FLASHBACK: December 1956

Australia’s rugby league team, branded by some critics as ‘the worst ever’ to tour the northern hemisphere, shocked Great Britain with a deserved 22-9 win in the Second Test, in quagmire conditions at Odsal Stadium, Bradford in West Yorkshire.

The Kangaroos’ forwards’ robust tackling, including a number of pile driving efforts, proved too much for the Brits, who wilted in the last 20 minutes, after the scores had been locked 7-7 at halftime.

The Australian pack was brilliantly led by 24-year-old Toowoomba Souths’ forward, Don Furner, who had moved to Queensland from Sydney.

The Kangaroos clinched victory thanks to a scintillating try by five eighth, Bobby Banks 18 minutes from the end. Banks displayed clever footwork, stepping past several defenders after captain, Ken ‘Killer’ Kearney and lock, Ian ‘Ripper’ Doyle did the lead-up work.

English commentator, Eddie Waring said he would never forget the way Banks ‘picked up the lump of lead called a football, and skipped through the heart of the defence’. (In those days footballs were leather, and in muddy conditions became ‘heavy as lead’, as Eddie so succinctly put it).

Prop, Brian Davies carried three defenders over the line to score a try 12 minutes from the end. Fellow forward, Roy Bull crashed over for another three pointer just before full time.

Australian centres, Alex Watson and Dick Poole moved up quickly and never gave rivals, Phil Jackson (Barrow) and Alan Davies (Oldham) a chance to display their wares.

Left winger, Des McGovern was brought into the Australian side to ‘do a job’ on Britain’s black Welsh winger, Billy Boston, and he succeeded, with Boston’s tackling falling away as the match progressed.

British vice-captain, Jackson, who later moved to Australia to live, claimed the Lions would have won easily on a dry ground, but the quagmire suited the Australians! Go figure.

The crowd of 23,634 was the smallest for an Anglo-Australia Test since World War II, an attendance blamed partly on petrol rationing. Petrol had been in short supply since Egyptian president, Nasser, took over the running of the Suez Canal four months previously. Supplies of fuel from the Middle East had been blocked ever since.

Britain had won the First Test 21-10 at Wigan and just a week before the Bradford Test, Australia were thrashed 44-2 by champion club side, St Helens, arguably the biggest humiliation in Australia’s touring history.

Australia, who had beaten Britain 2-1 in the 1954 Test series in Australia, lost the decider 19-0 at Swinton.

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Phil Jackson

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