Meninga: I wish I could have had a second season with Saints

Australia head coach Mal Meninga with captain Cameron Smith (left )during the Ladbrokes Four Nations Press Conference at Anfield, Liverpool. Meninga would regularly attend football games at Anfield during his spell with St Helens
Australia head coach Mal Meninga with captain Cameron Smith (left )during the Ladbrokes Four Nations Press Conference at Anfield, Liverpool. Meninga would regularly attend football games at Anfield during his spell with St Helens

The sight of 40,000 fans packed into Anfield for the Four Nations Final between Australia and New Zealand on Sunday was nothing new to Kangaroos’ head coach Mal Meninga.

The legendary centre had seen it all before in the 1984-85 season when he wowed supporters in the North of England wearing the famous red vee Saints’ shirt.

Mal Meninga during his fondly-remembered season with St Helens

Mal Meninga during his fondly-remembered season with St Helens

He also found time during his stay at Knowsley Road to motor down the East Lancashire Road to watch Liverpool at the peak of their power and was able to identify closely with one of their stars of the time, Craig Johnston - born in South Africa to Australian parents - who won league, cup and European Cup medals during his glittering Anfield career which stretched from 1981 to 1988.

Might Mal, who plundered 28 tries in 31 games as success-starved Saints won both the Lancashire up and the end-of-season Premiership Final, said: “I loved my time living and playing at St Helens.

“I used to come down to Anfield, which is just down the road, quite a lot when I wasn’t playing, to watch Liverpool play.

“Craig Johnston, the Aussie midfielder, was there and carving it up and we became good friends. I also became friendly with other players at the club and it is something which I will remember for the rest of my days.

He added: “Liverpool were the leading lights at the time and some of their players also watched me play at Knowsley Road.

“Unfortunately, I broke my arm and couldn’t go back and play for a second season, but it’s a time I look back fondly upon.”