Rugby League: Clyde resumes Daley service

Reunited they stand: Two great Australians join forces again in the cause of national honour; Dave Hadfield explains why a return to fitness could spell double trouble
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The Independent Online
ONE of rugby league's great partnerships will be re-forged at Elland Road this afternoon, but Great Britain cannot be happy to see Laurie Daley and Bradley Clyde back together once more.

For the best part of a decade, their two names have gone together like Morecambe and Wise or Gilbert and Sullivan. Near contemporary with each other - Daley is three months older - their careers with Canberra, New South Wales and Australia have run in tandem. And, as Daley is quick to point out, the timing of Clyde's return to the Australian side this afternoon could hardly be better. "It's pretty good to have a player of his experience and talent coming back at a time like this."

It has been a frustrating couple of weeks for Clyde, sidelined by one of the game's more bizarre mishaps. He was running up the courtroom steps in Canberra on his way to stand as a character witness for his team-mate, Noa Nadruku, who was on trial for battering two women. Clyde pulled a calf muscle while Nadruku was found guilty and sacked by the club.

"It has been frustrating, especially when I was so close to being fit for the second Test," he says, although being confined to the margins did give him a grandstand view of Daley's matchwinning performance at Wembley. Having spent the whole of their playing careers together, there can be no more informed assessment of his display that day than Clyde's.

"It was one of the best games I've ever seen him play," he says. "You come to expect it after a while. I see him every week, but he seems to me to have lifted it to a different level."

If that was a personal high for Daley, then this condensed tour as a whole has been something of an emotional roller-coaster. Two days before the first Test, he learned that his grandmother, who had always followed his playing career with keen interest, had died. Then came that dazzling Wembley tour de force and, a couple of days later, the news that Peter Jackson, who played with both of them for Canberra and Australia, had killed himself with a drugs overdose in Sydney.

"It was a case of shock, hearing that Jacko was dead," Daley says. "One of those things that you just can't believe."

And Clyde shakes his head. "He was one of those guys who was so high on life. But behind closed doors, he was obviously going through a lot of torment. Poor bugger."

This is the second time that the two players have experienced this feeling. Another former Canberra team-mate, Dave Woods, who also played for Wakefield Trinity, took his own life two years ago.

"It's baffling," says Daley. "He was another larger than life character like Jacko. If you had put a hundred people in a room, you would have said that one was the 100th most likely to do something like this and the other bloke was the 99th."

Reflections like that put temporal matters such as winning and losing a Test series into perspective. For most players, disasters come in smaller, more easily handled parcels, but losing today would be greeted as a disaster all the same.

Daley, as captain, is particularly aware that these Australian tourists are in a no-win situation. If they beat Great Britain today, the reaction, especially from those loyal to the ARL in the battle against Super League, will be: "It's only the Poms and we know from the World Club Championship how good they are." But, if they lose, it will be: "Thanks a bunch, Super League. After 27 years you've managed to blow a series for us."

"To be quite honest, I haven't thought that much about it," Daley says. "If it happens, it happens and I'll work out a way of dealing with it. We haven't actually discussed the reaction, but everyone's well aware of it anyway. It's no use worrying about things that you can't control, but what you can control is how well you play yourself."

After the second Test, during which he was kept quiet as effectively as at any stage in his international career, Daley paid a generous tribute to his opposite number, Andy Farrell, that went considerably beyond the usual pleasantries.

Clyde agrees with his view. "Farrell and Jason Robinson - they would go well in whatever competition they were playing. They would get into the Australian side.

"This has been a different sort of tour for us - much shorter for one thing - and with a lot of young blokes we've not toured with before. The discipline within the camp has been tighter. The coach hasn't wanted us running around the place too much. We'll soon see whether it has worked or not."

From a British point of view, it is, unfortunately, more likely to work now that Daley and Clyde - not to be confused with Bonnie and Clyde or Arthur Daley and Terry McCann - have been reunited.