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Rugby league's one-Test wonders

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Roar Guru
21st October, 2020
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1248 Reads

Over 830 players have represented the Kangaroos in one form or another since 1908 and we can all rattle off the greats, like Clive Churchill, Graeme Langlands, Bob Fulton, Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga, Cameron Smith, et al.

But what about the guys who made it into the team for just one game?

I’ve had a look at the forgotten Origin stars for both New South Wales and Queensland in recent weeks and here’s a team made up of players who only made it into the Australian side for one test. Note that Super League Tests have been ignored, as have players recently featured in the forgotten Origin team articles.

It’s hard to believe that some of these players only ever got one game for Australia, and even harder to believe that some of them got picked at all. How many can you remember?

1. Matt Bowen
Matt Bowen was an elusive freak of nature who played over 300 games in the NRL and ESL, and formed a lethal attacking combination at the Cowboys with Johnathan Thurston. While he managed ten Origin games for Queensland during his career, his sole international for Australia was in a one-off Test against France in 2004. There’s some ordinary players who have had many more internationals than Bowen.

2. Colin Scott
Colin Scott was a tough competitor who represented Queensland 33 times in his nine-year career, but only crossing for one try. A fullback or winger, his sole Test match came in Game 2 of the 1983 series against the Kiwis following injury to first choice fullback Greg Brentnall. Let’s hope he didn’t swap his only Australian jersey with the opposition at full time.

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3. Graham Quinn
Graham Quinn was a clever centre who picked up premierships with St George in both 1977 and 1979. He represented Queensland on five occasions and his sole Test match came on the wing in the second Test against New Zealand in 1980, when he replaced the injured Kerry Boustead. A good club centre but hardly a Test winger.

4. Jamie Ainscough
Ainscough was a handy player who played most of his games at centre or wing. A tough and skilful player, he played nearly 270 NRL and ESL games and was selected to represent NSW 12 times. His sole Test was against New Zealand in the third Test of 1995 when he came on off the bench and scored a try. He was probably unlucky to just pick up the one Australian cap.

5. Graham Mackay
Mackay was a big fast wing or centre who wouldn’t be out of place in today’s game. A journeyman in every sense of the word, he represented nine NRL and ESL clubs in a 15-year career. He was selected for NSW for four Origin matches but inconsistent performances and strong competition limited his appearances for Australia to just one match, against Papua New Guinea in 1992.

6. Todd Carney
Todd Carney is a household name for all the wrong reasons, but behind his behavioural issues was a very good player, capable of football magic on his day. His sole Test match was against New Zealand in 2010. Who knows, if his career wasn’t dominated by controversy, he may have achieved many more games for Australia and been a legend for the right reasons.

Todd Carney playing for the Blues.

Todd Carney playing State of Origin. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

7. John Simon
Simon was a very consistent half back who played 230 NRL games in a 12-year career that came to an end in 2001. He represented both NSW Country and the Blues and was picked on the bench for Australia vs Rest of the World. Playing in an era when quality half backs were thick on the ground, Simon’s representative opportunities were limited.

8. Michael Weyman
A destructive and fiery front-rower, Weyman has hard to handle when he was on his game. Unfortunately, injuries, poor discipline and inconsistency plagued his career. His best years were 2009 and 2010 when he won four caps for NSW, a premiership with St George, and represented Australia off the bench in one Test against New Zealand. Could have done better!

9. Aaron Raper
A clever hooker, Raper had a stellar debut season in 1992 but generally struggled with form and injury after that. He was selected for NSW in one match, sitting on the bench for the whole game, and played one game for Australia against South Africa (that’s correct, South Africa!) in the 1995 World Cup, won by Australia 86–6. His father, Johnny Raper was a hard act to follow.

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10. Richard Villasanti
Did I hear you say Richard who? Villasanti had a somewhat controversial and chequered career, but on his day was a big hitting weapon. He was a surprise inclusion on the 2003 Kangaroo tour and did not play a Test match. His only Test match appearance was a one off Test against New Zealand in 2003 where he played off the bench. A lucky recipient of a Kangaroo jersey.

11. David Furner (c)
Furner was a talented and hard as nails second rower who played a total of 300 NRL and ESL games, as well as eight matches for NSW. Very few opponents were inclined to take Furner on, and for good reason. A prolific goal kicker, he notched up over 1,400 points in his career. It’s hard to believe that he only played one Test for Australia, and that was off the bench against Great Britain in 1994.

12. Scott Gourley
Gourley was a rugby union international before switching to play league with the Dragons in 1990. A big forward, he was a great ball runner with an excellent offload and notched up over 170 NRL games both with the Dragons and then the Roosters. He was lucky to become a dual international when selected to play for Australia in a Test against Papua New Guinea in 1991.

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13. Aiden Guerra
The recently retired Aiden Guerra played over 200 NRL games and was a Queensland origin stalwart between 2014 and 2017. Tough and talented, and a player who seemed to save his best for Origin, it’s surprising that Guerra’s only appearance for Australia was off the bench against New Zealand in the 2014 Four Nations series.

14. Chris Mortimer
Chris Mortimer was one of the toughest players ever to lace on a boot, and opponents rarely got the better of him. A backline utility player, he was a regular Origin representative for NSW in the mid to late eighties. There must have been a lot of good players around in order to limit his one Australian game to a Test against Papua New Guinea in 1986.

15. Joel Clinton
Clinton was a tough Panther’s local junior who played over 240 games in the NRL and ESL. Never a star, but always a rugged hard working front rower, Clinton played three games for City, and his sole Test match came against the Kiwis in 2004. There are worse front rowers to play more Test matches than Clinton.

16. Mark Hohn
Hohn was a solid prop forward who first played in the Brisbane competition and the ESL before joining the Broncos in their foundation year in 1988. He went on to play 118 games for Brisbane and nine Origin games for Queensland. His sole Test appearance for Australia, at the ripe old age of 30, was off the bench against France in 1994.

17. Carl Webb
Webb was a tough and uncompromising forward who played for both Brisbane and North Queensland, before finishing his career with a handful of games for Parramatta. Never afraid to push the boundaries, either on or off the field, Webb was an ideal Queensland Origin player and was selected 15 times between 2001 and 2008. Surprisingly, he managed only one Test appearance for Australia, and that was off the bench against New Zealand in 2008.

So there you go, a squad with nearly 3,400 first grade appearances between them but only a combined 17 Test matches, and many of those were either off the bench or against Papua New Guinea or France. I wonder how they would perform as a team on the Test arena?