The fall of an empire was averted at Wembley Stadium yesterday when the
Australian Rugby League struck a blow at the heart of Super League.
Australia's 16-8 World Cup final victory over England ended the game's most
dramatic season on record, as Kangaroo captain Brad Fittler accepted the
tournament trophy from Prince Edward in front of 65,000 fans.
The victory was one of great significance for the ARL because it went into
the tournament as a lone warrior against nine Super League-aligned nations and
without the services of some of its best players, who had switched camps.
The Australians produced their best football of the tournament and the home
side its worst, suffering stage fright on what could have been a gala opening
for a new era in the game in England.
England's Rugby Football League will announce its Super League plans on 6
November, but, according to coach Phil Larder, the English camp instead took the
opportunity to ``commit suicide".
``I am disappointed; I think an international team that makes as many
mistakes as ours, and gives away as many penalties as we did in a World Cup
final, has committed suicide," Larder said.
Fittler spoke of relief rather than joy after the match.
``There's been an enormous amount of pressure on us; it's been building up
since the Test series against New Zealand, so at the moment, I feel more relief
After the match, Australian coach Bob Fulton was straight on the telephone to
ARL chief executive John Quayle in Sydney to report the result.
Fulton said later it was the best victory he had been associated with as the
national coach. ``We've been through some Ashes- deciding games and the 1992
World Cup, but I'd like to suggest that was our best victory in my seven years
The victory was a tribute to Fulton because he pulled together a team of
players who looked as though they had never set eyes on each other after a
dismal performance in the tournament opener that England won 20-16.
The Australians learnt from that experience but also devised, and indirectly
delivered, yesterday's knockout blow about three hours before kick-off.
Fulton called on the two remaining survivors of the 1992 final to speak - Tim
Brasher and Fittler brought the team into focus, and the ARL's kingdom was
Man of the match Andrew Johns said: ``Freddie (Fittler) and Tim told us how
much 1992 meant to them, and it hit home then that this would be one of the
biggest things I'd do in my life. It really got me focused."