Martyn Sadler checks out the threat from Australia in the Rugby League World Cup 2013.
The Australians come into every major Rugby League tournament as the favourites to win the trophy, and the Rugby League World Cup 2013 is no exception.
Of the 13 previous World Cups, Australia have won nine of them.
Don’t think that an Australian victory in 2013 is inevitable, however.
They may have some great players, but they are beatable, as New Zealand showed in the last World Cup in Australia in 2008.
Some observers suggest that there is a potential split in the Australian camp between players from Queensland and New South Wales, who are such fierce rivals in State of Origin, although the Aussies are going out of their way to deny such stories. Nonetheless there is a grain of truth that other teams may be able to exploit. After all, sporting contests are won in the mind as much as on the pitch, so don’t be surprised to see the media watching out for any signs of dissent in the Australian camp.
Nonetheless, the Australians come into the tournament with a greater array of star players than any other nation. Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston have all won the Golden Boot in the past, while they will have a host of contenders for this year’s award.
For me, the most interesting position in the Australian team is the question of who will be selected at halfback, particularly by the end of the tournament.
The man in possession is Melbourne Storm’s Cooper Cronk who, alongside Slater and Smith, is one of a trio of Storm players who have been a key part of Queensland’s and Australia’s success in recent seasons. Cronk has a telepathic understanding with his Storm team-mates, and he has possibly the best kicking game in Rugby League.
But coming up quickly on the rails is Daly Cherry-Evans, the Manly halfback who won the Clive Churchill Medal as the best player in the recent NRL Grand Final.
Cherry-Evans, who could have also qualified to play for England because of his ancestral roots, has had a brilliant season for the Sea Eagles, and he will make a massive effort to dislodge Cronk from the Kangaroos’ starting lineup. He has a slightly different style to Cronk, in that he is a wonderful runner with the ball in hand, and will break through even the most organised defence. If he gets his chance he will take it with both hands.
The other element of the Australian team that is bound to create some talking points is the prop forward positions, which will be crucial if the Aussies are to hold off strong challenges from England and New Zealand.
A World Cup shooting star could be the Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita, who has enjoyed a wonderful season with his beachside Aussie club and could now be set to make his mark on the world stage. I suspect that, come 30 November, Fifita will be much better known in England than he is today.
And prepare to be confused when you watch the Aussies, because they could have identical twins playing on the wing. Brett and Josh Morris play for St George Illawarra Dragons and Canterbury Bulldogs respectively. Both of them are big, strong and fast, and I can’t tell them apart. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both on the field together as the Aussies attempt to win their tenth World Cup.
I don’t think there is any doubt that this will be the greatest World Cup we have ever seen in Rugby League. I hope you all enjoy it.