What hap­pens on tour, doesn't stay on tour

RLW’s GE­OFF PRENTER re­calls his most mem­o­rable Roo tour mo­ments

Rugby League Week - - News -

“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!

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