Rugby League: British down and out Down Under
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Monday 23 June 1997
Wigan's problems began when Brett Mullins intercepted Henry Paul's pass to go 90 yards for the opener after two minutes and continued when their full-back, Paul Koloi, completely missed Laurie Daley's kick to let in Ruben Wiki three minutes later.
The British side managed one try, when Martin Hall dived on to Tony Smith's kick, but looked to be heading for a club record defeat until two tries from Kris Radlinski and one from Gary Connolly slowed down the Raiders after the break. But the damage had been done as Wigan slipped to a second humbling defeat after their encouraging start with victory at Canterbury.
"The platform was set after we gifted them two tries," said their coach, Eric Hughes. "They were schoolboy errors." Wiki, Luke Priddis, Bradley Clyde and Noa Nadruku all scored two tries apiece for the Raiders.
Halifax have been the ultimate whipping boys of the World Club Championship and they got their third thrashing of the tournament at Brisbane, going down 76-0 to set another record with the club's worst defeat.
Australian internationals Wendell Sailor and Darren Smith both scored hat-tricks of tries before the Broncos spared Halifax some of the further punishment that was in prospect by appearing to ease up in the last 20 minutes. It might also have been a lot worse had Brisbane full-back Darren Lockyer not missed seven relatively easy conversion attempts.
"I take no joy from our easy win," the Broncos coach, Wayne Bennett, said after the game. "It was almost embarrassing." The British administrators need to take a long, hard look at themselves. It says something that six English Super League coaches were sacked before the season was half over.
"That shows real problems in the English game," said Bennett. "The buck shouldn't stop with the coaches. It's the administrators that should be held accountable."
The Blue Sox coach, John Pendlebury, said it was hard to recruit top players. And he criticised the way clubs sought out Australian players who could not make it Down Under, either in Super League or the ARL, to bolster their ranks. "That's only a quick fix," he said. "Coaches inherit problems and unless they get instant results they are skating on thin ice."
"It certainly has been an experience for us," said hard-working former international prop Karl Harrison, in what was one of the understatements of the season.
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