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Back in 2012, when a panel of esteemed rugby league minds assembled to cast their votes for the eighth Immortal, the room fell silent as legendary Dragon John Raper rose to extol the virtues of his former captain Norm 'Sticks' Provan.

From one member of the Red V's royal family to another, this was the ultimate show of respect from a man widely regarded as one of the greatest to ever lace a boot. A man who had been named as an original Immortal in 1981 alongside Bob Fulton, Clive Churchill and Reg Gasnier.

Almost five decades to the day since Provan had won an astounding seventh premiership on the trot – and his first as captain-coach of St George – Raper was moved to tears as he paid tribute to Sticks' leadership and ability to inspire both on and off the field.

The days of the captain-coach have long since passed us by but if ever there was a man made for the job it was Provan, who went on to steer the Dragons to three more titles in the demanding dual role.

By the time he hung up the boots at the end of 1965, Provan had won an unprecedented 10 premierships, seven of those alongside Raper, and three with another Immortal, Graeme Langlands, playing in the No.1 jersey for the Saints.

The 2012 Immortals induction was the first time current Immortals had been involved in the judging process, and it was a privilege and an honour to have Raper, Langlands and Bob Fulton join us on the panel.

Teammate pays tribute to Immortal Norm Provan

What became clear from the outset was the enormous respect 'Chook' and 'Chang' had for their old mate Norm, and why they fervently believed he belonged in rugby league's most exclusive club.

In a Dragons team brimming with superstars like Johnny King, Billy Smith, Brian Clay, Ian Walsh and the holy trinity of Raper, Langlands and Gasnier, the man who towered above them all both physically and spiritually was Provan.

From the first of his titles in 1956 to his two-try heroics in the '58 decider and the mud-splattered masterpiece in 1963, when his post-match embrace with Wests skipper Arthur Summons was captured by photographer John O'Gready and later immortalised on the Telstra Premiership Trophy, Provan's grand final heroics were the stuff of legend.

'The Gladiators' photo would come to symbolise everything good about our game … respect, mateship, camaraderie and class.

For the third year in succession, Summons' Magpies had been forced to play second fiddle on the game's biggest stage, but the skipper had the good grace to shake Provan's hand and offer a word of congratulations.

As Provan put a consoling arm around Summons' shoulder and no doubt thanked him for the game, O'Gready captured the moment.

The moment the trophy was born: Provan-Summons trophy embrace

Come 2008 and the game's centenary celebrations, Provan, Raper, Langlands and Gasnier were honoured with selection in the Team of the Century, and a decade later, Raper's impassioned plea would be answered when Provan was crowned the game's 12th Immortal.

On a magical night at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the scene of his 10 premiership triumphs, Provan was inducted alongside Mal Meninga, Dally Messenger, Dave Brown and Frank Burge.

Sadly, in May, we farewelled the mercurial Fulton, and now the game mourns Provan, a true giant in every sense of the word.

Like every St George team Provan was part of as a player, a coach or both, the Immortals will be poorer for his absence, but his legendary deeds will live on forever through old mates, old footage and an iconic image that will never grow old.

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