World Cup Wednesdays: History maker Carroll helps Kiwis to World Cup Final

Australia's Adam Macdougall halts the progress of New Zealand's Tonie Carroll.

Each Wednesday in the build up the 2021 Rugby League World Cups, we will have a special feature as we build up to the biggest ever World Cup in the game’s history looking at those who helped create the legacy and who will be aiming to make their own history this Autumn.

One of the great joys of a World Cup is the chance to see players from around the globe playing in our own backyard especially those who may be coming to play for your club the following season. In our latest edition, we look back to 2000 and a man who would later become part of Rugby League history as an international for both New Zealand and Australia.

By appearing for Australia in the 2004 Four Nations’ tournament, Tonie Carroll joined an elite group founded by Dally Messenger.

Born in Christchurch, and having pulled on the Kiwi shirt at the 2000 World Cup – scoring four tries in five games for Frank Endacott’s men, including in the Old Trafford final against the Kangaroos – he became the first player for 90 years, since Bill Kelly in 1914, to represent both Anzac nations.

Growing up in Brisbane, he played for the Australian Schoolboys in 1993, making his first grade debut for the Broncos at centre three years later. He came off the bench the following year as part of their SL Grand Final winning side and was at loose forward when they took the inaugural NRL title in ’98 – the year he made the first of 18 State of Origin appearances for Queensland.

He was back at centre in 2000 when he won his third ring. Midway through that season, Leeds Rhinos announced that they have captured Carroll on a two year contract. For Rhinos fans, Carroll’s form for the Kiwis was a highlight in a generally disappointing World Cup for the home nations. Carroll had turned down previous enquiries from his country of birth but, having been overlooked by the Australian selectors, he put his hand up to play for New Zealand.

He crossed for two tries in the Kiwis opening game of the 2000 World Cup, a comfortable 64-0 win over Lebanon and a sodden Kingsholm in Gloucester and added another try in the 58-18 win over joint hosts Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Rotated to the bench for New Zealand’s Quarter Final clash with France at Castleford, the man he replaced at Headingley Richie Blackmore started the game, he returned to the starting line up to face England at Bolton in the semi final. Rhinos fans had a chance to see a glimpse of the future with Carroll opposite Keith Senior and the New Zealand star gained bragging rights as the visitors progressed to the Old Trafford final with a comfortable 49-6 thrashing.

The World Cup Final proved to be a bridge too far for New Zealand with Australia eventually pulling clear. The Kangaroos led 12-0 at half time before Lesley Vainikolo hit back for Frank Endacott’s side. Australia pulled clear again before Carroll powered his way over from long range to cut the gap to 18-12 midway through the second half but the Kangaroos ran out 40-12 victors. That would prove to be Carroll’s final game for New Zealand too.

A significant capture by the Rhinos for the subsequent campaign, Carroll was the club’s leading try scorer with 23 in 28 games, including four in a home game with Wakefield, earning him a place in the Super League Dream Team. Beset by injuries the following season, he returned to Brisbane in 2003 and made his return to State of Origin that season.

The following year, his coach Wayne Bennett made history by selecting him for the tour to Great Britain and selecting Carroll to play in all five Tests on tour, including the stunning 44-4 win over Great Britain in the Tri Nations Final at Elland Road. Carroll last played for Australia in the 32-16 win over New Zealand in April 2005 but remained a regular member of the Queensland State of origin team. In 2006 he was lock forward in the Broncos forward pack that powered their way to NRL Grand Final victory. He initially retired at the end of the 2008 season but made a surprise recall in 2009 to help out a Broncos injury crisis before finally hanging up his boots.

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