New Zealand 49–25 Australia
(Brisbane Cricket Ground, Brisbane, Australia; 28 July 1952)
The Australian national rugby league team (or the Kangaroos) have represented Australia in senior men’s rugby league football competition since the establishment of the ‘Northern Union game’ in Australia in 1908. Administered by the Australian Rugby League, the Kangaroos are ranked first in the RLIF World Rankings. The team are the most successful in Rugby League World Cup history, having contested all 14 and winning 10 of them, failing to reach the final only once, in the inaugural tournament in 1954. Only four nations have beaten Australia in test matches, and Australia have an overall win percentage of 67%.
Dating back to 1908, Australia are the fourth oldest national side after England, New Zealand and Wales. The team was first assembled in 1908 for a tour of Great Britain. The majority of the Kangaroos’ games since then have been played against Great Britain and New Zealand. 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.
Since 7 July 1994 the team’s official nickname has been the Kangaroos, though they had unofficially been referred to as such since 1908. 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. While in the past players for the side had been selected from clubs in various leagues around the country, in recent years the side has consisted exclusively of players from clubs of the National Rugby League.
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 rugby games were attracting up to 20,000 people, with all profits going to the Southern Rugby Football Union, as the sport at the time was officially an amateur one. This caused discontent among players, and in 1908 the New South Wales Rugby Football League and Queensland Rugby League were formed.
An Australian national rugby league team was first formed during the first season of rugby league in Australia, the 1908 NSWRFL Premiership season. The team, which was made of players from the NSWRFL with a few Queensland rugby rebels added, first played against the “professional All Blacks” on the return leg of their tour of Australia and Great Britain.
Later that year the Australian team arranged to go on a tour of its own. The first Kangaroos arrived in England on 27 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.
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.
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 1910 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand was the first ever, and Australia were beaten for the Ashes in two tests, faring slightly better as “Australasia” with two Kiwis added to their squad. 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.
The 1914 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand was the second time the British toured down under. The Australians, captained by Sid Deane for all three tests, got one victory but lost the series in the famous decider, the “Rorke’s Drift Test”. Australia also went on a tour of New Zealand in 1919.
The 1920 Great Britain Lions tour saw Australia win the Ashes for the first time on home soil. The 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain also included a New Zealander and was ostensibly an Australasian side. 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 the Brisbane 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.
The 1929–30 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain was the fourth Kangaroo tour, and took the Australian team all around England and also into Wales. The tour also featured the ninth Ashes series which comprised four Test matches and was won by Great Britain.
The first test of the 1932 Ashes series between Australia and Great Britain drew a world record international rugby league attendance of 70,204 to the Sydney Cricket Ground. This attendance would stand as the world record until the 1992 World Cup Final played at Wembley Stadium, and as of 2013 remains the record attendance for a rugby league test played in Australia. The Jim Sullivan led Lions triumphed over the Herb Steinohrt led Australians 8–6.
On the 1933–34 tour New South Wales winger Dave Brown played in 32 matches, including all 3 Tests, scoring 285 points, at the time the greatest number ever attained by an Australian player on tour.
An exhibition match between Australia and Great Britain at Paris’ Stade Pershing in December 1933 inspired the beginnings of rugby league in France.
Albert Johnston was a national selector in 1946 and coach of the national side for the 1946 first post-WWII Anglo-Australian series. Australia’s 1948-49 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France was their seventh tour to the UK. They played the Ashes series against a side officially called Great Britain.
During the 1951 French rugby league tour of Australia and New Zealand, Australia lost the three-Test series to the powerful French team inspired by their freakish goal kicking fullback Puig Aubert.
The 1954 Rugby League World Cup was the first such tournament held in either rugby code. Australia failed to reach the final.
For the 1956–57 Kangaroo tour a record eleven Queenslanders were selected in the touring squad. Great Britain defeated Australia 19–0 at Station Road, Swinton, to take the Ashes series 2–1.
Australia hosted and won the 1957 World Cup.
For the 1959–60 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain, the home nation retained the Ashes by winning the Test series 2–1 by the following results.
This was the last British Ashes win on home soil.
For the 1960 World Cup no final was held, but the last game, which was between the previously undefeated Great Britain and Australia sides, made it the tournament decider. Great Britain won 10–3.
Harry Bath was selected manager, coach and as the sole selector for the Australian national team’s 1962 Ashes series.
After ten previous tours of Britain, the 1963–64 Kangaroo tour saw Australia’s first ever Ashes victory on British soil. The Arthur Summons coached Kangaroos won the first test at Wembley Stadium before rampaging to a famous 50–12 win in the second test at Station Road in Swinton. Although they would lose the third test at Headingley, legendary winger Ken Irvine became the first Australian player to score a try in each test of an Ashes series. The Kangaroos have not lost a series in Britain since.
Harry Bath coached the national side to World Cup glory in the 1968 World Cup. He also coached the team on a tour of New Zealand in 1969.
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. The 1970 Lions contained a galaxy of stars including captain Frank Myler, Roger Millward, Cliff Watson and Mal Reilly. Future Kangaroo Tour captain and later coach Bob Fulton made his test debut in the 1970 Ashes series (Fulton had actually played 3 games for Australia in the 1968 World Cup but at the time tests and World Cup games were classed differently). Harry Bath again coached Australia to victory in the 1970 World Cup Final in a brutal game that would become known as the “Battle of Headingley”. Bath also coached the team on a tour of New Zealand in 1971. On that tour Geoff Starling became the youngest player to ever represent Australia. He was 18 years and 181 days old when playing a tour match against a New Zealand XIII at Huntly.
Australia lost the 1972 World Cup Final to Great Britain in controversial circumstances. Australian captain Graeme Langlands was denied what seemed a fair try by being ruled offside by the French referee after catching a kick put up by halfback Dennis Ward. Television footage of the try showed Langlands was approximately a metre behind Ward when he kicked the ball. The French referee Georges Jameau’s alleged reason for not awarding the try was that he did not believe anyone could have scored it from an onside position. 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. The Final was also highlighted by an 80-metre try to Lions captain, winger Clive Sullivan.
On the 1978 Kangaroo tour, Great Britain defeated 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, starting with Australia’s 3–0 whitewash of the Lions during their 1979 Australasian tour. The Kangaroos had already won the first test 15–9 at Wigan and would wrap up the series with a 23–6 win in the third test at Headingley. However, the Australians were surprisingly defeated by the French team in both tests played at the end of the 1978 tour. This was the last defeat of the Kangaroos in a series until 2005.
The 1980s was the decade in which Australia began to truly dominate world rugby league. Along with the emergence of State of Origin football came a new crop of superstar players who would lead Australia throughout the 1980s. Players such as Peter Sterling, Mal Meninga, Wayne Pearce, Brett Kenny, Eric Grothe and Wally Lewis came to prominence on the 1982 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France. Australia’s performance was taken into a new dimension by the tourists, also known as ‘the Invincibles’, when they 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. After the extremely poor showing during their 1979 Australasian tour, the Kangaroos rammed home just how far behind British football had fallen at Boothferry Park. The score was only 10–4 at half time, but after the break Australia’s superior fitness showed and they ran in six unanswered tries to leave the crowd and British football stunned.
In 1983, Arthur Beetson became the first Aboriginal to coach the Australian team after Frank Stanton had stood down following the Kangaroo Tour. Although Australia won the first test against New Zealand at Carlaw Park in Auckland, the Kiwis shocked by winning the return match 19–12 at Lang Park.
When the Lions toured in 1984, The Kangaroos again swept The Ashes series 3–0 under new team captain Wally Lewis, the first Queenslander to captain Australia since Arthur Beetson in 1974. Beetson was replaced as coach in 1984 by a returning Frank Stanton.
In 1985, Australia made a six-match tour of New Zealand under the coaching of Terry Fearnley who prior to the tour had coached NSW to its first ever Origin series win over Qld (the tour actually took place between games 2 and 3 of the Origin series). 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. The tour ended in acrimony as tensions between coach Fearley and the Qld players, led by team captain Wally Lewis, reached boiling point with Lewis publicly stating that he had caught Fearnley and team vice-captain Wayne Pearce going over team selections in Fearnley’s hotel room, though both Fearnley and Pearce denied the allegations. After the second test win Fearnley made 4 changes to the test team for the third and final test at Carlaw Park with all four players who were omitted being Queenslanders. The changes proved disastrous and NZ ran out easy 18–0 winners.
Following the tour, the Australian Rugby League decided that from then on the Kangaroos coach could not also double as the incumbent coach of either NSW or Qld.
Former Kangaroo Don Furner became Australian coach in 1986 and immediately formed a good working relationship with Wally Lewis and the players. The now harmonious Australians swept New Zealand 3–0 in a mid-season test series played in Australia.
During the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France a then record northern hemisphere crowd of 50,383 attended the first test of the Ashes series at Old Trafford with the Walle Lewis led Australians winning 38–16 aluminium water bottle. On 16 December 1986 the Kangaroos set a new record for largest-ever winning margin in a Test match at 52–0 against France. In their two Tests against France, the Australians ran in 96 points and conceded just a single penalty goal. After suffering such heavy losses, France decided to call off their proposed 1987 tour of Australia. This became the second consecutive tour of Europe in which Australia had won all their games. By the end of the tour, Terry Lamb had become the first player to appear in every match on a Kangaroo Tour. For this tour Wally Lewis, Greg Dowling, Bob Lindner, Gene Miles (Wynnum Manly) and Bryan Neibling (Redcliffe) became the last players selected to tour from the Brisbane Rugby League competition. By being named as tour captain, Wally Lewis became the first Queenslander to captain a Kangaroo Tour since Tom Gorman in 1929/30.
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 at Lang Park 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.
During the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour the Ashes were successfully retained by Australia by winning the first two Tests, however Great Britain won the third test 26–12 at the Sydney Football Stadium, ending a 15-game winning streak between the two teams that stretched back to the third Ashes test of 1978. Later that month, Australia’s 62-point win over Papua New Guinea in the NSW country town of Wagga Wagga set a new record for largest winning margin in international rugby league. Australian dual international winger Michael O’Connor also set a new record for most points scored by an individual in international rugby league (30 points – 4 tries, 7 goals). The 1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup culminated in the World Cup Final against New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park ground (the home of NZ rugby union). Australia won a brutal World Cup Final 25–12 in front of 47,363. Captain Wally Lewis broke his arm during the game.
In 1989 the Kangaroos toured New Zealand, taking a record-breaking twelve Queenslanders in the 20 man squad after Queensland’s second straight 3-0 State of Origin series win over New South Wales. Don Furner had retired from coaching after the 1988 World Cup Final with Manly-Warringah 1987 premiership winning coach and 1978 Kangaroo tour captain Bob Fulton taking over from 1989. Fulton’s first series in charge of the Australian team saw them sweep New Zealand 3–0 during their 1989 tour.
The Bob Fulton coached Kangaroos played two mid-season tests in 1990. They defeated France 34–2 on a freezing cold night in Parkes with Mal Meninga taking over the captaincy from Wally Lewis who was unavailable with a broken arm. They then played a single test against New Zealand in Wellington, winning 24–6.
With Wally Lewis controversially ruled unfit for the 1990 Kangaroo tour, his Queensland teammate Mal Meninga, making his 3rd Kangaroo Tour, retained the Australian captaincy. The Ashes got off to a bad start for the Kangaroos when Great Britain shocked Australia to win the first test 19–12 at Wembley Stadium in front of a new record home crowd of 54,567. The second test at Old Trafford in Manchester was a tight, thrilling affair that saw two of the most famous tries scored in test match football. Debutante 5/8 Cliff Lyons second half try came after the Kangaroos kept the ball alive through 13 sets of hands before winger Andrew Ettingshausen raced down the wing and centre kicked for Lyons to score. With the scores tied at 10-all going into injury time and the Kangaroos pinned just 15 metres from their line, Ricky Stuart set off on an 75-metre run before passing to Meninga for the winning try only seconds from full-time to give Australia a 14–10 win. The Kangaroos then wrapped up The Ashes with a comprehensive 14–0 win in the third test at Elland Road in Leeds. Meninga as captain became just the third Australian (after Ken Irvine in 1962 and 1963–64, and Sam Backo in 1988) to score a try in each test of an Ashes series.
Australia faced New Zealand in a three-game mid-season Test series in 1991. The first test, played at the Olympic Park Stadium in Melbourne (the first rugby league test played in Australia outside of NSW or Qld) saw the Kiwis again defeat Australia after a successful Kangaroo tour. NZ won the first test 24–8 in Melbourne in front of 26,900 fans, however a new look Australian side came back to win the second test 44–0 in Sydney and the third test 40–12 in Brisbane. At the end of the 1991 NSWRL season, the Kangaroos embarked on their first (and as of 2017 only) tour of Papua New Guinea, winning all five games on tour including easily both tests against the Papua New Guinea Kumuls.
During the 1992 Great Britain Lions tour of Australasia, the British lost the first test 22–6 in Sydney before stunning the Australians when they easily won the 2nd Ashes test 33–10 at Princes Park in Melbourne, but lost the 3rd test 16–10 in Brisbane. The 1992 Rugby League World Cup final at Wembley Stadium set a then international attendance record for a rugby league international of 73,631. The Bob Fulton coached, Mal Meninga captained Australians defeat Great Britain 10–6 to win their 7th Rugby League World Cup title. The WCF was a tight game with the Lions leading 6–4 with less than 20 minutes remaining before an on debut Steve Renouf crossed for the only try of the game and along with Meninga’s sideline conversion gave the Kangaroos a famous victory.
Australia again played a mid-season test series against New Zealand in 1993. The first test at the Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland ended in a 14-all draw thanks to a late Laurie Daley field goal. Daley had captained Australia for the first time in the match following a two-game suspension to Mal Meninga. The Kangaroos then won the second test 16–8 at the very wet Palmerston North Showgrounds before wrapping up the series with a 16–4 win at Lang Park in Brisbane.
On 4 July 1994, Australia defeated France 58–0 at the Parramatta Stadium in Sydney, their only test on home soil for the year. 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 (again, against Great Britain in the First Test at Wembley), and remained undefeated against British club outfits in a streak stretching back to 1978. Australia adopted the name ‘Kangaroos’ for the July test against France, since then the team has been officially known by this name. The 1994 Kangaroo tour was also the first (and only) time that the traditional Australian test kit was only worn during test matches. For the tour games, including the friendly against Wales in Cardiff (the first time Australia had played Wales in 12 years), the Kangaroos wore jumpers that had increasing thckness gold hoops underneath the twin gold chevrons.
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. During 1995, the Kangaroos defeated New Zealand 3–0 in the Trans-Tasman Test series played in Australia. As they would be for the World Cup, only ARL loyal players were selected for Australia which saw a number of players, including Steve Menzies, Mark Coyne, Terry Hill, Gary Larson, Trevor Gillmeister and Jason Smith make their test debuts during the New Zealand series. Despite having what many described as a second string side without players such as Laurie Daley, Allan Langer, Andrew Ettingshausen, Brett Mullins, Glenn Lazarus, Bradley Clyde, Ian Roberts, Ricky Stuart and Steve Walters, Bob Fulton’s Kangaroos won their 8th World Cup (and 5th in a row) when they defeated England 16–8 in the World Cup Final in front of 66,540 fans at Wembley. The star of the day for Australia was halfback/hooker Andrew Johns.
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:
Australian Rugby League
Australia v Rest of the World
11 July 1997
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Fullback: Tim Brasher
Wingers: Mark Coyne, Robbie O’Davis
Centres: Paul McGregor, Terry Hill
Five-eighth: Brad Fittler (c)
Halfback: Geoff Toovey
Props: Paul Harragon, Mark Carroll
Hooker: Andrew Johns
Second-rowers: Steve Menzies, Gary Larson
Lock: Billy Moore
Reserves: Matt Sing, John Simon, Nik Kosef, Dean Pay
Coach: Bob Fulton
Australia v Great Britain (1st SL Test)
1 November 1997
Wembley Stadium, London
Fullback: Darren Lockyer
Wingers: Brett Mullins, Wendell Sailor
Centres: Andrew Ettingshausen, Ryan Girdler
Five-eighth: Laurie Daley (c)
Halfback: Craig Gower
Props: Jason Stevens, Brad Thorn
Hooker: Steve Walters
Second-rowers: Matt Adamson, Gorden Tallis
Lock: Darren Smith
Reserves: Robbie Kearns, Craig Greenhill, Ken Nagas, Brett Kimmorley
Coach: John Lang
Great Britain played a home three-Test series against the Australian Super League Test team in 1997 and lost 2–1. The three matches played have been given test status by the UK’s Rugby Football League. The Australian Rugby League has decided not to recognise the matches of its rival as tests since the Super League war ended and does not consider the series to be a genuine Ashes contest. Super League’s Anzac Test concept, which is an early season one-off test match against New Zealand was retained and has been played annual ever since.
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-Nations tournament with Australia and New Zealand in 1999.
Chris Anderson took over from Wayne Bennett as coach of the team in March 1999.
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, Australia handed Great Britain their worst ever test defeat by defeating them 64–10 in a Sydney test match.
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 Test series since December 1978, when they were defeated by France in both Test matches. On 4 November 2006, Australia lost to Great 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 World Cup and did not have to qualify. They did not lose a match until the final, which they lost to New Zealand how to soften steak meat, who became world champions for the first time. Following this loss, Ricky Stuart was replaced as coach by Tim Sheens, then the most experienced NRL coach.
Tim Sheens’ first match as Australian coach was against New Zealand in 2009 Anzac Test. In this match Sheen’s side included a record-equalling ten Queensland representatives, including an all maroon backline and front row, reflecting the state’s dominance in the annual State of Origin series. All of the points were also scored by Queenslanders in the 38–10 victory. Later that year Australia traveled up to play in the inaugural Four Nations tournament. The Kangaroos advanced to the final after a draw against New Zealand, and wins over co-hosts England and France. Australia took on the English in the final and despite at one point trailing 14–16, a dominant last quarter of the game saw Australia win the inaugural Four Nations tournament. Captain Darren Lockyer also reached a milestone in this match after becoming the first Australian to make 50 appearances for his country.
Australia began 2010 with a 4-point win in the Anzac Test that symbolised the opening of the new stadium in Melbourne: AAMI Park. At the conclusion of the 2010 domestic season the major international tournament was the 2010 Four Nations held in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia’s opening match against Papua New Guinea, captain Darren Lockyer surpassed Ken Irvine’s record for most test tries for Australia, scoring his 34th. Australia won all of their matches comfortably to advance to the final to have a 2008 World Cup final re-match against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium. The Kiwis won the game, and 2010 Four Nations title, after a try in the final seconds of the match.
Australia gained revenge over the Kiwis after another Anzac Test win, retaining the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy in the process with a 10-point win on the Gold Coast. Later in that year Australia played a test-match against New Zealand, 12 days before the 2011 Four Nations kicked off, at the newly reconstructed Ausgrid Stadium in Newcastle. Australia thrashed the Kiwis by 36 points in front of a record crowd. In the match Darren Lockyer became the most capped International player of all-time after surpassing New Zealand international Ruben Wiki’s record of 55 appearances for his country. Australia took on New Zealand again in the opening game of the Four Nations, held in England and Wales. The Australians yet again beat their trans-tasman rivals. They then went on to beat England at Wembley and were surprised in their final round-robin fixture after Wales were leading 8–0 after 13 minutes and were behind Australia by only 10 points at the break. But Sheens’ men went on to thrash the Welsh to easily advance to another final meeting with England. After being tied with the English at one point in the second half, Australia went on to win the game by 22 points.
In 2012, the Anzac Test was held in New Zealand for the first time since 1998, which was the Kiwis last win in the fixture. Home advantage made no difference for the Kiwis as Sheens’ Kangaroos won the match by eight points. The Kangaroos took on the Kiwis one more time later in the year, this time in Townsville. In front of a sold-out crowd, the Kangaroos won the test-match with another eight point victory. There was no tournament this year due to the fact that there was a World Cup next year for the teams to prepare for.
Australia began the 2013 International season by retaining the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy after another Anzac Test win. At the end of the year, Australia traveled up to play in the 2013 World Cup co-hosted by England and Wales. In their opening game against England, the Kangaroos were surprisingly facing a 0–10 scoreline after twenty minutes. But Australia went on to regain the control and go on to win the match by eight points. The England match was Australia’s only ‘scare’ in the tournament as the Kangaroos went on to win and dominate all of their remaining matches, recording a 244–4 total aggregate score. They went on to earn revenge for their defeat to New Zealand five years ago in the World Cup final to beat them this time around at the same stage. The final was watched in front of a record International rugby league attendance of 74,468 and in the match, five-eighth, Johnathan Thurston broke Mick Cronin’s 31-year record of top point scorer after a conversion took him past the previous record of 309 points. This was the Kangaroos’ tenth World Cup title. After the England game, Australia recorded five successive games without conceding a try in the tournament. This feat was one game off equaling the 1981–82 Australian team’s record.
Australia weren’t able to equal that feat despite another Anzac Test win in 2014. Later that year, Australia co-hosted the 2014 Four Nations with New Zealand. They took on the Kiwis in the second of the double-header clashes at Suncorp Stadium. However Australia’s record against the Kiwis at the venue continued to be a negative one after another defeat made it three defeats in the past four meetings at the ‘Cauldron’. This meant Australia were facing England in a must win game at AAMI Park in Melbourne. With many regulars missing, Sheens had to make decisions like naming an 18-year old in the team, who’d become the youngest player to play for Australia. Sione Mata’utia, aged 18 years and 129 days, eclipsed the previous record held by Israel Folau, since 2007, by 65 days when he played on debut for Australia against the ‘Poms’. The match was headlined with controversy. In the last minute of the game, England put a grubber kick in the in-goal area, since they were desperate for a try as they were trailing by just four points. Australian fullback Greg Inglis had to force the ball dead due to incoming England attack but the video referees wanted to have another look and see whether or not it was Inglis or the incoming English winger Ryan Hall got the last touch on the ball football compression socks. On the slow-motion replays it showed that Ryan Hall’s right hand’s little finger had put some downward pressure on the ball however in normal speed it was deemed ‘inconclusive’ by Australian officiating rules and therefore a NO TRY was given to the frustration of the English players and supporters but respect from Sheens and his Australian players. Had the try been awarded and England converted, it would have been Australia’s first defeat to England since 1995, the first time they suffered back-to-back home defeats since 1970 and the first time they failed to qualify for a tournament final since 1954. In their final round-robin fixture they dominated proceedings against the Samoans, who had been causing trouble for England and New Zealand in the tournament, to advance to the final which was held in New Zealand. However they couldn’t get revenge for their defeat earlier in the tournament as Australia lost 18–22.
The 2015 Anzac Test was held in Suncorp Stadium. Controversy occurred before the match as kickoff had to be postponed to two days later after the surface was deemed ‘unplayable’ due to floods. The Australian team’s horrible record in Brisbane against the Kiwis continued as they suffered another defeat and records continued to be made for the New Zealand team. This was the first time they beat Australia for three consecutive test-matches since 1953 and the first time they won the Anzac Test since 1998. Australia did not play another test-match that year. After the match Sheens was facing scrutiny from the media after many believed it was time for the old players he fielded to move on since the much younger Kiwis side had beaten them on the past three occasions. Australia also dropped down to number 2 on the RLIF World Rankings, for the first time since the World Rankings System began, which added further scrutiny. At the end of the year, Sheens was unable to cope with the pressure of the media despite wanting to coach the team at the 2017 World Cup. He took up an advisory role with English domestic club Salford Red Devils and therefore resigned as coach of the Australian national team.
In December 2015, successful Queensland Maroons coach Mal Meninga announced he’d leave his role as the coach of the Queensland representative side to coach the Australian national team. Before his appointment Mal announced his ambitions that he wanted the International game to become the pinnacle of rugby league like it was in his playing days. Mal Meninga’s first game in charge as Australian coach was the 2016 Anzac Test. Prior to the test, Meninga stirred controversy around the rugby league world after selecting Fijian born player Semi Radradra, who is eligible due to living in Australia for three years, in his team over other ‘homegrown’ Australian players. Radradra, who represented Fiji at the 2013 World Cup, still had a Fijian passport at that time and this brought up the question of changing eligibility rules in International rugby league. Meninga’s selection questioned the ambition he raised of wanting to make the International game the pinnacle of the sport. Australia won the test-match 16–0 and in the process ended their losing-run against the Kiwis. They also held New Zealand scoreless in a test-match for the first time since 2007. But despite the result Australia suffered criticism with commentator Phil Gould saying the Australian team is ‘too old’ and are ‘kidding themselves if they think they’ll win the World Cup next year’. He believes Australia should’ve put much more points on a ‘weakened’ New Zealand team missing many regular players through various reasons. Meninga hit back saying ‘That was a real test-match. That’s what test footy is. People who have never played it don’t know what it is.’
Below is table of the official representative rugby league matches played by Australia at test level up until 13 November 2016:
A red box around the year indicates tournaments played within Australia
For their first twenty odd years of international competition, the Kangaroos’ 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.
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 25 July 2003 Test against New Zealand. In 1929 the current design, which is green with two gold chevrons, was adopted and first used.
In 1997 during the Super League war, the Super League only Australian team wore a green shirt with a blue and yellow chevron for the Anzac Test against New Zealand and the Super League Test series against Great Britain. In their only game that year, the ARL Australian team wore the traditional kit for their one-game against a Rest of the World team made up of international players with ARL contracts.
The original blue and maroon broken striped design was revived in 1963 when Australia hosted a touring South African rugby league team who also wore a predominantly green jumper with gold trim, and again in the Centenary Test against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 9 May 2008. It was again used in the 2014 Four Nations against England in Melbourne on 2 November 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the “Rorke’s Drift Test”.
Since 2013, Australia’s kits have been supplied by Canterbury of New Zealand. They replaced Classic who lasted between late 1999 to 2012. Canterbury had also supplied the kits during the mid-1990s while Classic had supplied the kits from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Other suppliers were Adidas (1978-1982), Classic Sportswear (1983-1991, 1993-1997), Umbro (1992) and Nike (1997 – SL).
The 1994 Kangaroo tour saw the introduction of a special ‘tour games only’ jersey, leaving the traditional kit for test matches. The jersey was essentially the same though gold hoops of increasing thickness were added to the jumper below the traditional gold chevrons. The 1994 tour was the only time this jersey was used. This had followed on from the idea of using a different jersey for non-test games on a tour that was started in 1992 when Australia was in England for the World Cup Final. The Kangaroos played three warm up games against Huddersfield, Sheffield and Cumbria wearing a predominantly white jersey with large green and gold diamonds in the shape of kit supplier Umbro.
The indigenous contribution to the Kangaroos is unmatched in Australian national sporting teams.
By way of example, Lionel Morgan was the first indigenous player in any Australian national sporting team in 1960, while Arthur Beetson was the first indigenous captain of any Australian national sporting team in 1973 when he captained the team in the final game of the 1973 Kangaroo tour, the second test against France at the Stade des Minimes in Toulouse on 16 December. Australia won the game 14–3.
Remarkably given the 2% indigenous rate of population in Australia, the Kangaroos fielded a run-on team against New Zealand in the 2015 Anzac Test with 7 of the 13 players having indigenous heritage (a staggering 54%). This contrasts markedly to nearly every other Australian national sporting team as at 2015.
From 1908 to 1967, the Australian team performed a war cry before Tests played in Great Britain and France. The war cry was first performed when the Kangaroos arrived at Tilbury Docks near London. It was developed after war cries had been performed on tours of Britain by the New Zealand All Blacks in 1905, the South African Springboks in 1906 and the New Zealand All Golds in 1907. It is believed that the war cry is derived from an indigenous chant on Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia.
The war cry was performed for the first time in over 40 years before the Rugby League World Cup exhibition game between the Indigenous Dreamtime Team vs. the New Zealand Maōris in 2008. The war cry had not been performed by the Kangaroos since December 1967 in France.
Each year a Kangaroos reunion function is held at the SCG Members Pavilion on the Saturday before the Grand Final. Former players from all eras travel from around the country to attend the renowned event.
The main supporter group of the Australian national team is The Roo Crew.
The Australia national team squad that defeated New Zealand 30-12 in the 2017 Anzac Test played on 5 May at the GIO Stadium Canberra.
Note: Team listed in jumper number order.
As Australian rugby league celebrated its first centenary in 2008, an Australian team of the century was named which comprises one player for each of the thirteen positions plus four interchange players: Winger Brian Bevan is the only player in the team who never represented Australia in a test match, while coach Jack Gibson never coached the Australian test team.
The current coach of the Australian team is former team captain and four time Kangaroo Tourist Mal Meninga, who was appointed coach in late 2015 after the resignation of Tim Sheens who coached the team from 2009–2015.
Bob Fulton has coached the most matches with 40 starting in 1989 and finishing in 1998. Jack Gibson, despite never having coached at international level, was named coach of the Australian rugby league team of the century (1908–2008).
Largest winning margins (>50)
Most games as Captain
Most tries in a match
Most points in a match
vs New Zealand
vs Great Britain
vs Papua New Guinea
vs South Africa
vs United States
Some of the television commentators who have called Kangaroos games include Alan Marks, Norman May (ABC), Rex Mossop (Seven / Ten), Arthur Summons, Darrell Eastlake, Ian Maurice, Jack Gibson, Ray Warren, Peter Sterling, Phil Gould, Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer (Nine), Wally Lewis (Ten / Seven / Fox / Nine), Graeme Hughes (Ten / Seven), Paul Vautin (Seven / Nine), David Morrow (Ten), Warren Boland (ABC) water bottle design, John Harker (Seven), Pat Welsh (Seven), Graham Lowe (Ten) and Andrew Voss (Nine / Seven).