Steve Roach praises pow­er­house Poms who’ve daz­zled Down Un­der

Rugby League Week - - News -

IGET A TIN­GLE DOWN MY spine when­ever I hear the name Mal­colm Reilly. I count my lucky stars we played in dif­fer­ent eras.

My dear mum has al­ways liked my face. Had I played op­po­site Reilly she would never have recog­nised it.

That was the case when he and Ge­orge Pig­gins had one of the most vi­o­lent one-on-one ex­changes in footy folk­lore dur­ing a game at the SCG in 1973.

Footy has never had a more bru­tal for­ward – and there have been few to match Reilly’s skills.

I’ve seen film of him play­ing for Manly and spear­head­ing a pre­mier­ship tri­umph. I’ve seen him coach Great Bri­tain to a Test win against Aus­tralia and I saw how he con­verted mice into men at the New­cas­tle Knights.

A chronic knee in­jury never failed to curb his en­thu­si­asm for de­stroy­ing an op­po­nent.

Reilly is a walk-up start in a team I’ve se­lected rep­re­sent­ing the best English play­ers to have com­peted in the NRL. My best of the Brits is: Joe Ly­don (Easts) Martin Of­fiah (Easts, St Ge­orge) Ellery Han­ley (Bal­main, Wests) Garry Schofield (Bal­main) Des Drum­mond (Wests) Jonathan Davies (Bull­dogs, Cow­boys) Tommy Bishop (Cronulla) Mal­colm Reilly (Manly) Sam Burgess (Souths) Bill Ashurst (Pen­rith) Kevin Ward (Manly) Mike Stephenson (Pen­rith) Cliff Watson (Cronulla)

Joe Ly­don gave Easts great ser­vice dur­ing his two stints at Bondi but I will re­mem­ber him for the 56-me­tre field goal he landed in a game be­tween Wi­gan and War­ring­ton in 1989. I was play­ing with War­ring­ton when Ly­don, as cool as a ref­eree’s smile, kicked the gi­ant field goal that helped give Wi­gan a 13-6 win in the semi-fi­nal of the Chal­lenge Cup.

Martin Of­fiah was a great crowd pleaser with elec­tri­fy­ing speed. He had stints with Easts and St Ge­orge, scor­ing 20 tries in 27 games. This bloke also scored a phe­nom­e­nal 10 tries in a match against Leeds in 1992 – I crossed for only two more dur­ing my en­tire ca­reer with the mighty Tiges! Ellery Han­ley was Eng­land’s an­swer to our Reg Gas­nier. When he had the ball in hand, the game ex­ploded. Garry Schofield was a won­der­ful schemer. Su­perb foot­work and a master of the grub­ber and chip kick. At 18, he was the youngest-ever Great Bri­tain player. Had three sea­sons with the Tigers and a sea­son with Wests. Scored 33 tries from 56 games.

Des Drum­mond only had a brief stint with Wests. He was a fiery type who’d run over the post­man to score.

Jonathan Davies was a class act with Can­ter­bury and North Queens­land – and a dan­ger man when he played the Kangaroos.

Tommy Bishop called the shots for the Sharks from 1969-73. By far and away the great­est half­back to wear Eng­land’s colours.

Mal Reilly? I’m get­ting that shiver again. If he wasn’t mak­ing you see stars from a “Liver­pool Kiss”, he would de­light in letting you taste his el­bow. Sam Burgess is a power ath­lete. His 2014 form for the Rab­bitohs is in­deli­ble. Bill Ashurst was skilled to a level few could em­u­late. Rated one of the hard­est play­ers to nail. Ended his time with Pen­rith af­ter a blue with Mike Stephenson.

Kevin Ward was an­other pow­er­house and a dom­i­nant player in Manly’s grand fi­nal win in 1987. Was the cor­ner­stone of the Castle­ford and St He­lens packs.

Mike Stephenson was a draw­card for the Pan­thers from 1974-78. Liked to run the ball at the line and scored 14 tries in two sea­sons. His trans­fer fee of $39,000 from Dews­bury was a world record.

Cliff Watson had three years with the Sharks, in­clud­ing play­ing a bru­tal role in the in­fa­mous 1973 grand fi­nal loss to Manly. Great player – and a great bloke.


THE FAST AND THE FU­RI­OUS Martin Of­fiah could match mo­tors with any player in any era while Mal Reilly’s tough­ness was leg­endary. The likes of Han­ley, Schofield and Davies would add the pol­ish af­ter Reilly dished out the pun­ish­ment!

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