English clubs scrambled to sign New Zealand rugby league players, after the Kiwi’s tour of the UK, under the captaincy of Mark Graham and the coaching of Ces Mountford.
Although the Kiwis were forced to share the series with Great Britain their stylish players made a great impact on local club officials.
The powerful Hull club moved quickly to sign man-of-the-series, Fred Ah Kuoi; and as well as outside backs, James Leuluai and Dane O’Hara.
In the end Ah Kuoi signed with North Sydney, but O’Hara and Leuluai joined the Humberside club.
The first Test of the 1980 series finished in a 14-all draw, at Wigan on October 18, while the Kiwis won the Second Test 12-8 at Bradford, on November 2. Leigh’s Jamaican born winger, Des Drummond scored two spectacular tries in Britain’s 10-2 win in the Third Test at Headingley, Leeds.
Many critics believed the Kiwis should have won the Second Test by a lot more, with the brave defence of Britain’s Scottish fullback, George Fairbairn, saving a number of tries.
Sadly, Fairbairn, Britain’s skipper, was ruled out of the Third Test through injury, with Widnes fullback, Mick Burke the replacement. Coach, John Whiteley handed the captaincy to fiery Hull Kingston Rovers’ forward, Len Casey.
Kiwi coach, Mountford made it a rule that his players moved around and talked to people at functions, rather than gather in groups of their own. This was good for the game, the players and the team’s public image.
“Dressing suitably is an essential discipline,” Mountford wrote ‘ in his autobiography, ‘Kiwis, Wigan & The Wire’. “Teams were expected to arrive at their destination looking smart in their uniforms, and should leave their own shores looking the same, changing into tracksuits in the plane, for long journeys.
“They were also expected to attend dinner in their hotels in regulation blazers. Lunch and breakfast were more casual, with players in kit, ready for training.”
I wish the same rules had applied for some of the Kangaroo tours I covered.
1 Dane O’Hara scores for Hull against Widnes in the 1982 Challenge Cup final at Wembley. The match finished 14-all, with Hull winning the replay 18-9 at Elland Road, Leeds
2 Great Britain winger, Des Drummond (centre) playing against Australia in Sydney in 1984. The other players are (from left), Ross Conlon, Joe Lydon, Brett Kenny and Gene Miles.