WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS

IT’S a photograph which has always fascinated me.

Australian skipper, Arthur Beetson is holding a trophy aloft, as his teammates gather round.
The photograph obviously was taken before a match, because the players’ jerseys and shorts are unmarked and they look as fresh as daisies.
I have always had a strong theory about the story behind the photograph, which has had a number of different captions. The most common interpretation has been, that it shows the Australians celebrating a win. Hardly.
Anyway, a chat with former Australian hooker, John Lang confirmed my version of events.
The photograph was taken at Headingley, Leeds, at the conclusion of the 1975 World Series, which involved Australia, England, Wales, France and New Zealand.
The series was played in three stages. France met England and Wales at the end of their 1974-75 domestic seasons. The three sides then travelled south, for their matches in Australia and New Zealand. Finally, at the end of the southern hemisphere domestic seasons, Australia and New Zealand visited Britain and France.
There was no final scheduled and Australia virtually had the series sewn up before it went on tour. The Aussies had beaten the Kiwis 36-8 in Brisbane; Wales 30-13 in Sydney; France 26-6 in Brisbane and New Zealand 24-8 in Auckland.
The only hiccup was a 10-10 draw with England at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
In the northern hemisphere, Australia belted France 41-2 in Perpignan, and survived a fiery clash with Wales in Swansea, winning 18-6.
But, once again, the English, coached by Alex Murphy, showed they were not intimidated by the Aussies, who were coached by Graeme Langlands. England beat Australia 16-13 at Central Park, Wigan, but finished one point behind Australia on the points table, which looked like this: Australia 13 England 12 Wales 6 New Zealand 6 France 3.
England’s downfall was a shock 12-7 loss to Wales in a spiteful affair at Lang Park in Brisbane.
So, believing they should have won the tournament, England challenged Australia to a match, before the Aussies returned home.
The challenge match would make no difference to the tournament result, something rammed home by the Australians before kick-off, when Arthur Beetson held up the trophy, to the boos of the English fans.
Have a look at the faces of the Australians. They are defiant, perhaps a little apprehensive, but most importantly, they are winners.
They went out and did a job on the Poms, winning 25-0. Lang scored two tries against a fine English outfit, captained by Roger Millward, and including players of the calibre of Eric Hughes, Mick Adams, Jimmy Thompson, Ken Gill and Les Dyl.
The players in the photo are, to the best of my knowledge (from left) Ray Higgs, Ian Mackay (partly obscured) Greg Veivers, Arthur Beetson, Mick Cronin (obscured), John Lang, Tom Raudonikis, Steve Rogers, Greg Pierce, Graham Eadie, Johnny Peard.
Footnote: I caught up with John Lang at the home of Bob Dimond, at Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast, on June 10, 2019. Bob, 89, is the only surviving member of the 1948-49 Kangaroos, who toured Britain and France. Bob, at the time an apprentice pastry cook, was the baby of the side at 18. He celebrated his 19th birthday in London, with noted Sydney journalist, Phil Tresidder, who was covering the tour. John Lang, a friend of the Dimond family, arranged my interview with Bob, and the story will appear in the next Men of League magazine (July 2019).
Photo 1: Arthur Beetson holds the 1975 World Series trophy aloft, before a challenge match against England in Leeds
Photo 2: England’s Roger Millward tackles France’s Joel Roosebrouck at Headingley
Photo 3: Jimmy Thompson.

2 responses to “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS

  1. Steve I was at that game and it was as Langy said also the big talking point was the send off of Tommy R, who hadn’t played too many games on that tour along with Roger Millward very early in the game

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