Former NSW Rugby League chairman Tom Bellew believes there could be
shocks in store for the Australian side if it expects to meet a weak Great
Britain team in the coming Test series.
Bellew has been in Papua New Guinea for the past week to watch the British
side's first two tour games against local sides and was impressed with what he
Great Britain opened their tour of PNG and Australia by beating the PNG
side 42-22 in a World Cup match last Sunday.
Despite the relatively weak standard of opposition, Bellew said he had
seen enough to believe the days of below-standard British sides were a thing of
His opinion is refreshing news, given the lop-sided contests in recent
He was impressed with the mix of backs with attacking flair and the
strength of the British forwards. Bellew said some refreshing new talent had
complemented the familiar faces in the squad.
The most familiar players in Mal Reilly's touring party are backs Garry
Schofield, Ellery Hanley and Andy Gregory, with Kevin Ward and Lee Crooks the
most experienced forwards after their stints with Sydney clubs in recent years.
"Most of their attacking game is based around Gregory, while Schofield and
Ward have been playing the type of football people in Sydney are used to
seeing," Bellew said.
"There are also some interesting new faces. Paul Loughlin, the St Helens
centre, had a good game on Sunday.
"A lot of Australians are going to be surprised by him. I like his style
and he is one of the biggest players in the side.
"I also hadn't seen Hugh Widdell before but he's a bit like Kevin Ward,
While the forwards had been strengthened, Bellew said the touring party
included several backs who possessed speed and the ability to score tries.
In this area he was particularly pleased with wingers Martin Offiah and
Bellew believed there was a new enthusiasm among the tourists under
Reilly, who he said had brought a professional approach to the game in Britain.
He said the fitness of the squad had improved since the previous tour.
"They slowed down a bit in the second half last Sunday but that was hardly
surprising," Bellew said. "None of them had played for three weeks and the
temperature was more than 30C."
According to Bellew, the tourists were still trying to find their feet but
he remained confident that they would prove worthy opponents for Australia.
"They used different sides in the first two games and once they get the
chance to work up a combination I think they'll provide some stern opposition
for Australia," he said.
"Australians are going to see and like some of these players. All
indications are that it will be a very good first Test.
"There are some new and exciting players in this side and it is certainly
not going to be a one-sided affair.
"From what I've seen of their first two games the indications are that the
Australian public is definitely going to get its money's worth."
Great Britain received some good news yesterday when it was revealed that
five-eighth Shaun Edwards would miss only the first three weeks of the tour.
Edwards damaged his knee after six minutes of last Sunday's match and it
was feared that he would miss the rest of the tour.
He underwent surgery in Sydney yesterday on a torn cartilage. It was
initially thought that he had damaged the cruciate ligament in his knee.
At 21, Edwards is the youngest member of the touring party. He is the only
specialist five-eighth in the squad and made his international debut against
France in 1985.