Why Allan Langer has the greats in his corner
ALLAN Langer might not have the full backing of the Test selection panel, but
some of the greatest players and coaches of the modern era are pleading for his
retention as Australian halfback.
Former Test and Parramatta halfback Peter Sterling considers Langer to be the
greatest player of his time, and the player of the united competition.
"I still think Langer is the best player in the league," Sterling said.
"There is not much doubt he is getting to the end of his representative
career, and that means the wait for Andrew Johns is getting shorter and shorter.
"Johns is going to be there for a long, long time - but I don't think Langer
has played his way out of the side, and I don't think Johns has played his way
into the side despite his tremendous performances."
Langer's former Queensland and Australian teammate, Wally Lewis, said there
was no issue.
"I keep hearing Toovey mentioned. Honestly, his form hasn't been in the same
class," said Lewis.
There has been increasing talk that Langer could miss a place in the 17-man
squad altogether, with Newcastle's in-form Andrew Johns to be named halfback and
Manly's Toovey at hooker.
But the experts contacted by The Sun-Herald said the fact that Langer's spot
in the side was even in doubt highlighted a glaring problem the brilliant half
has faced throughout his career. That is, when it comes to representative
football, Langer has never received the recognition he deserved.
"I read somewhere recently that Alf probably won't get the recognition until
after he retires," said Broncos and Queensland coach Wayne Bennett. "I tend to
agree with that. Johns is a fine halfback but Alfie has certainly been playing
great football. I know he will never let anyone down."
Former Queensland half Mark Murray was even more glowing in his praise.
"He has been the most dominant player in recent years," Murray said. "One of
the things that has always amazed me is that he has never been an automatic
selection in the Australian team, as he should have been. But in the past 10
years he has been the most influential player in the game.
"They have thrown up Ricky Stuart, Geoff Toovey. Now it's Andrew Johns. Put
it this way, at the moment Brisbane are the competition favourites. If next week
you took Allan Langer out of their team, suddenly other teams would think they
had a chance."
Former NSW Origin and multiple premiership-winning club coach Jack Gibson was
another NSW body in Langer's corner.
"If you could put all the footballers on a shop shelf, and when you opened
the doors Allan Langer would be the first one gone," Gibson said. "Can you pick
two of him?"
Lewis said he would go one step further and name Langer not only as starting
halfback but as captain.
"I don't think he will be captain for whatever reason but I am a huge fan of
Alf being captain," Lewis said.
Canterbury great Steve Mortimer said it shouldn't even be an issue.
"Allan Langer - it's as simple as that," he said. "He is the best player in
the game of rugby league."
THE WAY THEY WERE
Australian league divided in 1997
Australia v Rest of the World - July 11, 1997
Fullback: Tim Brasher
Wingers: Mark Coyne, Robbie O'Davis Centres: Paul McGregor, Terry Hill
Wing: Robbie O'Davis
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 - November 16, 1997
Fullback: Darren Lockyer
Wingers: Ken Nagas, Wendell Sailor Centres: Andrew Ettingshausen, Ryan
Five-eighth: Laurie Daley (c)
Halfback: Craig Gower
Props: Brad Thorn, Jason Stevens
Hooker: Steve Walters Second-rowers: Gorden Tallis, Bradley Clyde
Lock: Darren Smith
Reserves: Matt Adamson, Robbie Kearns, Brett Kimmorley, Russell Richardson
Coach: John Lang