The Roar
The Roar


Why it’s unAustralian for many Australian rugby league fans to support the Kangaroos

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10th October, 2023
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The Kangaroos are in many ways victims of their own success and Australia’s psyche of always supporting the underdogs. 

When it comes to international rugby league, the Australian men’s team has been the red-hot favourite every time they’ve stepped onto the field for decades. 

And unless something seriously dramatic happens in the future, that will always be the case. 

It used to be said that State of Origin only works when Queensland lift the shield because they’re not expected to win. 

There’s a similar scenario in league Tests where the best way to raise interest is for Australia to lose. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Brian To'o of Samoa faces off with Cameron Munster of Australia during the Siva Tau prior to the Rugby League World Cup Final match between Australia and Samoa at Old Trafford on November 19, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for RLWC)

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for RLWC)

But that happens so infrequently – they have won 47 and lost six of the 54 matches they’ve contested since their shock loss to New Zealand in the 2008 Word Cup final. 

Five of those losses were to the Kiwis while the last time England/Great Britain beat them was in 2006. 


When the Tongans registered a historic 16-12 win over Australia in 2019 it gave international rugby league a timely shot in the arm that the rising Pacific nations could compete with the big dogs. 

Aaaand then there was a global pandemic which put a kybosh on Tests for the best part of three years. 

Unlike other national teams in sports like cricket, football, rugby and basketball, there’s very little diehard support for the Kangaroos because a lot of fans have become blasé with their dominance. 

When the Aussies were upset by Tonga in front of Eden Park grandstands that could not be parted for the sea of red there were many supporters on this side of the Tasman who couldn’t help but cheer on the outsiders. 

Not since that handsome devil Vince Vaughn led Average Joes all the way to the title in Dodgeball has there been a pluckier underdog story. 

Australia restored normal transmission when they went unbeaten in all six matches of their World Cup campaign last year upon their return from the Covid hiatus and were only truly tested by the Kiwis in their semi-final, which they won by two points. 


Amid all the goodwill generated by Samoa making it to the final, the actual match had an air of inevitability as the Aussies went 20-0 up early in the second half before trading late tries in the 30-10 triumph. 

Despite various disruptions like injuries to Latrell Mitchell and Nathan Cleary on top of suspensions to Josh Addo-Carr and Valentine Holmes for varying degrees of unprofessional behaviour, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has been able to name 12 members of his World Cup squad in the game-day line-up for Saturday’s Pacific Championships stoush with Samoa at QCB Stadium. 

And they’ve been able to bring on top-line talent like Dylan Edwards, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Selwyn Connor and Kotoni Staggs to fill the gaps. 

Stephen Crichton. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Toa Samoa do not have anywhere near the same level of depth. 

From the team which made history by reaching last year’s Cup decider, only three players will suit up again in blue this Saturday – Eels prop Junior Paulo and premiership-winning Panthers duo Stephen Crichton (out of position at five-eighth) and Brian To’o. 

New coach Ben Gardiner is being thrown to the wolves with a side missing injured stars Jarome Luai, Joseph Suaalii, Taylan May, Jaydn Su’A and Josh Papali’i. 


The Penrith assistant has been forced to select unproven fringe NRL players like rookie Manly hooker Gordon Chan Kum Tong, Warriors playmaker Ronald Volkman and fullback Sua Faaloogo, who is potentially a gun but has just one game for the Storm under his belt. 

You can’t begrudge Aussie fans for having a soft spot for the Samoans this weekend. 

When the odds are so heavily stacked in your favour it’s almost unAustralian to cheer for the Australians.