England’s Dewsbury-born trio of Alex Walmsley, Sam Burgess and Tom Burgess, will aim to upset the odds when they face Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final tomorrow morning.
Sam and brother Tom, along with Walmsley, have retained their places in Wayne Bennett’s 17-man squad after helping England make their first World Cup final in 22 years following a dramatic semi-final win over Tonga last weekend.
The Burgess brothers began their playing careers at Dewsbury Moor while Walmsley played for rivals Dewsbury Celtic, as well as professionally for Batley Bulldogs.
Walmsley is hoping that the trio will be able to make Dewsbury proud when they take to the field tomorrow morning.
“It’ll be nice to have a day to make the town proud, it’s a very proud moment and the pinnacle of my career so far,” said Walmsley.
“I’ve roomed with Sam and Tom on this tour and we’ve spoken about Dewsbury and the different names back there.
“We are all very proud of where we come from and it’s great to put the town on the map.
“We can’t be anything less than 100 per cent tomorrow, anything less won’t be good enough – it will be tough against Australia, they are number one for a reason.
“We have to complete high and it has to be spot-on for 80 minutes, so we can give a performance of high quality to really test them.
“We have to kick well, chase well but we know we can do it.”
Current Batley assistant coach Danny Maun, who played alongside Walmsley during his time at the Bulldogs, says that the prop’s journey is inspirational.
“I am made up for him, it is outstanding, to have come from Dewsbury Celtic and then to Batley and now he is in a World Cup final,” said Maun.
“I spoke to him this week saying how he had come from playing at Crow Nest Park to the World Cup final and he told me he couldn’t quite believe it himself.
“I think the people who run the game should look at kids like Alex who come out of academy systems.
“Alex developed quite late but for me he is one of the best forwards in the world right now.
“His journey should give everyone a bit of incentive to stick in there, he has done outstanding.
“I speak to Alex quite often and he was gutted when he missed that first Australia game and I told him not to worry as he would get them in the final.
“I just hope he goes on and wins it now.”
Former Bulldog Jermaine McGillvary opened the scoring in Saturday’s semi-final against Tonga to help put England 6-0 ahead at Mount Smart Stadium.
England battled their way to a 20-0 lead before they were given an al-mighty scare by a ferocious Tongan team, who scored 18 points in the final seven minutes, but England managed to hold on.
Dewsbury West Councillor Darren O’Donovan has said that the three Dewsbury-born players chosen for England tomorrow morning “represent everything that is great” about the town.
“I think it apt to acknowledge the achievements of Sam Burgess, Tom Burgess and Alex Walmsley as part of the England Rugby League team that have reached the Rugby League World Cup final in Australia,” said Coun O’Donovan.
“These lads represent everything that is great about Dewsbury and represent a sport that has a proud history and strong future in the town.”
Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson was the last player from Dewsbury to lift the World Cup trophy, when a draw in the 1972 final was enough for Great Britain to win the tournament ahead of Australia.
Stevo scored what proved to be the winning try and England’s current Dewsbury contingent will be hoping to write their names in the history books tomorrow morning.