Much to Crowe about
By MITCHELL DALE
MARK Carroll's Barbarians side proved the star attraction of the weekend's Orara Valley Axemen rugby league Sevens tournament, featuring legends of the game like Gorden Tallis, Cliff Lyons, Tim Brasher and Russell Crowe.
Hang on a second. Russell Crowe?
That's right, the Gladiator donned the boots and went into battle on Saturday night, making a surprise cameo appearance for the star-studded Barbarians against Armidale.
Crowe's appearance was only brief but the Academy Award winner more than held his own in esteemed company, setting up a try for former Test fullback Robbie O'Davis.
"It was the realisation of a childhood dream," Crowe said.
"Mark Carroll played the ball to Cliff Lyons, who passed it to Paul McGregor who gave it to me, I dummied and held it up for Robbie O'Davis who scored.
"That's not a bad line-up."
Crowe said it was only a last-minute decision to have a run with the Barbarians, who were captained by former Test frontrower and Crowe's bodyguard and trainer Mark Carroll.
"Spud (Carroll) said I had to kick-off and then get off," Crowe said.
"But the way the bounce of the ball went, I ended up staying on for about three or four minutes.
"It all started with Gorden Tallis saying in the papers that I would definitely be playing.
"We play a lot of touch at training and Spud is always bragging about what the two of us get up to when he runs off my hip.
"So a couple of the (Barbarians) players said 'prove it'.
"The scariest thing was that I was given the kick-off and I was wearing a pair of borrowed boots.
"No one would give me a ball to practise with, so (the kick-off) was the first time I had kicked with those boots.
"Luckily it went well."
Crowe, who personally underwrote the event, confirmed he would sponsor the Sevens again next year.
"It was a great family event with some wonderful skills shown on the field and some excited young kids who got to stand very close to their heroes," he said.
"The plan is to make it an annual event and we have already had interest from Japan and Tonga for next year as well as some murmurs from NRL clubs."
Orara Valley Axemen president Kevin Elks predicted even more big names will attend the tournament in 2006.
"(National Rugby League CEO) David Gallop said he would urge all NRL clubs to get involved next year and the North Sydney Old Boys and most of the Barbarians indicated they would be back," Elks said.
"South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson was here both days and was very supportive of the event.
"He has already said he will send a side up next year with six of their bigger names and six younger players."
Elks estimated around 10,000 footy fans went through the gates over the two days.