Exotic Bronco enters Dreamland

Rugby league

The question suggested itself quite naturally this week: How many caps would Peter Gill have won, if he had been born British?

The London Broncos back-row forward comes instead from Toowoomba and, before he was named in the Stones Super League Dream Team this week, his only representative honour was more than a decade ago for a Queensland Residents' XIII.

But Gill's form this year is one of the prime reasons the Broncos are in a Premiership semi- final against St Helens this evening. Even at 31, he would be straight into the Great Britain squad were it not for the inconvenient detail that, unlike his team-mate Tulsen Tollett, he has no British qualifications.

There is something exotic about Gill's whole appearance and playing style, in fact. He looks more like a gypsy horse-breaker than a conventional sportsman and brings a dash and elan to his job as a forward who is simultaneously runner, tackler and creator that is all his own.

"I've certainly found that it suits my style over here,"Gill says. "The game is more wide-open than in Australia where you can get away with slowing it down a lot more. I've been pretty happy with my own form, but it was still a surprise and an honour to be named in the Dream Team."

The season's latter stages have seen several Broncos win recognition. Tollett was named for the Great Britain tour to the southern hemisphere this winter and Matthew Salter has earned selection in the GB Academy squad for New Zealand.

The club deserves collective recognition, though, for making the top four in a season when many expected them to struggle. The question today is whether, deep down, they consider that enough. If they do, and this really is one game too many, they will not contain St Helens, even if they have the considerable boost of welcoming Terry Matterson back after injury.

But there is also a question mark over Saints. How will they react to completing the championship and cup double last week and getting back on their feet today for a stab at the treble? It is a further test of Shaun McRae's ability to keep his side focused because championship-winning sides - with the exception of Wigan to whom it became commonplace - have traditionally suffered a reaction in the Premiership. The First Division champions, Salford, suffered theirs when they lost their final league game, at Featherstone Rovers, last week.

Having got that out of their system, they should book their place at Old Trafford on 8 September by beating the Second Division champions, Hull KR.

Rovers, with the Papua New Guinea scrum-half Stanley Gene as their outstanding personality, have begun to turn around heir declining fortunes, but Salford at the Willows should be too strong for them.

Another Salford-Keighley clash, after the acrimony between the two clubs this season, should enliven finals day, but Keighley's opponents, Hull, with Glen Liddiard back from suspension, could well upset that calculation.

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