Tedesco and Meninga find the perfect formula for all-conquering Kangaroos

Australia captain James Tedesco celebrates after winning the men's Rugby League World Cup in Manchester, beating Samoa 30-10 (Getty Images for RLWC 2021)
Australia captain James Tedesco celebrates after winning the men's Rugby League World Cup in Manchester, beating Samoa 30-10 (Getty Images for RLWC 2021)

By James Toney at Old Trafford

Mal Meninga put his confidence in James Tedesco and was repaid in the only way he wanted with a Rugby League World Cup trophy.

Meninga's undiluted belief in the Roosters full-back is unstinting. When he named his travelling team of NRL all-stars he said only Tedesco was guaranteed a place on the team sheet.

Tedesco has won it all in the game, Premierships, Origins and Dally M medals, but this, Meninga told him, would trump them all and he wasn't wrong.

Australia were always favourites to win but was there any surer thing than Tedesco being judged best on ground in the final, running in two tries as he inspired the Kangaroos to their third straight World Cup success.

This 30-10 final win over Samoa at Old Trafford may have lacked the thrills and spills of their semi-final epic against New Zealand but that's just how Meninga likes it, his team having marched to the Paul Barrière Trophy scoring 52 tries and conceding just eight.

It's hard to think of a more dominant team on the world sporting stage and, ominously, they arguably played their best footy when briefly down to 12 men.

READ MORE: Five things we learned as Australia overcome Samoa for third straight men’s Rugby League World Cup title

READ MORE: Proud Paulo hails 'special' Samoan effort in final

"Teddy has led the side so well, his preparation has been excellent," said Meninga, who also floated the tantalising prospect of a Kangaroos Ashes series in the next two years.

"This is only the beginning for this team now and that's the really exciting thing. The expectation for our team is we win tournaments and we carry that with humility and respect. We know everyone else doesn't want to see us win but we accept that and get on with business.

"Samoa threw everything at us and we handled it really well. We were defensively outstanding again. I'm just very relieved, it's been a long journey and I'm just really happy with the end result for us.

"I'm excited for the players and the whole group, this is their moment. They've put in so much hard work for such a long period of time. It's been a tough and arduous year and to produce that effort, that's tremendous."

The moment Tedesco was appointed earlier this year, the conversation with Meninga was how to forge the team spirit needed for a long tour to the other side of the world.

International rugby league had been in hibernation during the pandemic and players who are normally sworn NRL enemies were pitched together in the ultimate sporting social experiment.

Complacent Kangaroos fans had etched their name on the trophy before the plane took off, superstar names were battling for one jersey and it's fair to say there was plenty that could have gone very wrong.

But Meninga and Tedesco worked as hard off the pitch as they did on it, Australian teams are not always happy travellers to this part of the world but this group played with a smile and a swagger. The coach, who toured England four times as a player, claims he'd never been part of a happier camp.

"That's the highlight of the career, captaining your country to win the World Cup. It just feels pretty surreal, winning out at Old Trafford," said Tedesco.

"We've got a really special group that have got along from the start. The last few years we've not been able to wear this jersey and it was burning inside to get it back on again."