My favourite Australian rugby league XIII
Following on from my favourite rugby union contributor on this site, Sheek, here is my selection of the best 13 Australian players this Briton has witnessed since the immortal Kangaroos of 1982.
1: Brett Mullins. For a couple of seasons, Mullins’ spidery limbs, snaky hips and lungs made for 400 metre sprints contributed to a series of little miracles.
2: John Ferguson. A forerunner to England’s Jason Robinson, AKA Billy Whiz, Ferguson’s unorthodox brilliance was worthy of such exaggerated comic feats. His signature? A little puff of smoke from the back of his heels…
3: Mal Meninga. A monstrous physical specimen with a kind of mythic aura and a surprising footballing dexterity – his introduction to English audiences in 1982 was frightening!
4: Greg Inglis. A contemptuous fend, awkward length of stride, lofty air – and responsible this season for a tackle on Uate that, in terms of degree of difficulty, is the best I have ever seen. Inglis is destined for all-time greatness.
5: Eric Grothe. Rolling Thunder? The Guru? A primordial force of nature, whose tectonic plate-shifting runs scored highly on what might be termed the rectal-Richter Scale! Along with mighty Mal, Grothe scared the pants off English defences.
6: Brett Kenny. To many English supporters, Kenny remains a superior player to Wally Lewis. A man who could go through the gears effortlessly and who ran so fast and yet seemingly so unhurriedly – very few players have been so aesthetically pleasing to watch when in full flight. His performance in the Wembley sunshine of 1985 before just short of 100,000 spectators will not be forgotten.
7: Andrew Johns. An all-court footballer with no discernible weakness in any part of the game. Less purely exciting, perhaps, than the criminally under-rated Greg ‘Brandy’ Alexander – a particular favourite of mine – but with a sumptuous array of passing and kicking skills.
8: Shane Webcke. Unyielding, inured to pain, fearless and – wait for it – seemingly a very nice, mild-mannered chap. How did he do that?
9: Benny Elias. I know what you’re thinking but Elias, the scruffy, bloodied, hot-headed mummy’s boy – antonym of Cameron Smith’s too cool for school model – is a character that perhaps only rugby league could have produced. He played as if every minute might have been his last.
10. Mark Geyer. For a relatively short period, Geyer was very, very scary. He looked mean, played nasty and, in another life, might have been a hoodlum looking to snuff the life out of Jimmy Cagney in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Horrible.
11. Gordon Tallis. The Raging Bull. His one-sided fist-fight with Wigan’s Terry O’Connor ended with the latter suggesting that his wife had slapped him harder… I think he was joking. Tallis did everything with extreme force and menace. He too was horrible.
12: Wayne Pearce. The clean cut kid of the 1982 Kangaroos, ‘Junior’ was like rugby league’s version of the Bionic Man. Never before had a player exuded such fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked health and fitness – made to look all the more remarkable when set against the backdrop of an English autumn/winter.
13: Bradley Clyde. Indefatigable, skilful and not at all horrible. Quite modest, actually…
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