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January 1: Ponga chooses league; Kangaroos break Ashes duck

On this day, Australia win their first Ashes trophy, the Kangaroos account for France in their opening clash and Kalyn Ponga commits to rugby league.


The Kangaroos win the Ashes for the first time. Captained by halfback Chris McKivat, the tourists remain undefeated in the three-Test series and secure the Ashes with a remarkable 33-8 victory in the third Test at Birmingham’s Villa Park.


Australia account for France 35-6 at Stade Buffalo in Paris in the first Test  between the two countries.


Wayne Bennett was born in Allora. Bennett was a talented winger who represented Queensland and Australia in the 1970s before moving into coaching where he is recognised as one of the best of all time.

He started in the Brisbane premiership before joining Canberra as co-coach alongside Don Furner in 1987, the year the Raiders made their first grand final. Bennett switched to Brisbane the following season and took the Broncos to premiership glory in 1992. 

Wayne Bennett with Gorden Tallis after the 1998 grand final.
Wayne Bennett with Gorden Tallis after the 1998 grand final. ©NRL Photos

They repeated the dose the next year as well as the split Super League competition in 1997, the reunified NRL in 1998 and 2000, as well as 2006 when they beat Melbourne in the grand final.

Bennett controversially switched to St George Illawarra and took the joint-venture club to the 2010 title and after a three-year stint in Newcastle, he returned to Brisbane in 2015 and took them to their first grand final loss. He joined Souths after an acrimonious departure from Brisbane for the 2019 season. In 2021 he led the Bunnies all the way to the historic decider at Suncorp Stadium where they went down narrowly to Penrith in a tense struggle.

In 2023 the master coach will take the reins at the NRL's 17th franchise when the Dolphins join the competition.

At state and national level, Bennett also enjoyed great success with Queensland and Australia before taking the reins of the England and Great Britain teams in recent years.


Brendan Elliot was born in Brisbane. A handy utility back, he made his debut with the Roosters in 2014, he had two years in Newcastle from 2016, a season with the Titans in 2018 before switching to Manly.


The rugby league world is stunned when experienced Gold Coast forward David Woods is found dead at his Burleigh Heads apartment. There were no suspicious circumstances.

A journeyman prop who began his career with Western Suburbs, he also played for Newcastle and had two stints at Canberra before becoming a mainstay of the Seagulls' pack in 1994 and 1995.

Help is available 24/7 for anyone who has mental health issues by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14


Alf Richards, stalwart trainer of club and representative teams for almost 40 years, passes away on the Central Coast, aged 90.


Boom Queensland youngster Kalyn Ponga rejects five professional clubs across four sports to sign with North Queensland. The 15-year-old fullback was chosen in the Australian Schoolboys Under 15s merit team in 2012 and 2013.

Beware the sick sportsman: Kalyn Ponga edition


Canterbury CEO Raelene Castle is awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport and business in New Year Honours.


This article contains information from the official records of NRL historian David Middleton.     

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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