It was the year both Australia and Great Britain went undefeated, but it was definitely one to forget for the Kiwis.
Richard de la Riviere assesses the contenders for the Golden Boot in 1993.
1993 was the year that saw both Australia and Great Britain go unbeaten, while Wigan and Brisbane Broncos both defended the crowns they had won in 1992.As well as that, Tina Turner stole the show at the Winfield Cup Grand Final, Huddersfield played a match in Barcelona, Fiji took part in their first full international, USA and Canada played a couple of Tests and schools in Soweto were playing Rugby League, as Dave Southern’s superb development work in the black townships of South Africa continued. Rugby League World continues to search for the game’s best players during the Golden Boot’s missing years…
1993 wasn’t a bad year for Great Britain, but they didn’t get a crack at the Australians, the reigning world champions and Ashes holders. They hammered the French twice, and their comprehensive 3-0 series whitewash of the New Zealanders in the autumn was to be their last series win of any note for 14 years. They took the Kiwis apart at Wembley, beating them 17-0 with Jason Robinson scoring twice on his Test debut, and then outclassed them twice more, 29-12 at Central Park and 29-10 at Headingley, with Andrew Farrell scoring in his first British appearance, having also represented his country at Academy and Under-21s levels in a memorable month for the future Great Britain captain. But despite their international success, only three Brits made the annual World XIII – Martin Offiah, Denis Betts and Phil Clarke – and only the latter was named best in his position.
For the the Kiwis, the tour capped off a nightmare international year which had started encouragingly with a 14-all draw in the first Test of their three-match series with Australia, although they would go on to lose the remaining two. Their subsequent tour of the Northern Hemisphere was totally forgettable for everybody involved though, apart from, perhaps, Stephen Kearney; the 21-year-old forward who enhanced his reputation and who captained the side after the axing of Gary Freeman, becoming their youngest-ever Test captain in the process. Away from the Tests, the Kiwis struggled past Wigan, St Helens, Castleford and Widnes but lost 17-10 to Bradford Northern. With the tour fast becoming a shambles, the Junior Kiwis captain, Henry Paul, was even called into the senior tour party and was rewarded with four minutes of action in their game at Widnes!
Unsurprisingly, Australia still ruled the roost when it came to the end-of-year world ratings published by Open Rugby, despite their three Tests against New Zealand yielding just two wins – and relatively narrow ones at that. They boasted ten representatives in the mythical side chosen by the worldwide panel. #
In State of Origin, New South Wales retained the shield for only the second time in the 14-year history of the famous competition, by winning the first two matches in nailbiting fashion. Canberra halves Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley got the better of Brisbane’s pairing Allan Langer and Kevin Walters to guide their side to a shock first-up win against Queensland at Lang Park, and they overturned a half-time deficit to clinch the series on home soil. The key moment came when Mal Meninga broke free in the last minute and was confronted by his opposing captain and Raiders teammate, Daley. He chose not to take him on, but to pass and the ball was lost, and with it went the series. The Maroons hit back in game three, winning 24-12, with a late try to the Oldham-bound Bobby Lindner, playing his 25th and final Origin match, undoubtedly the moment of the evening.
At club level, Wigan surprised few in England by winning the league, the Challenge Cup and the Regal Trophy. They edged the title over St Helens on points difference, with an end-of-season 8-8 draw between the sides, a game which is unfortunately best remembered for Kevin Ward’s horrific career-ending injury, helping to keep their local rivals at bay. At Wembley, they overcame a Kurt Sorensen-inspired Widnes to win 20-14, in a game which saw the Chemics’ Richie Eyres sent from the field as Dean Bell scooped the Lance Todd trophy. Shaun Edwards was the standout individual as they also picked up the Regal Trophy by beating Bradford Northern 15-8. But they were denied a clean sweep of the cups by Saints, who beat them at Old Trafford in the Premiership Final with future Great Britain forward Chris Joynt winning man-of-the-match honours.
Down Under, Brisbane Broncos and St George continued their rivalry by facing up to each other in the Grand Final, with the Broncos prevailing again, this time by the narrower margin of 14-6 with Chris Johns, Terry Matterson and Willie Carne scoring the game’s only tries, although the Dragons had the consolation of seeing their loose forward, Brad Mackay, voted the winner of the Clive Churchill medal as the game’s best player. Wayne Bennett’s side’s triumph was made all the more remarkable by the fact they had finished in fifth position – only five sides qualified for the Winfield Cup play-offs – and they had to find their best form when it mattered most in order to dispose of Manly, Canberra, minor premiers Canterbury and St George.
Clarke was instrumental as Wigan won the league, the Challenge Cup and the Regal Trophy. He more than played his part as Great Britain whitewashed the Kiwis with a trio of inspiring displays of tough defence and durability. With Ellery Hanley now retired from the international scene, the task of filling his boots was immense, but the Wiganer ended the year named in the official World XIII, comfortably voted the best loose forward in the game ahead of Australia’s Brad Mackay and Brad Clyde as well as Hanley himself.
By now firmly established as the best number six in Australia, Daley enjoyed another superb year in 1993, most notably in his captaining of New South Wales to the State of Origin shield, and it was Daley’s last-minute cover defence that saw Mal Meninga blow a golden chance in the second match to keep the series alive – he also scored an excellent individual try in the same game. Daley excelled for Australia for whom he kicked two crucial drop goals in a 14-14 first-Test draw with the Kiwis. Without his partner Ricky Stuart, he couldn’t prevent the Raiders from flopping in the semi-finals, although he regained the stand-off of the year spot from Great Britain’s Garry Schofield with 42 votes to 38.
Superb against the Kiwis in the mid-year Test series, it was Fittler who scored the crucial try which clinched the third Test and the series itself. The Penrith superstar continued to make a name for himself in 1993 in both the centre and stand-off positions duly receiving World XIII votes in both positions as he was crowned the best centre in the world, pipping Mal Meninga to the honour by 32 votes to 30. In State of Origin he figured for the Blues in all three matches and set up Brad Mackay’s try which turned game two in their favour as they wrapped up the series with a game to spare.
Langer enjoyed another wonderful year for the Broncos, and repeated his 1992 feat in captaining them to a Grand Final win over St George, but this time they had to reach the decider from fifth place, and it took the mercurial halfback to be at his very best for them to achieve that. Origin success eluded him again, although he was a constant thorn in the Blues’ side with ball in hand and he figured in all three Tests against New Zealand in June. He was voted the world’s best half ahead of Shaun Edwards and Ricky Stuart.
The Brick with Eyes, as the fearsome prop was known, received more World XIII votes than any other player for his 1993 performances, just ahead of Phil Clarke and Paul Sironen. He enjoyed a sensational year, helping Brisbane Broncos to Premiership glory, New South Wales to Origin success and Australia to a Test series win over New Zealand, having also achieved success on all three fronts a year earlier. Widely regarded as one of the best forwards in the world – if not the best – he sewed up the prop-of-the-year title with ease ahead of Paul Harragon and Britain’s Kelvin Skerrett and Karl Harrison.
In a year of superb performances, Stuart got the better of his arch rival Langer in Origin to lead the Blues home in the first two games but it was the Queenslander who won Test selection for the series against New Zealand. He won both the Rothmans Medal and the Dally M for his Winfield Cup performances, and his value to the Canberra Raiders was no better demonstrated than how their season went off the rails after his season-ending injury late in the campaign, shortly after the side had topped the table. It was only that injury that prevented him from challenging Langer for a place in the World XIII.
Summary of 1993:
International Rugby League:
France 6-48 Great Britain
Great Britain 72-6 France
Russia 14-30 France
Moldavia 14-34 France
Papua New Guinea 35-24 Fiji
New Zealand 14-14 Australia
New Zealand 8-16 Australia
Australia 16-4 New Zealand
USA 54-14 Canada
Canada 2-32 USA
Tonga 46-6 Western Samoa
Wales 19-24 New Zealand
Great Britain 17-0 New Zealand
Great Britain 29-12 New Zealand
Great Britain 29-10 New Zealand
France 11-36 New Zealand
Other Representative Rugby League:
State of Origin:
Game 1: Queensland 10-14 New South Wales
Game 2: New South Wales 16-12 Queensland
Game 3: Queensland 24-12 New South Wales
Domestic Rugby League:
Stones Bitter Championship: 1 Wigan 2 St Helens 3 Bradford
Challenge Cup Final: Wigan 20-14 Widnes
Regal Trophy Final: Wigan 15-8 Bradford
Premiership Final: St Helens 10-4 Wigan
Winfied Cup Grand Final: Brisbane Broncos 14-6 St George
Rothmans Medal: Ricky Stuart
Dally M Medal: Ricky Stuart
Clive Churchill Medal: Brad Mackay
Man of Steel: Andy Platt
Lance Todd Trophy: Dean Bell
The World XIII:
1 Dale Shearer (Australia)
2 Willie Carne (Australia)
3 Brad Fittler (Australia)
4 Mal Meninga (Australia)
5 Martin Offiah (Great Britain)
6 Laurie Daley (Australia)
7 Allan Langer (Australia)
8 Glenn Lazarus (Australia)
9 Steve Walters (Australia)
10 Paul Harragon (Australia)
11 Paul Sironen (Australia)
12 Denis Betts (Great Britain)
13 Phil Clarke (Great Britain)