Reveller slammed as Anzac Cup goes walkabout

By Jane Phare

The actions of a Kiwi reveller who stole the Anzac Cup in Brisbane early yesterday morning have been condemned by a New Zealand rugby league executive.

The coveted trophy is now back in Australian hands after being snatched at the Brisbane Holiday Inn, where the Australian Rugby League team were celebrating their thumping 50-12 victory over the Kiwis.

Three New Zealanders, all aged 25, gatecrashed the party earlier in the night and were asked to leave. They returned at 1.30am yesterday and one man ran through the fifth-floor room, snatching the silver trophy off a table before running down a fire escape.

Two men at the party gave chase but he escaped.

However, hotel staff apprehended the other two men in the lobby and called police. The two Kiwis persuaded their colleague to return to the hotel and escort police to where the trophy was hidden - in the awning of a city building.

Yesterday NZRL chairman Selwyn Bennett said he was "disgusted" at the theft. The trophy had been won "fair and square" by Australia. Both the win and the trophy should be respected.

"I'm pretty disgusted to think a New Zealander would do that. We'd hate the Australians to do it to us."

The cup, known as the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy, was donated in the mid 1990s by Mr Gerald Ryan, a past president of New Zealand Rugby League, in memory of a West Coast league player in the early part of the 20th century.

"These trophies are our heritage and donated in an Anzac cause.

"These blokes really need to think hard about their actions and they should be very repentant.

"It's bad enough losing, without them bringing us into disrepute."

When the trophy has been on New Zealand soil, team manager Peter "Mad Butcher" Leitch has displayed the Anzac Cup and the Tri-Series trophy at his shops throughout the country without any problems.

"It's no good having a trophy and locking it away. You've got to show it to people."

Yesterday a relieved Kangaroos team co-ordinator, John Coates, was waiting for his baggage at Sydney Airport with the trophy "in my hot little hand".

The trophy was undamaged and would be taken to the ARL headquarters in Sydney for safekeeping, he said.

Queensland police said yesterday no charges have been laid and no complaint received about the theft.

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