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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 26/05/1988
Words: 706
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 55
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 saw.

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 the past.

His opinion is refreshing news, given the lop-sided contests in recent years.

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, only bigger."

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 Phil Ford.

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.

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