Two Tongans and one Fijian in world league team
SYDNEY, Australia – December 5: 10.35pm (Newscom.au): AUSTRALIA may have claimed the spoils at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, but who made the team of the tournament?
These were the top players across the month, as picked by Sky Sports.
Among them were Tonga’s Jason Taumalolo and Fiji’s Viliame Kikau.
Mate Ma’a Tonga’s Sio Siua Taukieaho is also in the team.
Here is the World League team:
Fullback: Billy Slater (Australia)
The veteran Melbourne and Queensland favourite made a remarkable return to Test duty after overcoming major shoulder surgery and looked a class act as he became the most prolific tryscorer in World Cup history, breaking the record of fellow countryman Bob Fulton. England’s Gareth Widdop might have got the nod had he started the tournament at fullback.
Wing: Jermaine McGillvary (England)
The diminutive Huddersfield wing was arguably the biggest name on people’s lips throughout the World Cup, not only for his spectacular tries but more importantly for the 1,251 metres he ran in his six matches, compared to 1,055 from Valentine Holmes. He was short-listed for the Golden Boot award and singled out by eventual winner Cameron Smith as the biggest threat to the Kangaroos in the final.
Centre: Kallum Watkins (England)
By his own admission, the Leeds centre had largely failed to fulfil his potential on the international stage but he put that right in the World Cup with a series of impressive displays which showed him at his classy best. His partnership with Jermaine McGillvary proved so magnetic and fruitful that his Rhinos teammate Ryan Hall hardly got a look-in on the other wing.
Centre: Josh Dugan (Australia)
The St George Illawarra three-quarter was a handful for defences in all the Kangaroos matches and scored the clinching try in their opening win over England. He was also responsible for the defining moment of the final with his despairing ankle tap on Watkins that prevented England scoring an equalising try.
Wing: Valentine Holmes (Australia)
It was Valentine’s night in Darwin and Brisbane as the Cronulla wing scored a record-equalling five tries in the quarter-final against Lebanon before eclipsing that feat with six against Fiji a week later. Holmes was the tournament’s top tryscorer on 12 and looks sure to wear the Kangaroos No 5 jersey for years to come.
Stand-off: Mitchel Moses (Lebanon)
The Parramatta halfback went into the World Cup on the back of an outstanding season in the NRL and continued that form with Lebanon. He scored the all-important try in the Cedars’ crucial opening win over France and also caught the eye playing against Australia and England before leading their brave quarter-final effort against Tonga. At 23, he will be a key man for Lebanon in the 2021 World Cup in England.
Scrum-half: Cooper Cronk (Australia)
The Melbourne and Queensland captain rounded off a fairytale season by adding the World Cup to his club and state titles and was at the heart of the Kangaroos’ triumph. Even at 34, Smith managed to play the full 80 minutes of the final and was the difference between the teams as he effortlessly pulled the strings with all the time in the world.
Prop: James Graham (England)
The 33-year-old announced his retirement from representative football on Saturday but not before underlining his status as one of the greats of the modern game. England managed to apply the shackles at Suncorp Stadium but Cronk never has a bad game and was hugely influential in their impressive march to the final.
Prop: Sio Siua Taukieaho (Tonga)
The goalkicking Sydney Roosters forward went under the radar at the start of the World Cup after the arrival of high-profile defectors Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo but emerged from their shadows during the tournament and proved himself to be a world-class performer.
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Australia)
Australia’s captain Cameron Smith (L) and coach Mal Maninga with the Rugby League World Cup trophy
The former St Helens captain never seems to grow any older and he demonstrated his value to the England team with another series of courageous and combative performances. Immense in the final, he certainly did not deserve to be on the losing side.
Second row: Viliame Kikau (Fiji)
The giant Penrith forward caught the eye with his damaging runs that helped the Bati reach a third successive semi-final. He caused a scare when forced to stay behind in Wellington following their shock quarter-final win over New Zealand but gave his teammates a boost when joined up with them in Brisbane two days later after being issued with a temporary visa.
Second row: Elliott Whitehead (England)
The former Bradford and Catalans Dragons forward is clearly benefiting from his stint in the NRL and England were also the beneficiaries as he produced another prodigious 80-minute defensive stint in the final, taking his total number of tackles to 209, the highest in the World Cup.
Loose forward: Jason Taumalolo (Tonga)
The explosive former New Zealand international was the biggest name to throw in his lot with Tonga and he did not disappoint as he led them to a stunning win over New Zealand in the group stages and to the brink of victory against England in the semi-finals.
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