemented - introducing players to not only be involved in the voting process, but also be involved in the actual crafting of the metrics - with an informed view as opposed to just having a stab at who should be inducted and why," Puletua says.

"The guiding principles looks at fundamental aspects of the game, which all of the judges receive when they start their assessment process.

Former Newcastle captain Paul Harragon represented NSW and Australia.
Former Newcastle captain Paul Harragon represented NSW and Australia. ©NRL Photos

"It's a clear description of those aspects and a reference point to guide decision making, it was drafted by a group of former players.

"But it will still come down to the individual – you might value creativity in attack differently to how I look at leadership, we wouldn't want to lose that opinion element to the judging. You couldn't anyway."

Case in point: the views and opinions of the nominees themselves since being unveiled last week.

Steve Menzies rates Cliffy Lyons the best ball-player he ever ran off in a career that tallied over 500 first grade games.

Greg Alexander had never seen a more accomplished 18-year-old than Stacey Jones in 1995, the first season in a career that eventually crowned his Warriors teammate as New Zealand's greatest halfback.

Walters was kept on the bench of the Raiders famed 1989 grand final triumph by Ricky Stuart, the most competitive No.7 he has even seen.

Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder. Heaven help the 25 judges beholden to it.