Mighty Mal Meninga steered Australia to the final of the Rugby League World Cup on what he will look on as a happy hunting ground - and who can blame him.
The Kangaroos’ head coach returned to Elland Road - the home of football club Leeds United - where in May 1985 he was a two-try key figure in the Saints’ side which lifted the Premiership title at the expense of Hull KR to add to their Lancashire Cup Final victory over Wigan earlier in the season.
Both will now be stored together in the 62-year-old’s memory bank but a date ar Old Trafford final next Saturday against Samoa is the number one priority after the Aussies edged out New Zealand 16-14 in a classic semi-final on Friday night.
The double defending champions’ boss said: “We haven’t had a match like that for a number of years and I felt that in my experience that was one of the best Test matches I’ve been involved in.
“I think we can be better because of that. We can learn from it and that’s what playing for your country produces. Games like that involve finding a little bit extra in the way you play, or in your effort levels to get that victory.”
The Kiwis’ head coach Michael Maguire bemoaned ‘a couple of moments’ that could have cost his side a historic victory and a place in the World Cup final.
The former Wigan Warriors head coach added: “I’m definitely proud of the players – it was one hell of an effort and it could have gone either way, and unfortunately it didn’t go our way.
“I really believe that we are closing the gap in a big way at this level and we need to play more to find the moments it takes to win it.
“It could have been a different story and I feel for my guys. You look at your players and know they deserve the opportunity to go again next week. I’m just really shattered for them.”