Great Britain undertook what proved a disastrous South Pacific tour, making a mockery of Super League’s claim to be creating a new world order in which a well funded rugby league would reach new heights.
The British League aligned with Rupert Murdoch’s Super League ‘vision’, with extraordinary sums of money thrown at the signing of players, in the face of the establishment Australian Rugby League attempting to preserve the fabric of the traditional game.
Despite the funding allegedly on offer to the British League, 12 players were sent home early from New Zealand to save money, a step which left the 13 man code open to world wide ridicule.
The British, captained by Wigan’s Andy Farrell and coach by Phil Larder, began their Pacific tour with a 34-8 win over a Papua New Guinea Presidents side in Mount Hagen, followed by a 32-30 win over Papua New Guinea in a Test match in Lae.
Next stop was Fiji and Britain beat a Presidents XIII 42-16 in Lautoka, followed by a 72-4 win over Fiji in the first ever Test between the two countries – in Nadi, in front of a crowd of 5,000.
All good so far. But things quickly unraveled in New Zealand.
First there was a 22-22 draw with a Lion Red (brewery sponsored club selection) outfit in Auckland, followed by a 30-22 loss to a Presidents XIII at Fraser Park, Hutt Valley.
The First test was played at Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland with Britain leading 10-2 at halftime before losing 17-12, with former All Black, John Timu (Canterbury Bankstown) scoring two tries for the Kiwis.
The match was notable for the Test debut of Adrian Morley from Leeds. Morley was sent to the bin by Australian referee, Bill Harrigan in the 71st minute for holding down Kiwi winger, Sean Hoppe.
Next-up, the Brits played the Maori in Whangerie, losing 40-28, their first ever loss to the Maori. In the aftermath of the match, British League chief executive, Maurice Lindsay called for 12 players to be sent home in a cost cutting move.
Former Castleford (England) lock, Tawera Nikau, a product of Waikato rugby league, captained the Maori.
Britain could not be criticised for a lack of effort in the Second Test, but the 18-15 loss saw the Lions crash to their first series loss to the Kiwis since 1984.
Kiwi centre, Ruben Wiki scored two tries, while fullback, Matthew Ridge extended the New Zealand record for Test points to 138 with three goals. The crowd at Palmerston North Showgrounds was 9,000.
The floodgates opened for the Kiwis in the Third Test in Christchurch, with the home side scoring six tries to two.
British centre, Darryl Powell (Keighley) was sent off by Australian referee, Steve Clark after he responded to a taunt from Ridge (a noted sledger) with foul and abusive language.