What happens on tour, doesn't stay on tour
RLW’s GEOFF PRENTER recalls his most memorable Roo tour moments
“Better people make better Kangaroos.”
That’s a quote from a booklet given to all those who attended the recent annual Kangaroos reunion at the SCG. It’s one of many quotes, each designed to reinforce the honour of representing Australia at the highest level. The book is simply called Kangaroos Since 1908. The contents were inspired by current national coach Mal Meninga and resonated with both past and present internationals. Of the many different sporting events I’ve had the privilege of covering during the past 50 years, none compare with a Kangaroo tour. I covered five of them, two of which were history-making. The 1982 Kangaroos went through England and France unbeaten and earned the crown “The Invincibles”. They were led by craggy-faced Manly hooker Max Krilich, who is always good for a laugh. Four years later, King Wally the First was skipper and those 1986 Roos were tagged “The Unbeatables.” Now, I obey the edict “what goes on tour, stays on tour”. So no dobbing on those who sampled the ever-so-plentiful wine, women and song. After all, you know what they say about people who live in glass houses. But I can’t resist leaking a few memorable moments . . .
King Wally, Acca Dacca & me
Wally Lewis was Max Krilich’s vice-captain in 1982. Coach Frank Stanton made him earn his keep. There was no love lost between “Cranky” and The King. After demoralising Great Britain, the Roos had hot-footed it to France to complete a whitewash in which they racked up 1005 points to 120 from 22 matches. Lewis, however, dislocated his shoulder in the first Test against France, which Australia won 15-4. He was allowed to remain for the remainder of the French leg. One night I saw him looking pretty forlorn at the bar. I asked him if I could buy him a drink. Eight rainbow liqueurs later we were still chatting when a young Aussie bloke came up and tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” he said. “Is that Wally Lewis with you?” I said it was and he asked if I was Geoff Prenter. Again, I nodded and brusquely advised him to leave us alone and p*** off. “Sorry,” he said. “I was just hoping you both could be our guests at a concert tomorrow night.” “Well, who in the hell are you?” I barked. “Angus Young from AC/DC,” came the meek reply. Yes, we both expressed our apologies because another commitment prevented us from cheering for this sensational young bunch of guys.
“WELL, WHO IN THE HELL ARE YOU?” I BARKED. “ANGUS YOUNG FROM AC/DC,” CAME THE MEEK REPLY.
Pyromania on the ’82 tour
Steve ‘Sludge’ Rogers was another 1982 tourist. What a player he was! The boys were getting bored in France, to say the least. The opposition was embarrassingly poor. One night my colleague from The Daily Mirror, ‘Chippy’ Peter Frilingos, and I heard a commotion hotel out the front of our at Narbonne. There, to our horror, was a bed of flames fuelled by hot coals. The excitement-seeking Kangaroos were daring each other to run across them barefoot. Sludge accepted sprinted the dare and off he across the eight metres of raging- hot The coals. next morning a press conference was told called and we were Rogers wouldn’t play again on tour due to an ankle injury. The “ankle injury” was a charred right foot. Burnt to a cinder! We dutifully reported the ankle injury. Sludge was too good a bloke to give up. The Kangaroos that year seemed to have a fetish for fire. One night at Digby’s restaurant in Leeds crawl a Kangaroo tried to from the bar area to the dining area twin-sidedfireplace.through an open Many of his team-mates had a vacant look on their face, as much as to say, “Let him do it, Geoff,” but I grabbed him by the ankles and hauled him to safety. No names for this one. He is still well and truly with us, though – and probably still looking to the heavens for some divine intervention.
Baa & Langers’ 2am surprises
Mal Meninga’s partner in defence-shattering, centre Gene Miles, stole the headlines in 1986 and was voted “best on tour”. I’m on record as saying I haven’t met a more decent human being in sport. But another couple of Roos could’ve made headlines that year for pulling off a series of gee-ups – pranksters Terry Lamb and Paul Langmack. ‘Baa’ played in all 20 games, scoring 19 tries and creating countless others. He scored five tries against Hull KR alone. But the devil in his game runneth over when we were housed at the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds. It was 2am when the hotel fire alarms bellowed and we were all marched to the fire escapes. As we got to safe ground with the temperature around freezing, there were Lamb and Langmack rugged up in dressing gowns. Nobody smelt a rat until, after four similar evacuations, it was always the same two faces that greeted you with a smirk. “I wonder if the Poms didn’t slip Baa and Langers a pound or two to make sure we didn’t get a decent sleep,” hooker Ben Elias suggested. It was good, clean fun. I never struck a moment’s trouble on either of those two historic tours. To the contrary, the players toed the line, even in France when the opposition was depressingly poor. They were the best sporting days of my life.
“STEVE ROGERS SPRINTED OFF OVER EIGHT METRES OF BURNING COALS”
do Kangaroos the These days the book. things by a tour A tour just wouldn’t be King. wihout a toast to The
go, Terry pranksters the rest. As far as a cut above Lamb was Back-up lock Paul Langmack release his pent- had to up energy somehow. over hot Steve Rogers would walk coals to play for his country!