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The Sydney Morning Herald

TOAST TO TEAM THEY LEFT BEHIND

Author: DAVID HADFIELD
Date: 10/06/1988
Words: 608
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 65
The trouble with the Great Britain Test team to play Australia this afternoon is that their alibi is already prepared and neatly filed away, ready for future use.

Whenever members of the tour party clink together their glasses of orange juice - abstemious bunch - the toast should be "Absent Friends".

Tour management have not laboured the point so far, but the sad fact is that half our first-choice Test side is missing today.

Steve Hampson is a fullback whose form this season puts him right in the Jack and Belcher bracket, but he is still nursing a broken arm.

Joe Lydon and Des Drummond - back to his best after his unimpressive stint with Wests two years ago - would have been valuable for their pace and Test experience. But they both took matters into their own hands when they became embroiled in the worsening spiral of crowd misbehaviour in Britain.

The English League dislikes accusations from spectators that they have been assaulted by players, and it has made examples of Lydon and Drummond.

Shaun Edwards would have been a pivotal ball-distributor and a maker of damaging breaks from Andy Gregory's passes, but he seems doomed always to break down before he can play in Australia.

Lee Crooks would have - hopefully - blended skill and aggression in the right proportions to trouble Australia up front, but he is still short of condition.

Perhaps worst of all is the case of Andy Goodway, who chose to stay at home at the last minute to "open a restaurant", a prospect that strikes anyone who knows Goodway as quite hilarious.

Many believe that his professed reason is good old Anglo-Saxon code for having a good idea of what was on the menu in Australia, and not fancying it one bit.

The absence of all these outstanding players means that several of today's side are being asked to fill unfamiliar roles.

Paul Loughlin is a centre with St Helens, although he has played fullback as a junior. His form in that position on tour has been decidedly mixed.

David Hulme is the halfback at Widnes, although he sometimes moves to five-eighth.

Paul Dixon has looked one of the more forceful English forwards so far, although he has had little experience at prop. Coach Malcolm Reilly is confident he can do well there.

But that confidence is based on a pet theory that blind-side is the easiest position on the park and that almost anyone can slot in there.

On the other side, perhaps it's complacency, perhaps it's interstate politics, or more likely a potent brew of the two, but the Australian selectors have produced a team which, from a British point of view, could be much, much worse.

A team seriously geared to giving of the hardest possible time should have genuine wingers to exploit the dubious defensive qualities of the English flankers.

There should also be something resembling a ball-handler in the pack, and Benny Elias should be there to give Great Britain nightmares at dummy-half.

And leaving out proven Pom-maulers like Noel Cleal and Gene Miles gives Great Britain a psychological boost.

 
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