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Bennett coyly lets slip Immortal vote

Coach Wayne Bennett has ‘let slip’ who he voted for as a rugby league Immortal.Never usually one to give anything away to the media, Wayne Bennett appears to have let slip his vote for rugby league’s next Immortal ahead of Wednesday night’s official unveiling.
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Bennett was one of eight judges who faced the difficult task of choosing up to two new Immortals from a 10-strong short-list on Tuesday.

And he tried to keep his cards close to his chest when quizzed by media in Brisbane on Wednesday.

But the traditionally tight-lipped Bennett hinted that two Immortals would be named and admitted he vouched for Dragons great Norm Provan during the lively judges debate on Tuesday.

Dally Messenger and Mal Meninga are considered favourites to become the ninth and possibly 10th Immortal at the special SCG ceremony.

The other nominees are Provan, Darren Lockyer, Ken Irvine, Brian Bevan, Ron Coote, Dave Brown, Frank Burge and Duncan Hall.

Bennett admitted he had “no idea” who got the Immortal nod under the new secret ballot voting system and his opinion on different nominees changed “three times” during the debate.

But Bennett appeared momentarily thrown when reminded he had vouched for Provan as the next Immortal in an interview at the start of the season and whether his opinion had changed.

“You’ve put me on the spot now. You could say that (voted for Provan),” Bennett said coyly.

“(But) I felt very privileged to be there yesterday. It was conducted in great spirit.

“I think there were some really good decisions there that will play out tonight.”

A rule tweak ensured it was even more gruelling for judges to select the next Immortal.

When the concept was first started in 1981 by the now defunct Rugby League Week (RLW) publication, judges refused to consider anyone they had not seen play so only looked at post-World War II careers.

But that has been ditched since the NRL took over the concept last year when RLW folded.

All eras are now considered but players are only eligible for Immortal status if they are among the 100 NRL Hall of Fame members.

“They are all on the same level. It is such a fine line,” Bennett said of the nominees.

“And some we never saw play which won’t be an issue in the future with video but Dally Messenger played back in 1908 – that’s the difficult part.

“It’s a tough job to do but one I enjoyed being a part of.”

Messenger is favourite to be the first pre-war player inducted more than 100 years after his fateful decision to turn his back on rugby and join the newly formed NSWRL in 1907.

Andrew Johns was the last Immortal inducted six years ago, joining Clive Churchill (1981), Bob Fulton (1981), Reg Gasnier (1981), Johnny Raper (1981), Graeme Langlands (1999), Wally Lewis (1999) and Arthur Beetson (2003).

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