Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Dual-international Tonie Carroll was in a class of his own

Over the years, 25 Australian and 20 New Zealand internationals have played for Leeds, but only one name is on both lists.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 9:24 am
Tonie Carroll diving in for a try for Leeds against Hull in May 2002. Picture: Steve Riding.

Tonie Carroll had already been capped by the Kiwis when he joined Leeds from Brisbane Broncos ahead of the 2001 season.

He spent two seasons on the books at Headingley before returning to his former club and, during his second spell with Brisbane, was called up to Australia’s Test side.

A former Australian Schoolboys player, he made his debut for Brisbane in 1996 and featured for the Kiwis in their World Cup final loss to Australia four years later.

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Tonie Carroll in action for Australia against Great Britain during the Tri Nations series in November 2004. Picture: Steve Riding.

That was one of six caps he earned for New Zealand, the country of his birth.

Carroll – a centre who could also play in the back-row – agreed to join Leeds before the 2000 tournament and went on to score 30 tries in 44 games for Rhinos, four of them in a 74-16 demolition of St Helens 20 years ago today.

He made his debut in a record 106-10 Challenge Cup victory at Swinton Lions when Leeds’ 18 tries were scored by 12 different players, but he was not among them.

Back at Brisbane, Carroll was selected for the Kangaroos’ 2004 Tri-Nations squad, becoming the first player in 90 years to feature for both New Zealand and Australia.

Tonie Carroll in action for New Zealand against Lebanon during the opening Rugby League World Cup match at Gloucester in October 2000. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

He played in all five of the Aussies’ games in that series, including the final at Elland Road.

His sixth and final full international appearance came in the following year’s Anzac Test against New Zealand.

Known as Tunza, Carroll was Rhinos’ top try scorer during his first season at Leeds, crossing 23 times in 28 games.

The thrashing of Saints was the second time he scored four in a match, following a home win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats two months earlier.

Tonie Carroll, left, and Francis Cummins sign autographs during a Leeds Rhinos meet-the-players' day in August 2002. Picture: Mark Bickerdike/JPIMedia.

The 76-point haul is still Rhinos’ record score against Saints, who had beaten Bradford Bulls in the Challenge Cup final at Twickenham six days earlier.

It was also a significant evening for Leeds’ captain Iestyn Harris, whose try and 11 goals took him past 2,000 career points.

Saints included 14 of their Cup-winning side and scored the opening try through Anthony Sullivan after only six minutes, but were then ripped apart, conceding 30 points in the final quarter.

Carroll, whose tries came in a 19-minute spell, and fellow centre, Keith Senior, tortured Saints’ defence.

Queensland's Tonie Carroll lifts the Harvey Norman State of Origin Shield after victory over New South Wales in July 2006. Picture: Adam Pretty/Getty Images.

Senior crossed twice, Francis Cummins scored a hat-trick and Karl Pratt, Andy Hay and Chev Walker also touched down in front of a crowd of more than 15,000. For Leeds, it was sweet revenge for two years earlier when they went to Saints the week after winning the Challenge Cup and were crushed 62-18.

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