Australian overcame dubious tactics by New Zealand to win the first match of the 2011 Four Nations Rugby League Tournament, which was held in England and Wales.

Australian players and officials were seething after the 26-12 win over the Kiwis in Warrington, with New Zealand’s Issac Luke, Jeremy Smith and Fuifui Moimoi under fire, following questionable tackles.

Luke made a cannonball hit on Australian prop, David Shillington, when the Queenslander was already held by Simon Mannering and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Shillington feared he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, but scans later cleared him of serious injury. Luke had made something of an art form of the cannonball at that time, a tactic frowned on by most players.

“It is legal, but it is the force which is the issue, and the intent of going in with no arms,” said Australian coach, Tim Sheens. “No-one really likes the look of it.”

Australian centre, Willie Tonga played for 50 minutes with a painful hip injury, and was ruled out for the rest of the tournament.

The following day, England thrashed Wales 42-4 at Leigh in Greater Manchester, with fullback, Sam Tomkins running in four tries, to equal the record held by dual international, Keith Fielding and Kent product, Tony Clubb.

England had beaten France 32-18 in a Test played 10 days before the start of the tournament. A crowd of 16,866 turned out in Avignon for the match, which saw Brisbane Broncos’ centre, Jack Reed make his debut for the country of his birth. Other debutants were Chris Heighington from Wests Tigers and Rangi Chase (Castleford). Chase was England’s Man of Steel, the equivalent of the NRL’s Dally M Medal winner, and qualified under the residency rules, after three years in England. Heighington had an English passport, thanks to his father, who was English.

France were captained by Olivier Elima, who was born in Brittany in France’s north west, but grew up in the Lot region, in the south. Making his debut for France was Eloi Pelissier, who was a friend of our eldest son, Damien.

World Cup qualifiers were played in Atlantic and European zones in October, 2011. The United States finished on top of the Atlantic table in Philadelphia and New Jersey, ahead of Jamaica and South Africa. Italy finished on top of the European Zone ahead of Lebanon, Russia and Serbia, with matches played in Padova (Italy); Tripoli (Lebanon); Moscow (Russia) and Belgrade (Serbia). The USA were captained by Apple Pope from the Jacksonville Axemen, while Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters) captained Italy.

Footnote: I watched the Australia v New Zealand match at the Crown Moran Pub, Cricklewood, over a pint or two of Autumn Red, with our son, Damien. My wife, Marie and I were in London for the wedding of Damien and Emma Parker. Emma was born and raised in Townsville, but had family in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, England.

Sam Tomkins (left) celebrates one of his four tries against Wales. He is congratulated by Jack Reed and Ryan Hall

Damien and Steve Ricketts enjoy an ale in London in 2011

One response to “FLASHBACK: OCTOBER 2011

  1. Hi Steve,
    Really enjoy your articles. I, like you, grew up ‘’back in the day’’ (as they say these days), in country NSW. On a dairy farm on the Lower Mcleay. Rugby league was ‘’football’’, and ‘’football’’ meant rugby league. The bloke who used to collect our milk was a guy called Snow Clark, captain-coach of the local team, the mighty Smithtown tigers. Lookup ‘’local legend’’ in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture on Snow.
    My father (an ex-player himself with Smithtown in that late 40s-early 50s era), and his mates, used to speak in awe of a guy named Stan Ponchard. Looking up his Wik-pedia entry, i discover that Stan Ponchard played the 1949/50 seasons with Kempsey CYM, between two stints with Balmain, that yielded 46 tries in 104 games, two premierships, and one appearance for NSW. Obviously, from the try strike rate, Ponchard liked playing ‘’heads-up’’ footy and ‘’played what was in front of him’’. Don’t you just love modern footy-speak.
    I shudder to think what modern NRL assistant/head coaches would do to a natural talent like Ponchard.
    Interestingly, one of Ponchard teammates at Balmain
    was Pat Devery, very much the forgotten man of
    Australian rugby league. Judging from his record of success in Australia and the UK (definitely the benchmark of rugby league in that era), I believe he would have a contender with Churchill for one of the early immortal berths. Certainly in the conversation.
    Just an opinion. Keep up the good work mate and look forward to reading more of your articles.
    Bryan Clancy

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