The Australian Kangaroos
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The Australia national rugby league team have represented Australia in rugby league football since the establishment of that sport in Australia in 1908. They are the most successful team in Rugby League World Cup history, winning 9 out of 13 tournaments contested, and failing to reach the final only once, in the first tournament in 1954. Since 7 July 1994 the team's official nickname has been the Kangaroos, though they had been referred to unofficially as that for a long time. The team is administered by the Australian Rugby League.
Previously, the Australian team was only referred to as the Kangaroos when on tours of Great Britain or France. In 1997 Australia was also represented by a Super League Australia team, drawing on players from that year's Super League competition.
The Kangaroo's ranking in the RLIF World Rankings is world number 1, even though they were runners up in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Australia has won all but one of their games in the RLIF Rankings period, and thus is still ranked first.
Rugby football has been played in Australia since the 1860s. In 1863 Sydney University became the first rugby club to be formed in Sydney, and would play games amongst themselves or against the crews of visiting British ships. The Sydney Football Club (1865) and the Wallaroos (1870) followed, and inter-club competition commenced. By 1880, there were 100 clubs across the country, and rugby quickly became the dominant winter sport for Sydney.
In 1888 an English team visited Australasia, playing rugby rules in Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand, and Australian rules football in Victoria and South Australia. In 1899, an Australian team was formed for the first time using players from Queensland and New South Wales. They played a series of Tests against a British team. By 1907, Sydney club games were attracting up to 20,000 people, with all profits going to the New South Wales Rugby Union, as rugby at the time was officially an amateur sport. This caused discontent among players, and in 1908 the New South Wales Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League were formed.
In 1909, when the new "Northern Union" code was still in its infancy in Australia, a match between the Kangaroos and the Wallabies was played before a crowd of around 20,000, with the Rugby League side winning 29–26.
In the first half of the 20th century, Australia's international competition came from alternating tours to Great Britain and New Zealand, with Australia playing host to these teams in non-tour years. On tours to Great Britain (and later France), Australia was known as the Kangaroos.
Great Britain dominated in the early years, and Australia did not win a Test against the Lions until 11 November 1911 under captain Chris McKivat. Australia did not win a series at home against Great Britain until 1920 or abroad until 1958.
The first Kangaroos arrived in England on the 27th September 1908, and played their first ever test against the Northern Union in December in London. It finished 22 all in front of a crowd of 2,000. The second test in Newcastle in January 1909 attracted a crowd of 22,000, and the Northern Union won 15–5. The third test was played at Villa Park, Birmingham, the Northern Union winning again 6–5 before a crowd of 9,000. The Australians suggested that the series should be named 'The Ashes' after the cricket series of the same name.
The first British tour of the Southern Hemisphere began on 4 June 1910, when the Northern Union played New South Wales in front of 33,000 spectators in Sydney, losing 28–14. But they won the first test in Sydney against Australia 27–20 in front of 42,000. They then won the second test in Brisbane 22–17. In Auckland, on 30 July, they defeated New Zealand 52–20.
The 1911-12 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain was undertaken by an 'Australasian' squad which included four New Zealanders. They won the Ashes for the first time and for the next half a century no other touring team would do so on British soil.
In January 1922, an "England" side defeated Australia 6–0 at The Willows, Salford, to win back the Ashes that had been lost in 1920. They would not be lost again until 1950.
The Australian national team first wore green and gold in a hooped design, on Saturday 23 June 1928, when they met Great Britain in the first Test at theBrisbane Exhibition Ground. Britain led 10–2 after 25 minutes, 13–7 at half time and, after a nervous second half, eventually claimed the Test 15–12. The England team won both the 1928 series in Australia and New Zealand by two tests to one. They were presented with the Ashes Trophy by the Australians, which the two countries have competed for ever since.
Australia made their seventh tour to the UK in 1948, and played the Ashes series against a side officially called Great Britain.
In 1956 Great Britain defeated Australia 19–0 at Station Road, Swinton, to take the Ashes series 2–1. This was the last British Ashes win on home soil.
Harry Bath was selected manager, coach and as the sole selector for the Australian national team's 1962 Ashes series. Bath coached the national side to World Cup glory in the 1968 and 1970 World Cups. He also coached the team on tours of New Zealand in 1969 and 1971.
The last time that Great Britain won the Ashes was in 1970. They won the series 2–1 in Australia. Out of 24 games played Great Britain won 22, drew one and lost one – making them the most successful British tourists so far.
Australia lost the 1972 World Cup to Great Britain in controversial circumstances. The World Cup final was tied at 10–10 after full time and was still locked after extra time. Great Britain were awarded the victory due to a higher points table placing after the pool rounds of the competition.
In 1978, Great Britain beat Australia in the second test at Bradford, 18–14, before a crowd of 26,447. It took ten years, and fifteen consecutive test defeats before Britain were able to defeat the Kangaroos again.
Eighties and nineties
Rugby league was taken into a new dimension by the 1982 Kangaroos side, also known as 'the Invincibles'. The Australian tourists became the first team to win every game of the tour (fifteen games) including the first test by 40–4 at Hull in front of 26,771 spectators.
In 1985, Australia made a six-match tour of New Zealand, with Wally Lewis the first Queenslander since Tom Gorman in 1929 to be named as captain. The Kangaroos won five of those matches, and the Test series 2–1. Australia won the first Test in Brisbane 26–20. On Sunday 30 June 1985, Australia met New Zealand in the second Test at Carlaw Park, Auckland. The Test was a 20,000 sell-out, with all tickets accounted for weeks before the match. The Kiwis dominated long periods of the game but ninety seconds from time the Kiwis lost possession close to half way. John Ribot scored a try and Australia won 10–6.
In 1986, a then record northern hemisphere crowd of 50,383 attended the first test of the Ashes series at Old Trafford. The Australians won 38–16. Canterbury's Terry Lamb became the only player to appear in every match on a Kangaroo Tour. This was the second consecutive tour of Europe in which they won all their games. In their two Tests against France, the Australians ran in 96 points and conceded just a single penalty. After suffering such heavy losses, France decided to call off their proposed tour of Australia.
Australia crashed to a defeat on Tuesday 21 July 1987, when the Kangaroo dominance of the international game suffered a setback. New Zealand were their opponents in a match which had been arranged to fill the gap created by the non-appearance of France. New Zealand won the game 13–6. The next four internationals between Australia and New Zealand were all staged in New Zealand, and all were won by the Kangaroos.
On 9 July 1988, Great Britain beat Australia 26–12 in Sydney to win the third test, though the series had already been lost. In 1989 the Kangaroos toured New Zealand. Great Britain defeated Australia 19–12 in the first test at Wembley in 1990 in front of a new record home crowd of 54,567. However, the next two tests were narrowly lost, 14–10 and 14–0.
In 1992 Great Britain lost the first test 22–6 in Sydney, won the 2nd Ashes test 33–10 in Melbourne, but lost the 3rd test 16–10 in Brisbane. The 1992 World Cup final at Wembley set a record attendance for a rugby league international that still stands today: a crowd of 73,631 saw Australia defeat Great Britain 10–6.
The 1994 Kangaroo Tour was the last time the Australian national team played matches against British provincial teams, in addition to the Tests. Australia continued its dominance, winning both Test series against Great Britain and France, suffering only one loss (against Great Britain in the First Test), and remained undefeated against British club outfits in a streak stretching back to 1978. Australia adopted the name 'Kangaroos' for the 4 July 1994 test against France, since then the team has been known by this name.
The Australian team that contested and won the 1995 Rugby League World Cup consisted only of players from clubs that remained loyal to the Australian Rugby League during the Super League war. This meant several players from Super League-aligned clubs that were already well-established internationals were not selected for the World Cup squad. In 1997 also, due to the Super League war, Australian rugby league was split down the middle by two competitions: the ARL's Optus Cup and Super League's Telstra Cup. As a result, that season there were also two Australian sides:
Great Britain played a home series against the Australian Super League Test team in 1997 and lost 2–1. Despite the series being given official test status by the UK's Rugby Football League, these games are not regarded as a genuine Ashes series by the Australian Rugby League.
The 1998 Kangaroo Tour was cancelled because of the Super League war. With the Super League war finally over in 1998, Great Britain travelled to the Southern Hemisphere for the first Rugby League Tri-Nationstournament with Australia and New Zealand in 1999.
The new millennium
The new millennium started with the 2000 World Cup which Australia won.
In 2001 the Australians arrived in Britain for the first Ashes series since 1994. Great Britain surprised everyone by winning the first test, but lost the next two.
In July 2002, Great Britain suffered a record test defeat 64–10 to Australia in Sydney.
In 2003 the New Zealand Rugby League counted its 100th international match against Australia, because they take World Cup matches and Super League tests into account.
In November 2003, Great Britain lost an Ashes series 0–3 on home soil. The margin was extremely small in each game, 22–18 in game 1, 23–20 in game 2 and 18–12 in game 3 and it was known as Brett Kimmorley's greatest series as he orchestrated Australia's last minute victories. However, the dominance of the Australian team over the last generation has begun to slip since 2003.
In 2003 and 2005 New Zealand won the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy from Australia. Australia won the first two Rugby League Tri-Nations competitions in 1999 and 2004, before being defeated by New Zealand in the final of the 2005 competition on 26 November 2005. Prior to that defeat Australia had not lost a series since 10 December 1978, when they were defeated by France, 2–0. On 4 November 2006, Australia lost toGreat Britain 23–12. It was a huge upset, and the first time since 1988 that the Kangaroos had been beaten by Great Britain in Sydney. The match was Australia's 3rd match of the 2006 Tri-Nations series, having already secured a place in the final with two wins against New Zealand earlier in the tournament 30–18 and 20–15. The Australian side reclaimed the title of Tri-Nations champions on 25 November with a victory over the New Zealand side in the final by 16–12 with a try in the second period of extra time by captain Darren Lockyer.
In 2007 Australia played two test matches, both against New Zealand and both emphatic victories. The first 30–6 and the second 58–0.
Australia hosted the 2008 Rugby League World Cup and did not have to qualify. They didn't lose a match until the final, which they lost to New Zealand, who became world champions for the first time.
The Kangaroos competed against New Zealand, England and France in the 2009 Four Nations tournament.
Emblems and Colours
In 1924 the decision was taken to change the national jersey's colours to green and gold. A green jersey with gold bands was used for Australia's next Test series in 1928, making the 1928 Kangaroos the first Australian representative rugby league team to adopt these colours. This design was revived for the 25 July 2003 Test against New Zealand. In 1929 the current design, which is green with two gold chevrons, was adopted and first used. However, for the first twenty years of international competition, the jersey was in a state of flux. When playing in Australia the team would wear sky-blue or maroon, depending on whether they were playing in New South Wales or Queensland. On tours, Australia would wear either the sky blue of New South Wales (as the New South Wales Rugby League organised the tours) or a maroon and sky blue hooped design. This design was revived in 1963 when Australia played South Africa, and again in the Centenary Test at the SCG on 9 May 2008.
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