Much is being made of the expected contrast in playing styles of the
Great Britain and Australian teams-one of flair versus athleticism and low
But when you look closely, the Lions may not be that different from Bob
Fulton's Australians-and that applies all the way from coach Malcolm Reilly down
to their preparation and aspects of their game which they have stressed on tour
After his side had comfortably beaten a Canberra Reserve Grade and
Presidents Cup combination 24-12 at Bruce Stadium on Saturday night, Reilly was
asked whether he thought his team had played equally well in both halves.
This was a loaded question because the Lions had lost the second half 6-4
to the Raiderettes, although any mug punter could see the Lions had simply
became lazy after the break and coasted home.
"To be fair, I'm going to have to watch the video to do a proper analysis
of it," Reilly replied seriously, sounding just like an earnest premiership
coach. His answer said volumes about the Australianisation of British rugby
league, and supported prop Lee Crook's assertion that this is undoubtedly the
best-prepared Lions team to tour Down Under.
Reilly, Great Britain's first-ever full-time coach, spoke like your
typical Australian supercoach, in a soft measured tone, complete with solemn
Note his priorities when he gave an analysis of his team's performance: "I
was pleased with the ball control, it was better than it has been in the
past... tackling once again was reasonably good, we worked in that department
... the urgency in the play-the-ball and around the ruck area will be improved,
it's got to be improved. I think our kicking game can improve considerably, and
we've got to be a bit more clinical in finishing - some of the finishing left a
bit to be desired."
Ball control, tackling, urgency in the play-the-ball, clinical
finishing?This could have been NSW coach Phil Gould or Australian coach Bob
Never mind the British flair. As Great Britain work themselves into shape
for Friday's Test against Australia, the emphasis has been on getting ball
control, defence and discipline right.
"When we were in Papua New Guinea and maybe Townsville our ball control
was our main worry," tour vice-captain and five-eighth Garry Schofield said of
Great Britain's two opening games. "But we showed tonight that if we hold the
ball, our defence is tight and we take our chances, then we're not a bad
Halfback Andy Gregory, who strained a groin but is likely to play on
Friday, said: "I thought the defence was really good, and in attack what had
been missing in the last couple of games started showing through today."
Although a couple of ineffective head-high tackles were attempted by the
British early in the match, this was not a portent of what the Australians can
expect on Friday, because the Lions quickly settled down, playing disciplined
and solid football that impressed many.
Even Canberra coach Tim Sheens said: "They showed some good talent and
plenty of toughness, and some of the skills from around their ruck area were
Against the Raiders, Great Britain were without tour captain Ellery Hanley
and stars such as Joe Lydon, Shaun Edwards and Lee Crooks.
But the backline - which included centres Paul Newlove and Paul Loughlin,
fullback Graham Steadman and halves Schofield and Gregory - were close to the
expected Test selections. They were impressive, particularly Steadman, who was
safe under pressure.
GREAT BRITAIN 24 (A Platt 2, A Hunt, P Eastwood, P Newlove tries; G
Steadman, P Loughlin goals) bt CANBERRA 12 (J Croker, M Spinks tries; R Stuart,
A Friend goals) at Bruce Stadium. Crowd: 4,728. Referee: G McCallum.