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In defence of Alf

Author: Paul Carwley
Date: 19/04/1998
Words: 548
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 101
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."


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 Girdler

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

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