Rugby League: Powerful Aussie side reaching end of an era

By Michael Brown

Australia's Jarryd Hayne, left, here battling Manu Vatuvei, is among league's greatest players. Photo / Getty Images
Australia's Jarryd Hayne, left, here battling Manu Vatuvei, is among league's greatest players. Photo / Getty Images

Evaluating a team's place in history is difficult but the present Australian side must be among the best, so Kiwis five-eighth Kieran Foran says they can take some comfort from the fact their main rivals are coming to the end of an era.

Australia were relentless in their quest to regain the World Cup title they lost in 2008, beating the Kiwis 34-2 in Sunday morning's (NZT) final.

At the forefront of that victory were some of the greatest players to have played the game - Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith along with Paul Gallen and Jarryd Hayne.

For a large number, given seven of the squad are over 30 and another six are 28 or 29, it will be their last World Cup campaign.

In comparison, only Frank Pritchard is over 30 in the Kiwis side, two are 28 and 10 are 24 or under.

Foran admits there is some comfort in the fact Australia's side for the next World Cup will look very different.

"I have spoken with the boys about that," the 23-year-old said. "In the next few years they will lose quite a few of their boys. The positive side for us is Steve has been rebuilding this team for the last few years and we are all reasonably young. It's learning curves like this that will hold us in good stead in a couple of years' time.

"We definitely left no stone unturned. We prepared well. We knew it was going to take an almighty effort to topple this Australian side. We knew they were going to be hungry but we were just as hungry.

"We were outplayed. They didn't put a foot wrong. Every single player of theirs, one through to 17, played really well."

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The NZRL have set the ambitious target of becoming the dominant nation in league but that is still some way off.

Changes to eligibility rules around State of Origin will help - players now need to be resident in Australia before they turn 13 - and the NZRL are also looking to put more resources into the 16-18 age group as well as keeping tabs on youngsters in Australia eligible to play for the Kiwis.

"I think they are on the right track," Kiwis assistant coach Ivan Cleary said. "I'm not sure what else they can do in a hurry. It's not going to happen overnight. Australia have been the dominant team for 30 years."

- APNZ

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