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Newcastle Herald

Out of this world

Author: Peter Sterling
Date: 23/04/1998
Words: 1155
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 3
THE representative careers of two out-of-this-world footballers appear to be over after the omission of Andrew Ettingshausen and Allan Langer from Australia's Anzac Test team to play New Zealand in Auckland tomorrow night.

I'm sure `ET' and `Alf' might beg to differ, but the selectors' decision last Sunday night brings to an end two illustrious careers at representative level.

Having a look back over their statistics this week, I noticed some amazing parallels between them, despite the fact they have played for different clubs and States.

I played against Andrew Ettingshausen when he joined Cronulla as a schoolboy, and Allan Langer came in much the same way.

They both seemed like inexperienced guys with stars in their eyes, so their longevity and the way they have developed their careers, with so many similarities, is quite remarkable.

ET joined Cronulla in 1983 and Alf has been at Brisbane since 1988 but they started their State of Origin careers in the same game in 1987.

Since then, Langer has gone on to play 27 times for Queensland and scored seven tries.

ET has played 25 games for NSW and also managed seven tries. They began their Test careers in the same year (1988).

ET's Australian debut was the 100th Test against Great Britain at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Langer's first Test was against Papua New Guinea (PNG) later that same year and I felt a bit of an affinity with both those blokes from that time.

I also played in that 100th Test, obviously the first time I played Test football with ET, and I opened the door for Allan Langer to play against Papua New Guinea because I hurt my shoulder in the Test series against Great Britain and Alf came into the side. He was involved in a record score against PNG down at Wagga Wagga, coincidentally my old home town.

Both guys went on Kangaroo tours together in 1990 and 1994.

ET's Test record stands at 25 matches and Alf has appeared in 19.

Since 1983, ET has played 279 first-grade games for Cronulla and scored an unbelievable 144 tries and Langer has played 210 top-grade matches since 1988 for the Broncos and crossed for 91 tries.

So there really are some uncanny coincidences with their careers but the great thing about them is that when they came into representative football they had a great influence early on.

Langer was basically thrown into State of Origin football as this little bloke from Ipswich who no-one knew anything about, except for a rap from Tom Raudonikis.

But he was dominant from the word go.

Until this year, ET has been a fixture of any representative side, which is quite remarkable considering he plays in such a competitive position.

I have always admired how he has modified his career over the years, going from a flashy schoolboy with tremendous pace to probably the best defensive centre in the game.

Although he is still pretty quick, he has developed the defensive side of his game fairly late in his career, as did another champion Cronulla centre before him in Steve Rogers.

Langer has been an all-round player since day one and to be able to come in and take away some of the limelight from the likes of Wally Lewis showed he was a champion in the making. MY first involvement with Alf was in 1987 when we went across to Long Beach in California to play that fourth State of Origin game to promote the league in America, something that's obviously worked tremendously well.

But it was a great trip and a few of us from NSW and Queensland stayed on for a tour. I remember walking into the Dunes casino at Las Vegas and there at the end of a blackjack table was Allan Langer, so immediately I knew we'd get on pretty well. On a personal level, I don't think I've ever heard a bad word said about either of them within the football fraternity and that speaks volumes for the kind of blokes they are.

They've both remained very humble and very much the same sort of down-to-earth blokes, despite the trappings of wealth and success that they have earned.

ET likes nothing more than to head off fishing and Alf, as we know, likes a punt and going to the races. The pair mix so well in all walks of life.

As I said earlier, they might not think their representative careers are over but with selectors handing the torch to Andrew Johns, that's probably a sign that it's going to be very tough for Alf to get back in.

Now that Johns has been given his chance, I'm sure he's going to make it his own for a long while to come. I commend the selectors in not picking Langer in the 17 if he wasn't going to be the starting halfback because he is a specialist halfback, not a bench player.

In the case of ET, I think he's probably paid the penalty a little bit for Cronulla not going that well this year, but perhaps his involvement is dropping off a bit as well and the young guns are starting to come through.

* Test selectors came up with a few differences to the team I named last week, particularly centre Terry Hill and second-rower Brad Thorn.

I think Hill is probably a little bit fortunate in that realistically, one very, very good game forced his way into the side.

In Terry's defence was the fact that he was against Steve Renouf last Friday night and did outplay him. There was also some doubt with Paul McGregor after he was reported and they opted not to go for ET.

Thorn played well in the Super League representative games last year but there was a wealth of back-row talent and I thought they might have gone for Gorden Tallis or Jason Smith.

The one thing we do know about Thorn is that he is the kind of back-rower who coach Bob Fulton likes: big, tall and a real handful for opposition defences. DESPITE the fact New Zealand won the last Super League Test, I expect Australia will win well.

This is a quality side and it's been four years since we've had a unified team like this one, so you can bet your life these blokes will have the Kangaroo tour next year and two further Tests against the Kiwis in October in the back of their minds.

They will want to cement their positions in the side and there's no better time for them to do it.

It's a real shame that Kiwi second-rower Stephen Kearney will miss the game through suspension because he's the sort of player who would get a start in an Australian side if he was eligible.

Realistically, if New Zealand is going to be a force in the Test, we've got to see a resurgence in Matthew Ridge's game.

He's struggled in many ways since leaving Manly but he's the kind of guy that at his best could kick five or six goals and be involved in a couple of tries. But in saying all that, I can't see anything but a comfortable win to Australia.

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