It will come as no surprise to readers of this column
that the Kangaroos fullback, Anthony Minichiello, was
the standout player in the vital win over Great Britain early
yesterday morning. Chosen as my representative “player of the year” in
2004, Minichiello has again been the standout test
player in 2005 and he is now rightly being classed among the great fullbacks of
the last 30 years.

The Kangaroos despatched a very disappointing
Great
Britain side from the Tri-Nations final next
weekend with comparative ease, winning 26-14. The outcome was never really in
doubt, with the Poms missing their injured fullback and half
back. But there were no excuses, as the Kangaroos were just
too good, and none better than Minichiello.

His performance in this game, and during the series, has
won special praise from the Kangaroos’ Assistant Coach, Craig Bellamy, who has
described Minichiello as the best fullback in the last
20 years – that puts him up there will the likes of Gary Belcher, Gary Jack
and even Darren Lockyer.

It is a bit much to compare him with Graeme Langlands, but who knows where his standing might end given
that he’s only 25, so probably has six or seven years at the top of the game ahead
of him.

There were other great efforts, such as those of Matt
Cooper who has become a try scoring machine, and the Broncos’ Brent Tate, whose
continued good form after a career-threatening neck injury remains an
inspiration.

So next Sunday, it’s a Kangaroos v Kiwis final
at Elland
Road.
And one suspects the locals in the crowd will be
cheering for the referee. If the referee is chosen on “form” then the
game will be controlled by Australia’s Tim Mander, who is unquestionably the best in the game.

The Kiwis will be hard to beat, having received a wake
up call in their heavy loss to the Poms a week ago. And one of the first players they will choose will be
Nigel Vagana, who served his outrageous one match
“suspension” in the “test” against France on Saturday. The continued defence of his “penalty” by the game’s
international “administrators” is outrageous.

But there is at least one official who can hold his head
high on this issue – the National Rugby League’s Match Review Committee
Chairman, Greg McCallum. To his considerable credit, McCallum has assessed the
sickening hit on the Great
Britain half back, Paul Deacon, by Vagana – rating the offence as a grade four reckless
tackle, which would have attracted a TEN week suspension in the NRL
premiership.

It will be interesting to see what the Australian Rugby
League officials do about this matter when the International Board meets
tomorrow. Not much, I suspect. The penalties imposed in international matches are an
embarrassment to the game – just as the ARL is an
embarrassment as well.

The sooner the administration of the game in
Australia comes under one structure,
run by the National Rugby League, the better!