Kiwis plan to add golden touch to centenary celebrations

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The oldest link in international rugby league will be celebrated today when their modern successors pay tribute to the pioneers of 100 years ago.

The straw boaters may or may not arrive in time, but the sense of history will be everywhere when the travelling All Golds take on the Northern Union at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington for the commemoration of the game's first overseas tour.

And if the current visitors ever think they have got their problems on this trip, they can reflect on the 1907 tourists, whose names were not even released until they were on the boat from New Zealand, for fear of rugby union recriminations, and whose visionary leader, Albert Baskerville, died on the way home.

A century later, the new All Golds will wear the title with pride, none more so than Steven Price, the token Australian in the side, whose selection echoes that of Dally Messenger in 1907.

The team's Australian coach, Wayne Bennett, admitted this week that he would have loved to have his injured fellow-countryman, Darren Lockyer, here, just to see him play alongside Stacey Jones.

The game will be the last of Jones' wonderful career – unless he has another of his famous changes of mind – while two other Kiwi heroes, Nigel Vagana and Ruben Wiki, are coming out of international retirement for the occasion.

At the other end of the scale, the 19-year-old Sydney Roosters winger, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, is one of seven players who are also in the New Zealand squad for the three Test series that follows this match. Not only are there Test places up for grabs, there are also points to be made after the full Kiwi side's 58-0 hammering by Australia last weekend.

"They're a proud nation and we can expect a back-lash," said Adrian Morley, who will captain the Northern Union – as the representative side was known – on his home ground.

Along with Terry Newton, Gareth Raynor and Danny McGuire, he is pencilled in for the first Test in Huddersfield next Saturday. There are opportunities for others, though, like the young forwards on the bench, Sam Burgess and Richard Moore.

Comments