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Smith & Slater crowned best dynamic duo of modern era

Melbourne's legendary pairing of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater has been crowned the most dynamic duo of the modern era.

After more than 35,000 votes, the Storm combination edged out Knights duo Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus.

Smith and Slater, who combined at club, state and Test level for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia for close to two decades, are sure-fire candidates to graduate into the NRL Hall of Fame and potentially, Immortal, status down the track.

The newsroom initially together a shortlist of 10 classy duos which was trimmed to the two frontrunners via the poll in this article with votes on the official NRL Instagram and Facebook accounts deciding once and for all who's Simply The Best duo. recently launched the search for the Simply The Best players from 1990 to now to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner promotional campaign, which was again featured in this year's advertisement for the Telstra Premiership, and is calling on the fans to have their say on a range of topics on the modern era.

Such was the strength of these dynamic duos that there was no room for the Johns brothers, Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall, Gary Larson and Billy Moore, Tony Puletua and Joe Galuvao or Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend.

Best duos of the of modern era

Ricky Stuart chairs his mate Laurie Daley off after an Origin series win in 1994.
Ricky Stuart chairs his mate Laurie Daley off after an Origin series win in 1994.

Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley

‘Sticky’ and ‘Loz’ were central figures in Canberra's glory years from 1989-94 and spearheaded the Blues to an Origin three-peat from 1992-94.

Daley played centre in the Raiders' back-to-back grand final wins in '89 and '90 before shifting into the halves alongside his great mate Stuart to form a combination which took all before it. 

As a playmaking pair, they had every base covered with Stuart's astute kicking game and laser-like passes complimenting Daley's running game and bruising defence.

Steve Menzies inducted into the Hall of Fame

Cliff Lyons and Steve Menzies

Two of Manly's favourite sons who brought the Brookvale faifthul to their feet throughout the 90s with an uncanny combination rarely seen between a five-eighth and a forward.

Cliffy’s ability to put "Beaver" into a hole became the stuff of legend and more often than not the free-striding back-rower would finish the maestro's work with a four-pointer.

The first of Menzies' 180 career tries came in round three, 1994 in a 66-8 towelling of Wests and it's a fair bet the mercurial Lyons played a part in it. 

In Manly's golden period from 1995-97 when they played in three straight grand finals, Lyons and Menzies were together in 72 of the 75 matches. They won 57 of those and Menzies scored 55 tries.

Cliff Lyons inducted into the Hall of Fame

Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus

When rugby league's eighth Immortal Andrew Johns made a triumphant return to the Origin stage in 2005 it was fitting that his old mate "Bedsy" was right there beside him to savour a memorable series win.

Johns produced two virtuoso performances in Sydney and Brisbane as the Buderus-led Blues came back from 1-0 down to win their third straight Origin series.

Danny Buderus runs in to celebrate with Andrew Johns.
Danny Buderus runs in to celebrate with Andrew Johns.

Four years earlier they had masterminded one of the great grand final upsets when they led Newcastle to a stunning 30-24 win over a Parramatta side many considered past the post after a record-breaking season.

Buderus' lightning service out of dummy half laid the platform for Johns to work his magic, Ben Kennedy and Bill Peden fed off that and the title was headed back to the Hunter for the second time in five years.

Kevin Walters & Allan Langer

Larrikins off the field, legends on it.

Kevvie and Alfie wrote their names in Broncos folklore by teaming up to deliver four premierships to Red Hill in 1992, '93, '97 and '98. 

The Ipswich Connection played off the cuff, up-tempo footy which was exhilarating for fans and infuriating for defenders trying to rein them in.

In 1998 they steered the Maroons to an Origin series win to further cement their legacy as two of Queensland's favourite sons.

Kevin Walters and Allan Langer during their premiership glory days of the 1990s.
Kevin Walters and Allan Langer during their premiership glory days of the 1990s. ©NRL Photos

Johnathan Thurston & Matt Bowen

From the moment JT arrived in Townsville in 2005 with a premiership ring in his pocket and a glint in his eye, his partnership with Matt Bowen flourished.

In the ensuing nine seasons, the electrifying Bowen crossed the stripe 92 games in 188 games, with Thurston’s fingerprints all over a huge percentage of those.

When JT pulled out and show-and-go and split the line, Bowen was invariably there in support to finish off the movement.

When a chip over the top was on, JT would put it on a dime and Bowen would be following through at speed to regather.

Having given Cowboys fans so much joy across 13 seasons, Bowen headed to Super League in 2014, unfortunately missing the chance to share in the club's maiden premiership in 2015.

Cowboys legends Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen.
Cowboys legends Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen.

Shane Webcke & Petero Civoniceva

What the Broncos wouldn't give for a couple of no-nonsense enforcers like these two right now.

No quarter was asked or given every time they took the field together for Brisbane, Queensland or Australia.

From the moment they joined forces in 1998, Webcke and Civoniceva commanded respect not by talking tough but by playing tough.

They helped deliver premierships to Brisbane in '98 and 2006, tasted Origin glory together in 2001 and were part of the 2003 Kangaroos side which took down Great Britain 3-0.

Peter Civoniceva.
Peter Civoniceva. ©NRL Photos

Cameron Smith & Billy Slater

Not since the array of champions who donned the Red V during St George's era of dominance in the 50s and 60s have two players joined forces to share in so much success.

Smith and Slater spent 15 years making the Melbourne Storm the benchmark for professionalism and when they weren't dazzling at club level they were dominating at Origin level as the Maroons built a dynasty.

Cameron Smith and Billy Slater were at heart of the Maroons dynasty.
Cameron Smith and Billy Slater were at heart of the Maroons dynasty.

With Smith leading from the front and Slater the general at the back, every side they played for took on an aura of invincibility.

Great players in their own right but as a double act they were simply off the charts.

Brett Stewart & Glenn Stewart

Most families would be happy to have one son good enough to make it in the NRL but the Stewarts got twice the thrills between 2003 and 2014 as their boys became Sea Eagles royalty.

Freakish fullback Brett would finish his career with an astonishing 163 tries in 233 games while ball-playing back-rower Glenn pocketed the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground in the 2011 grand final win over the Warriors.

Brett Stewart gaps the Knights with brother Glenn looming in support.
Brett Stewart gaps the Knights with brother Glenn looming in support.

The brotherly bond ensured they always knew exactly where the other one was on the field and that understanding produced some magic moments.

"We enjoy each other’s company. We have had a ball playing together for so long," Glenn said in 2013.

Cooper Cronk & Luke Keary

Two seasons. Two premierships. Too good.

Cooper Cronk arrived at the Roosters in 2018 with a track record for success and a hunger for more.

The ultimate pro was paired with a man nine years his junior but already a premiership winner himself at South Sydney.

Cronk's calming influence and Keary's instinctive flair were central to the Roosters’ success as they became the first team since 1992-93 to go back-to-back.

Fittingly it was Keary who took charge and took the Churchill Medal in the 2018 decider when Cronk was a virtual passenger due to a fractured scapula which would have kept most blokes out of the match.

Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk lap up the Roosters' 2018 premiership success.
Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk lap up the Roosters' 2018 premiership success. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Greg Inglis & Sam Burgess

Cometh the hour to end a 43-year hoodoo, cometh the brave Burgess and brilliant Inglis.

After laying the foundations in 2012 and 2013 with preliminary finals appearances, the Rabbitohs finally delivered the Holy Grail to their long-suffering fans in 2014 and it was Burgess and Inglis leading the way.

Rabbitohs royalty Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis.
Rabbitohs royalty Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Burgess would brave a busted cheekbone to inspire his troops and take home the medal named in honour of Souths' greatest ever player while Inglis would ice the emotional win with a runaway try and a "goanna" celebration for the ages.

Two fierce competitors prepared to do whatever it took to deliver glory, glory to South Sydney.


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

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.