|INTRO | REVIEW BY SPORT | GALLERY | VOTE | LEGENDS REMEMBERED | 2002 CALENDAR|
By Phil Gordos
The British game suffered a predictable kick in the teeth towards the end of the year when Australia won yet another Ashes series.
But there were clear signs in the preceding months that rugby league in the northern hemisphere was experiencing something of a renaissance.
Leading the charge were St Helens, who pulled off a big shock at the start of the year by beating favourites Brisbane Broncos in the World Club Challenge.
The win was a major fillip for the game in this country and cemented Saints’ standing as the best team in Britain.
Ian Millward’s side further enhanced their reputation with victory over Bradford in the Challenge Cup final.
But, with injuries to Sean Long and Paul Newlove severely weakening the Knowsley outfit, their quest for a third successive Super League title proved beyond them.
They were eventually beaten in the play-offs by Wigan, who had sacked Frank Endacott earlier in the year.
But it was the Bulls who finished top of the pile, crushing the Warriors in a one-sided Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Off the field, there were a number of significant changes.
A major structural revamp of the British game took place, designed to stimulate interest down the lower leagues.
And plans were also put in place to revitalise the sport on an international level.
Britain’s showing in the Ashes helped in that respect.
The hosts surprised Australia by winning the first Test in Huddersfield, thanks to some resolute defending and inspirational play from Paul Sculthorpe.
But the world champions responded to the challenge, taking the next two games to deny Britain their first Ashes win in 31 years.
Victory was tarnished by the news that Aussie coach Chris Anderson had suffered a heart attack, but his subsequent recovery ensured the year did not end under a cloud.