- Team Name: Kangaroos
- First Appearance: 1954
- RLWC2013 Group: Group A
- RLWC2013 Opponents: England, Fiji and Ireland
- Last Win: 2000
Ones to Watch: Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith.
Read more about these great players and why they are ones to watch during RLWC2013.
Dazzling performance after dazzling performance for the Kangaroos has helped earn Slater a reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous players from broken play.
Countless young full-backs have been compared to him but none so far have been able to replicate his speed of the mark, elusive running style nor his uncanny ability to kick and regather in open play.
The Melbourne Storm star was crowned Australia’s greatest athlete in 2009 and 2010, and has added motivation ahead of RLWC2013, after his mistake in the Rugby League World Cup Final against New Zealand cost his side four points at a crucial stage.
With countless individual and team accolades to his name, it’d be unfair to suggest that Slater has a point to prove, but there are one or two pieces of unfinished business for him to attend to.
RLWC2013 marks Australia’s first major tournament without talismanic halfback Darren Lockyer, meaning much of the Kangaroos’ creativity will flow through Thurston.
The North Queensland Cowboy enjoyed a superb partnership with Lockyer at international level, but he has also demonstrated his ability to lead a team around the park at club level, and it is that experience upon which he must rely at RLWC2013.
The 2011 Golden Boot Winner and two-time Dally M Player of the Year is a veteran of more than 20 caps for Australia and also an accomplished goal-kicker.
His accuracy with the boot for club and country has been the difference between victory and defeat on dozens of occasions, and his Kangaroos team-mates will undoubtedly draw strength from his reliability in front of the posts and ability to find that killer pass.
Smith is rated almost universally as the world’s best hooker and has been at the heartbeat of Melbourne Storm’s success in the NRL and World Club Challenge in recent years.
Smith was awarded the Golden Boot as the world’s best player in 2007 and has maintained a high level of consistency in his game since receiving the accolade, securing a nomination for the 2012 award, though ultimately losing out to England’s Kevin Sinfield.
Smith’s style is typified by his probing runs from dummy-half and his ability to help relieve the pressure on his team-mates at half-back by switching to first receiver when required.
Aged 29, Smith is at the height of his powers, and many believe that the Kangaroos’ hopes will rest on this man’s shoulders.
A Bit of History
The Kangaroos are the most successful team in Rugby League World Cup history, having won nine of the 13 World Cups contested.
In fact, such has been their dominance of the sport they have failed to make the World Cup final just once: the very first tournament played in 1954.
But the Australians – and their fans – are still smarting from their 2008 World Cup Final defeat at the hands of New Zealand, which stunned the home crowd at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
So they’ll come to Europe keen to re-establish a World Cup stranglehold that previously went all the way back to 1975.
For the first time in a long time there’ll be no Darren Lockyer in the Aussie ranks, but the depth of talent at their disposal means that they will once again start as tournament favourites.
Australia’s pedigree within the sport is renowned throughout the world. The country has produced some of the greatest players ever to have graced the field, from the ‘godfather’ of Australian Rugby League, Dally Messenger, through to current International Player of the Year and Player of the Tournament in 2008, Billy Slater.
The formation of Rugby League in Australia in 1907 was largely down to that man Messenger, who defected from Rugby Union to join the newly-formed professional league in New South Wales.
Messenger starred in New Zealand’s 1907 ‘All Golds’ tour of Great Britain, returning to these shores the following year as skipper of the first ever touring ‘Kangaroos’. His team played its first ever international Test against Britain’s ‘Northern Union XIII’ in London, Messenger kicking five goals in a 22-22 draw.
Messenger’s legend lives on through the Dally M Medal, awarded each year to Australian Rugby League’s most outstanding performer.