Rugby League: Alfie finds what life is all about: Dave Hadfield on the brilliant Australian scrum-half who has passed into folklore

IT IS a symptom of how the tide can turn in rugby league that until this summer there were those within the Great Britain camp who regarded Allan Langer as Australia's potential weakness.

It seems a bizarre theory now, but there were reasons for it. At Wembley in 1990, the experiment of pairing Langer with another scrum-half, Ricky Stuart, had gone horribly wrong, and Great Britain's victory had seen Langer lose his Test place for the rest of the tour.

He was back in the line-up by the time the Lions toured this summer, but the memory of his ineffectiveness at Wembley, and even of his appearance for the Rest of the World in Britain two years earlier, lingered in British minds.

There was concern about his short kicking game near the try- line, but not about the whole, compact package that was Langer.

This year, however, Langer has proved that he really is as good as those in his native Queensland have always claimed. Hard though Shaun Edwards grafted in the deciding Test at Lang Park in July, his opponent's growth into a player of true world stature was obvious.

On the domestic scene, no Australian player has dominated a season the way Langer has during the one just ended. He took all the major individual awards, including the most prestigious, the Rothmans Medal, and then captained the Brisbane Broncos to their 28-8 win over St George in the Grand Final of the Winfield Cup, scoring two tries and taking the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match in the process.

Langer has grown up in the shadow of strong characters such as his coach in his formative years in the Queensland town of Ipswich, Tommy Raudonikis, and his original half-back partner and captain at the Broncos, Wally Lewis.

He feels that taking the Brisbane captaincy this season is the factor that has expanded his repertoire as a player. 'I take more responsibility now and that has all come with the captaincy of the Broncos,' he said. 'And being part of a side that has only lost four games all season gives you plenty of confidence.'

Langer has good grounds for that confidence, because there is little in the scrum-half textbook in which he does not excel. He is electrifyingly quick, has the vision and technique to pick out the players around him with long, flat passes, and, for a man of 5ft 5in, he is freakishly strong in attack and defence.

Advertisers in Australia would have you believe that is because he eats so much bread. Langer - and his mum - star in the television promotion of what is now the country's best-selling loaf.

He also has what must surely be the unique distiction for a rugby player of having a doll named after him. Children in Australia have Alfie dolls on their Christmas lists, and Alfie in Australia means only one thing; it is the nickname by which Langer is invariably known, because the city slickers in Brisbane reckon that coming from Ipswich makes him an alien life form.

There are no Ellery Hanley dolls - not even non-talking ones - and no Will Carlings on toy shop shelves. It is a small but revealing indication of his popularity at home.

There is recognition on both sides of the world that Langer is not only bankable, but something very special on the field. Peter Sterling, his predecessor as Australia's regular scrum-half, has no qualms about calling him the best player in the world.

Alex Murphy, the coach of Huddersfield, Australia's opponents tonight in the first match of their warm-up programme for the World Cup final in two weeks' time and most people's choice as Britain's best-ever in the position, goes further.

'He is the best we have seen for a very long time,' Murphy said. 'But that is because he is given the freedom to do what he does best. He is allowed to attack from his own half and to keep the ball alive and that is his natural game.'

Only a few ghosts lurking at Wembley Stadium remain to be convinced of how devastating that natural game has become. Langer calls that afternoon there two years ago 'the most disappointing of my career' and admits that the memory of it will give him an extra impetus on 24 October.

Britain in the past might have seen him as a bit of a luxury, like Barbie's Ken. But, given any sort of leeway, Alfie will play the role of Action Man at Wembley.

(Photograph omitted)

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album