Almanac Rugby League – Season 2020 germinates but also experiences a loss

The usual off-season shenanigans have had their day on the front pages over the summer – situation unfortunately normal! Pre-season trials are underway but have yet to give us any significant pointers to the competition ahead. But there were two matches of significance as well the loss of a former Kangaroos coach in recent days that deserve comment.


Sydney Roosters travelled to England to take on Super League champions St Helens in the World Club Challenge final at the interestingly named Totally Wicked Stadium. The Roosters were looking to take out back-to-back titles for the first time. Let’s just say that the game was played at a very willing level! The Saints had the early running as the Roosters looked rusty – hardly surprising – but the visitors managed to take an 8-6 lead into the break. The old rugby league adage that defence wins matches was never on better display in the second half. St Helens had all the ball, all the field position and all the running but all they ran into was a brick wall of Roosters defence. On the rare occasions they went forward, Sydney made it count with tries to Joey Manu (his second) and Luke Keary. Final score Sydney 20 – St Helens 12. Keary orchestrated just about every aspect of the Roosters’ game plan and looks set for another big year. Joey Manu and James Tedesco were constantly dangerous while Victor Radley and JWH were all guts and fearless determination up front. Jake Friend made a strong return after  his injury-plagued 2019 season. Given that Sydney took the field without captain Boyd Cordner, they can only get stronger leading into the NRL season.  A three-peat? Why not? Read more about the match and watch the highlights by clicking here.


Back in Australia, the Indigenous All Stars took on the Maori All Stars in front of 23,599 fans at the Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium. The underdog Maoris sprung an upset win after a high quality game that see-sawed throughout until Maori No 9 Brandon Smith took charge late with two bustling tries to lead his team to a 30-16 win. He was a deserved winner of the Preston Campbell Medal. Unfortunately, the main news coming out of the game revolved around potentially serious injuries to Tyrone Roberts (achilles), Josh Kerr (MCL) and Wade Graham (ankle).  Read more and watch highlights by clicking here.


In the women’s clash played earlier in the day, the Indigenous All Stars recorded a win over the Maori Ferns 10-4. In a hard fought clash, it was the individual skills of winger Nakia Davis-Welsh that turned the match and, fittingly, she scored the winning try midway through the second half.  Read more and watch match highlights by clicking here.


Don Furner Snr, a solid player, a great coach and a highly respected figure in the world of rugby league, passed away earlier this week after a long battle with illness. He was 87. No-one had a bad word to say about Furner – and that’s no mean feat in the cut-throat world of professional sport. Furner was a good enough player to earn Kangaroo selection for the 1956/57 tour before really making his name as a coach. He was the inaugural coach of the Canberra Raiders (1982-87) and then mentored Australia from 1986 to 1988, winning 13 out of 15 Tests. Read more about Don Furner by clicking here. Read a summary of his playing and coaching careers here.


With the 2020 season just a fortnight or so away, we’ll be back soon with a season preview.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at

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