Interview with Terry Lamb: Part II

AS promised, here?s Part II of Daniel Ramus?s interview with former Bulldogs champion Terry Lamb, exclusively for League Unlimited.Rammo: Canterbury won the minor premiership in 1993 but were bundled out of the semis without winning a game. Tell us a bit about that.Baa: I didn?t know that actually. I think we got beaten by St George and Brisbane in the semis. We had a pretty good run going into those semis. We did have a young team at that stage with guys like Dean Pay, Craig Polla-Mounter and Jason Smith coming through at that stage. Put it this way, we just weren?t good enough to make the Grand Final. I even forgot that we won the minor premiership that year, so that?s a bit of a bonus for us but I think South Sydney did the same thing in 1989.Rammo: You made the Grand Final in 1994, losing to Canberra 36-12. Nothing seemed to go right for the team that day. Martin Bella dropped the ball from the kickoff in the in-goal area and things went downhill from there. What can you recall from Grand Final day in 1994?Baa: I remember the early part of the game. I don?t think you can blame Marty Bella for dropping the ball off the kickoff, I was right in front of him, I should have taken the ball, and taken the responsibility. Martin hasn?t got very good eyes, he wears glasses so it should have been me taking the ball. Yeah nothing went right for us that day, we didn?t have the ball for the first 15 minutes and then Mal Meninga knocked me out, I had a bad neck the next day but that?s life and that?s footy. You?ve still got to be good enough to make a Grand Final but we just weren?t good enough to win.Rammo: Just on that Meninga hit, that happened about 20 minutes into the game and it seemed to affect your performance. Do you remember much about it?Baa: No I don?t remember much about that game at all. I probably should have gone off, I don?t think there was a blood bin in those days, I?m not even sure if there was interchange for injured players. I probably should have gone off the field for a rest, and I probably wasn?t good enough to play the whole game out but I think it?s just a part of me that wanted to keep playing.Rammo: Given the incident with Hanley in 1988, do you think it was somewhat ironic?Baa: Yeah probably (laughs). Whatever happens to me or anyone else on the field should be left on the field. These days I probably would have got 10 weeks hitting Hanley and Mal probably would have got the same hitting me. I spoke to Mal after the game and I know he didn?t mean it, he was just going for me because I was going to get the ball and it was just part of the game. Rammo: Canterbury won the premiership in 1995 under your captaincy and the coaching of Chris Anderson. You were sin binned after just 5 minutes of the game for committing a professional foul when Manly were on the attack. Things turned around for the team and you recorded a memorable upset victory. Tell us a bit about that day.Baa: I?m not sure about the upset victory. I?m sure it upset the Manly supporters though (laughs). I had to make the decision to tackle the bloke from behind otherwise they were going to score a try, and get abit of momentum. I think it was Matthew Ridge that I tackled from behind. I don?t think they scored any points in the 10 minutes that I was off the field. Our defensive effort was great and full credit to the young blokes that were on the field like (Jim) Dymock, (Dean) Pay, Jason Smith, Darren Britt and (Jason) Hetherington. I think those guys bandied together, they didn?t even look like making a break or scoring while I was off the field so full credit to the guys that were on the field. We just came together well as a team, that year was when the whole Super League saga unfolded, we were losing Dymock, Pay, Smith and Jarrod McCracken. We knew we weren?t going to be together after 95? so we made a pact that we?d do our best to win the comp.Rammo: You originally retired at the end of 1995 and at the time it seemed as though you had gone out on the perfect note. But you decided to come out of retirement and help the Bulldogs in 1996. Do you have any regrets about that seeing as the side failed to make the finals?Baa: No I don?t have any regrets about that. We lost some senior players and we needed to rebuild the team. We didn?t buy too many players from memory, so we just had to use players that we?d had in previous years. I was just there to help the players out. I don?t regret anything I did on the field or whatever happened off the field at all.Rammo: Toughest player you played with or against.Baa: I?ll just name a few players that I played with and against. Guys like David Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Geoff Robinson, Steve Knight, Terry Randall and Les Boyd. If anybody could pick a name between all of those players then good luck to them. I?ve played against many great players and it?s too difficult to narrow it down to one.Rammo: Best player you played with or against.Baa: I?d have to say Steve Mortimer here. I played with him between 84? and 88? and he?d have to be the best player I played with or against.Rammo: Who had the biggest influence over your career?Baa: I couldn?t pick one person. Definitely all of the coaches over my 17 years of playing for Australia, New South Wales, Wests and Canterbury. They?ve all had an input into my career. No one stands out. Rammo: Personally, what do you consider to be the best achievement in your career?Baa: Longevity. Rammo: You amassed a record 349 First Grade games for both Wests and Canterbury. Looking back can you believe you made it this far? Are you disappointed that you couldn?t round out 350 games?Baa: (Laughs), it was probably just one suspension too many wasn?t it. I can?t believe it, I look back and I can remember the early days, and remember a few in between and I remember the end of the career. I don?t think I would even be able to remember 50 of the games that I played. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I love the game itself it?s just great for a person?s character.Rammo: Moving into the coaching ranks, you started with the Canterbury Premier League side from 1998 to 2000 taking them to premierships in ?98 and ?00. Did you enjoy coaching the lower grades at Canterbury? What memories can you recall from that period?Baa: I absolutely adored it actually. It?s a completely different part of rugby league in general, you?re actually teaching the players, not helping them. You?re passing on your knowledge about rugby league and strengthening their own ablities in kicking, tackling and attacking. Yeah I thoroughly enjoyed it, winning a couple of Grand Finals didn?t hurt it either and we had a couple of beers after them as well.Rammo: You then moved on to the first grade appointment at the Wests Tigers from 2001-2002. The Tigers were a bit unstable at the time, did you feel ready for the challenge?Baa: I think I was probably ready for challenge but we had a fair few problems there. In the first year we had the drug scandal with Craig Field and Kevin McGuiness. We then had the (John) Hopoate situation followed by the Terry Hill situation. I enjoyed what I did there at the Wests Tigers, a fair few of them won the Grand Final this year, I think there was about 8 players which I had. I really enjoyed coaching them but we had some problems at the club.Rammo: Are you pleased to see the success of guys you coached like Mark O?Neill and John Skandalis in the 2005 Grand Final?Baa: The type of people that those 2 are, they were always going to win a Grand Final in their careers because they?re so loyal to the club. Those players helped the younger guys like Anthony Larranchi develop into good footballers. They were very stable in their life in general, and it was fitting that they won a Grand Final after being so loyal to the two merged clubs, Balmain for Mark O?Neill and Western Suburbs for John Skandalis.Rammo: Did you enjoy coaching? If you had your time over again would you have approached your coaching career differently?Baa: If I had some better advice then maybe I wouldn?t have coached a joint venture that already had players at the club. I think I only brought 2 or 3 players to the club, because the club had already signed the majority of its players from elsewhere. I would never say that I didn?t enjoy coaching the Wests Tigers, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but unfortunately we just had some problems there.Rammo: You were appointed as a Bulldogs Board member in 2002 after the salary cap scandal. Are you still doing that now? What else are you doing?Baa: At the moment I am coaching Cabramatta in the Jim Beam Cup, and I?m also still on the Bulldogs board. That?s another different role, being a board member. You have to take different responsibilities financially and you need to take players? welfare into account as well. It?s another side of rugby league which I have never experienced before and I?m enjoying that as well.Rammo: You were named as Captain and five eighth of the Canterbury Bulldogs? 70 year anniversary team last year. This must have been quite an honour for you.Baa: I actually didn?t know about the captaincy, I knew I had a good chance of being part of the team. On the night I didn?t know I was captain until they announced it. You could have made anyone captain of that side though, there was George Peponis, Steve Mortimer, Chris Anderson and Steve Folkes as well. I think maybe because I played through so many eras and for so many years at Canterbury was the reason they gave it to me but they could have named anyone as captain.Rammo: Were you happy with the success of Canterbury in 2004?Baa: Well they probably should have won the comp when they were thrown out because of the salary cap scandal. They did have the best team in the competition at that stage and they were playing good footy. They had some great young players that coming through. You look at the 2002 team now compared to the team played this year I think there?s about 5 players missing, the club in my opinion has been robbed of some good players because of the salary cap, but the salary cap is there for a reason. Hopefully every club abides by the rules.Rammo: Your moustache and long hair gave away a battler image in your playing days. Is that an accurate perception?Baa: (Laughs) I think that was just to do with the eras I went through and you?d either follow the trend or create one yourself. When I first started playing for Western Suburbs everybody had beards so I grew a beard, and then I?d shave the beard off and everybody would have moustaches, then the mullet came in. People don?t even care what they look like these days with haircuts or anything like that. So yeah it?s just a tradition that I enjoyed having. I had the goatie, then the full beard and then the moustache and the mullet, but they?re all gone now, all of the above (laughs).Rammo: Are you saddened to see the Bulldogs moving away from Belmore Sports Ground permanently at the end of 2006?Baa: I suppose being a person that spent so long there it is abit disappointing, but I think you?ve got to move with the times. One thing people don?t know too much about is that it would cost the club too much money to stay at Belmore, the council won?t let us play football there any more. We?d have to do the ground up which would cost around $15 Million. We don?t own the ground, the council own it, so it?s disappointing that the club is going to leave there next year but if you don?t move with the times you get caught behind. It happened with South Sydney and Redfern Oval, they probably should have done the Oval up 15 or 20 years ago because now it?s probably a bit too late. But yeah, go with the times. Rammo: What is your fondest memory of the ground? Baa: Probably when we played against Parramatta there in 1984. Both sides were undefeated and there was a crowd of about 20,000 people there. Also when we played Penrith at the multicultural day, when some people started rioting. It?s not really a good memory but it?s something that sticks in your mind. I just had so many great times there at Belmore, too many to talk about.Rammo: Your sons Matt, Dean and Troy all play rugby league. Matt was playing Jersey Flegg for the Bulldogs just recently. Would you like to see your sons follow in your footsteps?Baa: Yeah I would if they are good enough. All 3 of them play at Cabramatta now where I?m coaching. I coach Matt in the Jim Beam Cup and the other boys play C Grade down there. It?s up to them they?re all individuals and they can make those decisions when they get older.Daniel Ramus would like to thank Matt Starkey and www.leagueunlimited.com for assistance with the interview.

Interview with Terry Lamb: Part I

CONTINUING on in our series of interviews, one of our young League Unlimited writers Daniel Ramus has a chin-wag with Canterbury legend Terry Lamb. They got along so well that we?ve had to break the interview into two sections! Stay tuned for Part II on Thursday.********************************Rammo: You started as a Chester Hill/Canterbury Junior, tell us about those early days.Baa: Well it was a long time ago, I think I was about 4 years old when my brother Peter and I went down to Chester Hill to play our first game of rugby league and tackle a few blokes down there. It was more of a weight limit, if you were 4 stone, you played against the 4 stoners, the age didn?t matter, that?s how it was in those days. We had to get weighed before each game, those days are well and truly gone and it?s all done by age groups now. I stayed at Chester Hill for 12 years.Rammo: Despite your desire to play for Canterbury, you began your career at Wests in 1980. Was it tough to play against the Bulldogs?Baa: Like you said I played all my junior football with Canterbury. I played in the Jersey Flegg Grand Final in 1979 and my coach then Ken Gentle went over to Western Suburbs to coach the Under 23s. I had a chat with Roy Masters who was coach of Western Suburbs at the time. I went down for a trial and played 3 games, and was given a contract with Western Suburbs. It wasn?t hard to play against the Bulldogs because I had signed for Wests, stayed there for 4 years, played 87 games for them and I had to look after my family. Rammo: You were selected on the 1982 Kangaroo tour, but decided to withdraw to marry girlfriend Kim. Tell us about that decision.Baa: Well I didn?t actually know whether I was going to be in the team or not. A selector came to me and said that if I played well in a couple more games then I?d have a chance of touring over in England. I told him that I was unable to play because I had already booked the wedding. He just looked at me and said ?okay not a problem? and that was it. But yeah I didn?t actually know whether I was going to be in the team or not at that stage.Rammo: You won the Dally M Medal in 1983 despite Wests finishing last. It was your final season for the club. Was this a bittersweet memory for you?Baa: It was a great memory. I was captain of the team at that stage, and I had a pretty good year. We didn?t have a real good team at that stage and won the wooden spoon. Every player went out there and did their best and that?s all I did.Rammo: You finally fulfilled your dream of playing for Canterbury when you joined them in 1984 and won the premiership under Warren Ryan, defeating Parramatta 6-4. It must have been a great way to start your career at the Bulldogs. What do you recall about that season and Grand Final day?Baa: I went over there as a new player. The club in general had quite a few good players like the Mortimer brothers (Steve, Peter and Chris), Gary Hughes and Robbo (Geoff Robinson). We had a pretty good team at that stage. Warren Ryan brought some new players over like myself, Peter Kelly, Mark Bugden and Peter Tunks. It was a pretty big job I suppose, starting a new team with new players. We knew we had a strong team and Warren Ryan changed our style of football which became more defence orientated. That was my very first Grand Final apart from 1979 when I won the Jersey Flegg. It was a great year, it went pretty quickly actually being successful for so long, and playing Parramatta in that Grand Final and winning 6-4.Rammo: Canterbury went back to back in 1985, defeating St George 7-6 again under Warren Ryan. However you missed this game through injury. Tell us about your feelings whilst you were watching from the sidelines.Baa: The injury came against St George in the first Semi-Final. Myself and Peter Tunks went in for a tackle and Tunks corked my thigh which turned into a burst blood vessel. I knew I wasn?t going to play in the semis leading up to the Grand Final but I tried very hard to get into the Grand Final. I suppose it?s very disappointing not playing in the game itself. Peter Moore put his arm around me at the end of the game and said ?Mate you got us there anyway?, that was fulfilling in itself. 2 years in a row and 2 premierships was a great memory for us, having the same team and the same coach.Rammo: You played in the 1986 Grand Final, but unfortunately the result was different. Parramatta won 4-2 in the only try-less Grand Final ever. How did you feel that day?Baa: Well I felt quite terrible because I was the one who missed the goal that could have taken the game into extra time. I think the game has changed dramatically. Defence was our priority so I think everybody else tried that style as well. It was an old-style Grand Final where we didn?t throw the ball around too much, the forwards just took it up and you tried to go wide with every opportunity. There weren?t too many tries scored in those days because you could only score tries when the opposition made mistakes. That game will go down in history and I guess me missing the goal will go down in history but that?s all part of football I suppose.Rammo: At the end of ?86, you became the first player ever to participate in all matches on a tour of Great Britain and France. Can you tell us a bit about that Kangaroo Tour?Baa: Things were abit different in those days because if you played in the Grand Final you had a very good chance of going on the Kangaroo tour at the end of the year. I?d say about 65% of the players who went on tour played in the Grand Final that year. They were great times, met some great players who are mates of mine like Greg Alexander, (Peter) Sterling and (Wally) Lewis. We had a great team over there and I was lucky enough to play in every single game over there.Rammo: In 1987, you withdrew from the NSW State of Origin team because your wife Kim was pregnant. This decision led to a falling-out with NSWRL Chairman John Quayle. What were your thoughts at the time?Baa: I had already spent 3 months away from my kids. Kim was pregnant so I decided to stay home and look after her. It didn?t worry me, I think everybody thought that players would love to play for NSW at every opportunity but I decided not to. They made me sit out a few games.Rammo: Canterbury won the premiership in 1988 under Phil Gould, defeating Balmain 24-12. The most controversial aspect of that game was the Ellery Hanley incident early on, forcing him to leave the field. Was this just a ?heat of the moment? thing?Baa: It wasn?t set up. We spoke about Ellery Hanley being a dangerous player, but it wasn?t intentional to take him out of the game. I remember there was a scrum, the ball went out to the backline, Andrew Farrar went low in the tackle and I came over the top, no doubt I did get Ellery high, but it was never intentional. That?s all part of football I suppose.Rammo: What other memories do you have of the ?88 Grand Final?Baa: The players were so close. We had myself, David Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Paul Langmack, Glen Nissen and Robbie Thorne who came down from the Gold Coast. It was very similar to 84? when we won, we brought quite a few new players into the team, we just clicked as individuals. We were probably the best team all year, and with the type of coach Phil Gould was, he managed to bring the team together quite well.Rammo: Canterbury missed the semis 4 years in a row between 1989 and 1992. This must have been a difficult time for the club. You were also injured for a fair portion of that period. What were your thoughts as you watched on without being able to play?Baa: I think what you have to look at is that quite a few players left the club at the end of 1990. Chris Anderson came in as coach, Langmack, Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Andrew Farrar and Jason Alchin all went to Western Suburbs with Warren Ryan. So in those years we lost a lot of senior players and we had to recruit again. We had to go through the disappointment of not making the Semis or not making Grand Finals more than anything. We had young players coming through like Dean Pay, Jason Smith, (Craig) Polla-Mounter, and they all went on to play in the 94? and 95? Grand Finals.Rammo: Do you feel that some of these injuries lengthened your career?Baa: The injury was a hernia which I had for a couple of years. It didn?t get any better so I had to have that operated on at the end of the 92? season. After that I was pretty good, the major injury was my broken arm in 94? when my daughter was born, that kept me out for about 10 weeks. A couple of suspensions in between didn?t help.Rammo: You kicked 44 field goals over the course of your career, probably none more famous than in Round 14, 1992 against Newcastle. Trailing 12-10 with 2 minutes left, you booted one from about 40 metres out thinking the scores were level. Do you look back and have a bit of a laugh at this?Baa: At that stage when Newcastle scored in the corner, I actually spoke to the players and I didn?t even see the bloke kick the ball, I didn?t even see it go over and I didn?t know he kicked it. I just told them that when we got the ball back we?d have a shot at field goal. It was a pretty big kick too, 45 metres out and it went straight over. I looked at Mitch Newton and he looked at me and said ?What are you doing??. I said ?What do you mean?? He said ?we need 2 points? and I said ?oh okay not a problem?. I wasn?t real good at maths in those days either (laughs). That was just a mistake I made, it wasn?t on purpose, just part of footy I suppose.That?s all for Part I of our interview with Terry Lamb. Stay tuned to www.leagueunlimited.com for Part II which will be published later on in the week

Exclusive Interview with Mal Meninga

IN the first instalment of our new regular feature of League Unlimited interviews, resident Leaguie Matt Starkey has a chat with newly appointed Queensland coach Mal Meninga.********************************Starkers: First of all, congratulations on being appointed as coach of the Queensland State of Origin team.Big Mal: Thankyou, I?m looking forward to it.Starkers: You started your career at Brisbane Souths as an 18 year old in 1979 and went on to represent Queensland in the interstate match against New South Wales. Tell us about those early days.Big Mal: : I had a wonderful time there under Wayne Bennett and it was a good learning opportunity to achieve what I did later in my career. It gave me a good grounding in my formative years. Back then Souths was predominantly a police boys club and we ended up playing in six grand finals.Starkers: The following year you kicked 7 goals from as many attempts in the first ever State of Origin match. You must have some fond memories of that game?Big Mal: : To be quite honest, the game went that quick that I can?t remember too much about it. It was my 20th birthday and the ball just came off the boot particularly well.Starkers: Did you ever think back then that Origin would become the pinnacle of Rugby League?Big Mal: : I don?t know that it?s the pinnacle. I think there are three things in rugby league that you can achieve that are the peak and obviously one of them is State of Origin. The others are playing for your country and winning a grand final. It?s right up there but back in those times it was just fantastic that we got a win over NSW.Starkers: You then went on to amass a staggering State of Origin record: 32 games, 6 tries, 69 goals for 161 points. Is that something you look back on with pride or did you feel you were just putting in for your state?Big Mal: : You don?t really think about those sorts of things. All you?re really worried about is making a contribution to the side. My focus really was just to be selected and do the best job I possibly can in a Maroon jersey.Starkers: Do you have any general ill-feelings towards New South Welshmen?Big Mal: : No, it?s just about having a competitive nature, that?s why we play the game. Anytime we play someone in a blue jersey that was a great honour. Some of those guys we played against in Origin we ended up playing with for Australia or again at club level. There are no feelings of malice or anything like that. Starkers: You joined Canberra in 1986, was it hard to adjust to a colder climate?Big Mal: : Not for me it wasn?t. I played a season for St Helens in 1984-85 and I quite enjoyed it. The cold wasn?t the thing that troubled me, but getting used to playing in a hard and fast Sydney competition week-in, week-out certainly took some getting used to.Starkers: You broke your arm several times, including hitting the upright at Seiffert Oval one time. Was it a personal struggle combating the injuries towards the end of the 80?s?Big Mal: : It?s always a struggle where you want to play all the time. It was a very frustrating time. But in hindsight it was probably a good learning experience for when I would come back from injury. I would train harder and become more mentally prepared and that helped me with things like the leadership of the team.Starkers: Did you ever consider giving the game away due to your injuries?Big Mal: : No, never. I always wanted to play. The media speculated a lot but in my mind that was never going to happen and I always tried to come back and hopefully be a better player.Starkers: Do you feel the injuries lengthened your career?Big Mal: : No, some people say that but I never felt that way. For me it was all about passion for the game, which is why we play in the first place. That?s part of the reason I gave it away in 1994. I felt I had started to lose a bit of that passion.Starkers: You lost to Manly in the 1987 Grand Final. Did this drive you to success in 1989?Big Mal: : There were a number of factors. The self belief within the club was high after making the 1987 Grand Final and we all began to believe in one another a lot more. We also had an influx of younger players ? Daley, Clyde, Stuart, Lazarus and Steve Walters began to come along in his game. We arrived at a really good era where all the younger players emerged and the seasoned players mixed very well with them.Starkers: Any anecdotes about dropping the Winfield Cup after 1989 Grand Final?Big Mal: : It was an accident. It did get broken but I can assure you there were a few dints and cracks in that trophy when we got it. We were in the back of a Vee-Dub and Laurie Daley was supposed to be taking care of it. The Vee-Dub stopped suddenly and the trophy wasn?t properly secured and ended up falling out the back of the car. It was a very heavy piece and like I said it wasn?t in great nick when we got hold of it.Starkers: What gave you more of a buzz - winning in extra time in the 1989 Grand Final or scoring the winning try at Old Trafford in 1990 to keep the Test series alive against Great Britain.Big Mal: : 1989 was very special. We were the first club out outside Sydney to win and particularly for me with the broken arm that year it was hard to beat. As for the Ashes, that was more relief. We would have been the first team in 20-odd years to lose a Test series to the Poms and I remember after scoring that try and then going on to retain the Ashes in the third game it was just a huge relief. It was a very strong Great Britain side as well.Starkers: Did you ever contemplate losing the Ashes in 1990 and the sort of ramifications it might have?Big Mal: : No, it was more just fulfilling the expectations placed upon us as a team and relieving the pressure placed upon us. Australia is a nation that is linked to success in sport and people expected us to win no matter what the odds were.Starkers: Winning in 1990 against the Panthers gave you two premierships in a row but there were some tough times in those days with the salary cap at Canberra. What did the victory give the club, supporters and the Canberra region?Big Mal: : Well, we were forging ahead as a club and becoming the yardstick in the competition. We were going through an innovative stage as a club as well. When the salary cap was developed it was obviously difficult to fit in so many players but it galvanised us as a club. Tim Sheens was preparing the team exceptionally well for each game and he was an absolute professional as a coach and he really taught us a lot as a unit.Starkers: What are your thoughts on losing in 1991 to Penrith?Big Mal: : They were extraordinary circumstances. I was pretty proud of the club and the way we went. We had a lot of injuries and dramas at the club with the salary cap and I thought it was a great achievement for the club to even make the Grand Final under those circumstances.Starkers: You smashed Terry Lamb in the 1994 Grand Final, rendering him almost useless after about 20 minutes. Was this in anyway payback for Lamb knocking out Ellery Hanley in the 1988 Grand Final?Big Mal: : Not from my point of view. There was certainly no malice intended. But fate works in funny ways in Rugby League. It might have been ironic from a Canterbury point of view but it holds no real meaning from my end. I just thought I got him in a good tackle and just the way we were playing that day and that year I don?t think anyone was going to get us.Starkers: You had a dream finish to your club career, scoring the last try in the 1994 Grand Final. How did you feel when you crossed the stripe?Big Mal: : It was actually a goal of mine. In all the Grand Finals I?d played in I hadn?t scored a try before and it was great to get one and being the last try of the day was also special. It was quite exciting for me to achieve it the way it happened to pan out.Starkers: You brought down the curtain on your Australian Test career also by scoring the last try at Beizers (France) when you trounced the French 74-0 upon completing your 4th Kangaroo Tour. How did that compare to the Grand Final?Big Mal: : Pretty extraordinary year for me considering the success we had at club level, we won the Pre-season Cup and the Grand Final, missed out on the Origin though. And then to go away and play for your country and to retire on my terms gave me a great sense of satisfaction and achievement. The try at Beizers was the icing on the cake.Starkers: Personally, what do you consider the biggest achievement in your career?Big Mal: : Just to be a survivor in a very competitive environment and to last for a long time. But also to retire on my own terms. You see a lot of players leaving the game through various ways and for me to be able to go out the way I wanted makes me feel very lucky.Starkers: Whilst your career at club, state and country is almost without peer, you never managed to captain a Queensland State of Origin team to victory in a series. Is this your one regret?Big Mal: : Yes, I would have loved to have done that. But it?s not a perfect world and I couldn?t manage it. In all honesty though, I?ve now got another opportunity to do this as coach and it present me with an opportunity to find redemption for not winning as a captain and it will assist in helping those regretful feeling fade a little.Starkers: Who had the biggest influence over your career?Big Mal: : I had different influences at different stages, firstly with my Mum and Dad as a kid. They taught me values in life and got me on the straight and narrow. Then Wayne Bennett came along at the right time and introduced a lot of the mental side of preparation to a game. Then Tim Sheens taught me a lot about the game in terms of strategy and how to break a game down. Then Bob Fulton was also a great coach who taught me a bit about leadership and companionship with your mates in the game.Starkers: Who was the toughest player you ever played with and against?Big Mal: : They?re all tough. I don?t like to single any player out in this question. I think Rugby League is a very tough sport and to have the courage just to play the game means you?ve got to be tough.Starkers: Who was the best player you ever played with and against?Big Mal: : I played with a lot of great players, but Wally Lewis would have to be up there. Just the way he went about dominating Origin football and the way he played in that arena was outstanding.Starkers: You began your coaching career at Canberra in 1997 and it lasted 5 seasons. How do you view your time at the Raiders in terms of success?Big Mal: : It was a happy time for me and a good learning curve. We made the semi?s 3 times and I learnt plenty of skills as coach and not just about the game. I learnt how to cope with stress and adversity in what was really a rebuilding phase we were going through down at the Raiders.Starkers: What was it like taking the Prime Ministers XIII to Papua New Guinea and rekindling your coaching career? What do you think of Brad Fittler (your assistant coach) and his prospects for coaching in the future?Big Mal: : I didn?t do much coaching really. The players involved were very well prepared but the cause was more about what Rugby League in general can do for people over there. The players were ambassadors and were helping to spread a good message over there about HIV/AIDS and also the treatment of women.As for Freddie, you?d probably have to speak to him about his coaching future. I know he does a few things here and there with the Roosters, but the one thing Freddie has on his side is the respect of the players, which is huge in terms of coaching.Starkers: Will you reflect upon you time coaching at the Raiders when you take up your position for Queensland next year?Big Mal: : I?ll obviously bring those experiences with me, but I?ll also learn a bit more and take that on board. I?ll go back to the drawing board in some respects but it?s something I?m very much looking forward to.Starkers: Your political career famously lasted 28 seconds after you quit during an on-air interview in 2001. Is this something you now look back on and have a bit of a chuckle?Big Mal: : (chuckles) I actually give myself a pat on the back for what I did there. It?s something that I?ve maintained throughout my life that you?ve got to be fair and honest with yourself and your job. I was going to run for the Member of ACT but I realised that I?d rather do something outside politics to make a difference in the community because that?s where I felt I would be best.Starkers: What was it like belting Mark ?Jacko? Jackson in the Charity boxing match a few years back?Big Mal: : Well, it?s better than being on the other end (laughs). Once again it?s a very hard sport and I admire anyone who gets in the ring to fight. But we were helping out a youth suicide cause ?Fight for Life? and I was actually very humbled and proud to be part of it.Starkers: Are you in good shape for the Legends of League match? Are you looking forward to getting back on the paddock?Big Mal: : Not really in good shape. I had a look at myself in the mirror the other day and it wasn?t real pretty. But once again it?s something for charity and we?ll get together and have a good time and catch up with some old mates.

Jet-lagged Jones on top of the world

STACEY Jones has lost track of the number of flights he has made over the last six weeks but he has no doubt that victory in the Gillette Tri-Nations Series has made them all worthwhile.As a jet-lagged Jones prepares to complete the final leg of his weary, whistle-stop, globe-trot, he will bask in the glory of one of the most stunning wins in the history of rugby league.The Kiwis? 24-0 triumph over Australia ended the Kangaroos? world supremacy in emphatic fashion on a memorable night at Elland Road.The Aussies were condemned to a first series defeat since they lost both Tests to France at the end of the 1978 Kangaroo tour and a first series defeat by the Kiwis for 52 years.In nilling the Kangaroos for the first time for 20 years, New Zealand equalled their biggest-ever win over Australia, a 49-25 victory at Brisbane in 1952.It was a fitting way for popular skipper Ruben Wiki to mark his 50th Test appearance and special, too, for Jones, who won his 40th cap just 26 hours after rejoining his team-mates.The 29-year-old scrum-half, who originally flew to France to link up with his new club Catalans Dragons, returned home to Auckland to watch his wife Rachelle deliver their third child but he was back at the airport within five hours of the caesarean birth.?I?ve lost track of days and time,? he admitted. ?I can?t wait to get back home. I guess I?ll sit back in the next few days and reflect on it all. I?m pretty tired at the moment and there?s a long flight home too.?But for sure it?s worthwhile and the people I?d like to thank are the players who let me come back to the team without being involved. The boys have been great. The appreciation should go to them and to my wife as well for letting me come.?Jones, the 2002 Golden Boot winner, retired from the international game 18 months ago and, after some gentle persuasion from new coach Brian ?Bluey? McClennan, agreed to play the first two Tri-Nations games in Sydney and Auckland.After ending the tournament as an ever-present and leading scorer with 42 points, the little general revealed that it was a sense of being wanted that persuaded him to continue on the comeback trail.?I wasn?t hounded to play last year but Bluey said ?we?re going to get you to come back and play?. They were struggling for players, with Thomas Leuluai and Benjamin Marshall out, so it made it easier. Ruben asked if I could play. Last year I was left alone.?Jones went into Saturday?s final without a training session but slotted neatly back into the fray, setting up first-half tries for Paul Whatuira and Manu Vatuvei with high kicks and providing the telling passes that created other tries for the 19-year-old Vatuvei and Brent Webb.He failed with his first three conversion attempts but, aided by the Australians? growing indiscipline, found his accuracy with a couple of penalties to stretch his side?s lead to 16-0 by half-time and he added two more goals in the second half.?I was finding the first half pretty hard but the guys knew what they were doing and made is so much easier for me,? he said.?We?ve played together for six weeks now and that?s been a big part of it. The team has got a great culture going and they train really well as well. The game plan we have is pretty basic really. I just had to do the kicking. The guys dominated around the ruck and the defence was huge.?Jones, who will take his enlarged family to France in January to help prepare for the Perpignan club?s entry into Super League, says Saturday?s momentous victory will act as a tonic for the 13-man code in New Zealand, where the game is overshadowed by the success of the All Blacks.But he was magnanimous in victory, insisting that Australia will still be favourites to regain the trophy when the Tri-Nations Series heads down under in 2006.?They?ve been bullying us for a lot of years so it?s about time we got one over on them,? he said.?I don?t think we?ll be favourites next year. It?s all on the day. We dominated today (Saturday) but Australia always seem to be favourites to win any rugby league game. We were just fortunate that tonight it was our night.?- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this report.More info: www.tri-nations.com.au Discussion: Tri-Nations Forum at http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/forumdisplay.php?f=130

Humble Aussies give Kiwis credit

AUSTRALIAN captain Danny Buderus admits defeat in the final of the Gillette Tri-Nations Series to New Zealand left ?sour taste? in the mouths of a group of players who have only ever known the feeling of victory.

McLennan lauds over Kiwi majesty

NEW Zealand coach Brian McClennan hailed his side?s ?huge? achievement after Australia were finally dethroned as kings of international rugby league.

New Zealand stun Australia to take Tri-Nations title

FULLTIME score: Tri-Nations Final New Zealand 24 def. Australia 0

10 Teams to contest 2008 World Cup

THE 2008 Rugby League World Cup in Australasia will feature 10 nations. Australia, New Zealand, England, France and Papua New Guinea are expected to receive direct entry but other nations are likely to have to qualify.

Game VII: The Antipodean Final

THE day of reckoning has arrived for Australia and New Zealand as they prepare to take the field in Elland Road, Leeds, and do battle for the title of Tri-Nations Champions.

Player news ? Dragons, Storm

CASTLEFORD has thrown a rugby league lifeline to axed St George Illawarra forward Willie Manu.The controversial forward will join ex-Cronulla prop Danny Nutley at the recently promoted English Super League club which has officially unveiled new coach, Australian Terry Matterson. Manu, 25, has signed for 2006 after being released from his Dragons contract - which was due to expire next season ? after several off-field incidents this year.Meanwhile, teenage sensation Greg Inglis has extended his contract with Melbourne until the 2009 NRL season in a deal worth in excess of $1 million.The new deal marks one of the most lucrative contracts ever offered to a rookie, with the 18-year-old set to become a millionaire after playing just 13 first grade games for the Storm. The retention of Inglis was a priority for coach Craig Bellamy, who recently compared him to "a young Laurie Daley".

Schifcofske new Canberra Raiders captain

THE Canberra Raiders have appointed star fullback Clinton Schifcofske as captain for their historic 25th season in 2006.Schifcofske was officially named as Raiders skipper following a two-day tactical camp at the Australian Institute of Sport.Schifcofske has played 116 of his career 211 first grade games with the Raiders. The former Queensland State of Origin representative said he?d never been more prepared for the captaincy role.?I?ve played first grade for 10 years and this is obviously something you always aspire to,? Schifcofske said. ?I think I?m ready for it and that?s something which has come with age, maturity and responsibility.?I?m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, but I heard a good quote the other day. I?m an NFL fan and TV commentators were talking about the great quarterback Dan Marino. They said captaincy, leadership and respect isn?t announced, it?s earned.?Schifcofske paid tribute to his predecessor Simon Woolford, who stepped down as captain last week after five seasons as Raiders skipper. Woolford wants to focus on his personal form in 2006 and is intent on having his best season for the Green Machine.?Simon?s been terrific,? Schifcofske said. ?He?s a real competitor and I know I?ll get plenty of support from him this season. With experienced players like Simon, Jason Croker and Jason Smith, we?ve got a good platform for leadership.?Schifcofske has enjoyed his best form since joining the Raiders in 2001, winning the club?s Player of the Year award in 2001 and 2004.?I thought about whether the captaincy would distract me, but I think the extra responsibility will make me a better player,? Schifcofske said.Raiders coach Matt Elliott said Schifcofske was a natural leader.?The keys are his seniority and the respect he has for his teammates and from his teammates,? Elliott said. ?He has a desire to do the job, to develop the team and the club.?Starting with David Grant in 1982, the Raiders have had a fine tradition of captains. The list of former skippers includes Australian captains Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley.CLINTON SCHIFCOFSKENickname: ChocDOB: 10 November, 1975, in Moranbah, QldPosition: FullbackHeight: 183cm Weight: 91kgJunior Club: MoranbahContract with Raiders: end of 2008Representative: One State of Origin for Queensland in 2002. Australian Prime Ministers XIII in 2005. Previous Clubs: South Queensland Crushers (1996-97); Parramatta Eels (1998-2000)FG Debut: Crushers v Norths, April 21, 1996.Raiders Achievements:Games: 116 (211 career games)Points: 898 points (1454 career points)Raiders Player of the Year: 2001 and 2004Most Points in a Season: 245 points in 2001

Junior Dolphins Chosen

THREE junior Dolphins will reap the first benefits of the recently signed Broncos-Redcliffe partnership agreement.Promising under 17 forward Matt Handcock, Colts outside back Matt Gillett and 2005 under 14As best and fairest Matt Humphreys have been chosen to attend a Broncos elite players training camp this month.Although not contracted to the Broncos, the Redcliffe trio has gained spots at the camp, which features the cream of the broncos' scholarship holders from across Queensland and New South Wales. Redcliffe development officer Grant Cleal said the junior Dolphins chosen by Redcliffe were first and foremost of good character and would represent their club with pride.

Shippy Steers Way Back Home

TO a rugby league player, a decade is a lifetime.Mark Shipway will discover time has not stood still when returns to Dolphin Oval next season.The last time he donned the red and white jersey was in 1996 in a Brisbane grand final against Souths.The teenage centre had already played in that season's Queensland Cup grand final, carrying a dislocated shoulder, before popping it again in the premiership decider.Ten years later he has signed with Redcliffe as a hard-hitting backrower who has been with two NRL clubs and a Super League outfit."I went from Redcliffe to the Cowboys for five years," he said. "Then it was two years with Manly before two seasons with the Salford City Reds."At 29, Shipway believes he still has plenty of football left in him and always intended to come home with his Australian bride Jodie, the daughter of former Redcliffe coach John Barber."I had still been following Redcliffe's progress on the Internet and had a couple of mates from the Cowboys playing with the club," he said."Of course, I had played with James Hinchey and kept in close contact. When it came time to come home to live here, it wasn't a hard decision to sign up."Like all footballers, I've had a few little injury problems but the body still feels good."'Shippy' will find former team-mates scarce at Dolphin Oval, although the indestructible Troy Lindsay shows no signs of weakening."The guys I played with were the likes of Hinchey,Wayne Miller, Crusher Cleal,Ricky Hewinson, Robbo and Danny Nutley," he said."I know Greg Bourke well from my time at the Cowboys but I can't put any faces to the names who will be at the club next season so it's hard to say how we will go, but we will be training hard in the next couple of months so I'm bound to get a good idea of our prospects."I've not seen any games but I know that the Queensland Cup goes from strength to strength especially with the NRL clubs using it as a feeder system." Shipway needs no introduction to coach Anthony Griffin, who was Redcliffe's development officer during his time with the Dolphins.Super League clubs are allowed three overseas players and ironically there was a Redcliffe connection to Shipway's departure from Salford.The Reds swooped on former Dolphin Aaron Moule from the Widnes Vikings, signing the free-scoring centre for two seasons."I enjoyed England and it was all a great experience," he said. 'I got to travel around and have a look at the world, but it's good to be back here in a warmer climate."Shipway also is trying to tie up a new profession after a fulltime playing career.He has applied for a QRL development officer post, saying he had attended numerous schools and camps during his time with the Cowboys and Manly as well as helping coach an under 16 team at Salford. "I've never had to apply for a job as my last job was in the office at the Redcliffe Leagues Club," he said. "It's time to get back to a normal life."

Kiwi squad named for Tri-Series Final

KIWIS coach Brian McClennan expects the Gillette Tri-Nations series grand final against Australia to be an extremely tough contest.

Nutley and Manu to Castleford

CASTLEFORD Tigers have acquired two top class forwards from the NRL in former Warrington star Danny Nutley, from the Cronulla Sharks, and the St George-Illawarra Dragons Tongan international back rower Willie Manu.31-year-old prop forward Nutley - who is a quota player - started his senior career with South Queensland before joining Warrington Wolves in 1998.The prop made 99 appearances for the Wolves, who were very keen to retain him but he opted to return ?home? and join the Sharks where he has spent the past three seasons.At the Sharks Nutley took the Player of the Year award in 2003 and represented Queensland in the State of Origin.25 year-old Manu is a 16 stone six foot second row forward who has made 14 appearances for the St George-Illawarra Dragons this year taking his NRL first grade appearances to 83 since making his debut for the Wests Tigers in 2002.Manu - who is a non-quota player - had two years with Wests and then a season at Souths before his switch to St George for the 2005 season.Although born in Sydney, Manu is qualified to play for Tonga and represented the country firstly in the 2000 World Cup competition. Most recently he played against Samoa last month in the build up to the 2008 World Cup.Castleford CEO Richard Wright said: ?We believe that these are two excellent acquisitions for the Tigers who will add strength and toughness to our pack.?We have had to work very hard to bring the duo to the club, with Terry Matterson playing a big part, as both were first team regulars and under contract.?Danny capped a tremendous season this year with State of Origin selection and Willie is a regular in the Tongan set up, and both just the type of quality players that we have been looking to bring to the club to augment the talent who took us back into Super League. ?We always felt that with patience we could land the right players and now we feel that we are reaping the benefits and building a group of players who will give us a very competitive side in 2006.?On Wednesday Castleford completed the signing of St Helens? Welsh international prop forward Keith Mason.- - - - -Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this news.

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