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globalrugbyleague - Sat, 01 Dec 2007 22:33:00 GMT
Former Kiwi captain Mark Graham was named the player of the century at the New Zealand Rugby League's annual awards dinner tonight.

Rated the world's best back rower at his peak, Graham captained the Kiwis in 18 of the 29 tests he played from 1977-88.

A product of Auckland 's Otahuhu club, he forged an illustrious career with North Sydney in the Sydney premiership.

"This is incredibly humbling," said Graham, who travelled from Australia to attend the dinner.

"It's unbelievable to think I've been singled out from all the players who have worn the Kiwi jersey over the past 100 years."

Also honoured at the dinner was the late Cliff Johnson, who was named captain of the century. A 34-test veteran from 1950-60, prop Johnson led the Kiwis 14 times and played a total of 70 matches for his country.

Graham and Johnson were named along with 11 other players in the team of the century.

A panel of six judges was tasked with selecting the best of the best to mark New Zealand rugby league's 100th anniversary.

Players from the 1950s era dominated the final selection. Apart from Johnson, the others included were fullback Des White, centre Tom Baxter, winger Tom Hadfield, standoff George Menzies, hooker Jock Butterfield and second rower Ron Ackland. Named at loose forward was Canterbury 's Mel Cooke, who started his test career in 1959.

The brilliant Roger Bailey, a Kiwi from 1961-70, was the other centre and 1969-75 try-scoring sensation Phil Orchard was the other winger.

Completing the selection were Graham and modern-day greats Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones, who finished their test careers only last year.

The judges were Bernie Wood, Peter Kerridge, John Coffey, Graham Lowe, Allen McLaughlin and Richard Becht.

The full team:

Fullback Des White ( Auckland )
1950-56
21 tests
132 points (2 tries, 63 goals)
Kiwi No 323

Wing Tom Hadfield ( Auckland )
1956-61
17 tests
45 points (15 tries)
Kiwi No 375

Centre Tom Baxter ( Auckland )
1949-56
29 tests
15 points (5 tries)
Kiwi No 320

Centre Roger Bailey ( Auckland )
1961-70
29 tests
36 points (12 tries)
Kiwi No 402

Wing Phil Orchard (Bay of Plenty & Wellington)
1969-75
21 tests
45 points (15 tries)
Kiwi No 475

Standoff George Menzies (West Coast)
1951-61
29 tests
12 points (4 tries)
Kiwi No 326

Halfback Stacey Jones ( Auckland )
1995-2006
46 tests
160 points (16 tries, 47 goals, 2 field goals)
Kiwi No 665

Prop Cliff Johnson ( Auckland )
1950-60
34 tests
9 points (3 tries)
Kiwi No 325

Hooker Jock Butterfield (Canterbury & West Coast)
1954-63
36 tests
21 points (7 tries)
Kiwi No 355

Prop Ruben Wiki ( Auckland )
1994-2006
55 tests
60 points (15 tries)
Kiwi No 655

Second row Mark Graham ( Auckland )
1977-88
29 tests
24 points (7 tries)
Kiwi No 535

Second row Ron Ackland ( Auckland )
1954-63
18 tests
3 points (1 try)
Kiwi No 354

Loose forward Mel Cooke ( Canterbury )
1959-64
22 tests
15 points (5 tries)
Kiwi No 384
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