It WAS payback time for Billy Slater as he helped Australia regain their world crown five years on from experiencing his greatest humiliation.
The Melbourne Storm full-back’s careless offload, which gifted a crucial try to Benji Marshall, was the abiding memory of the Kangaroos’ shock 34-20 defeat to New Zealand in Brisbane in 2008.
Slater redeemed himself in spectacular fashion at Old Trafford with a brace of tries as normal service was resumed, with Australia cruising to a 34-2 World Cup final victory – the most one-sided in history, eclipsing their 40-12 win over the Kiwis in 2000.
The Kangaroos ran in five tries and man of the match Johnathan Thurston kicked seven goals from as many attempts but, more impressively, they kept their tryline intact for the fifth successive match.
Only England managed to score tries against Tim Sheens’ team, who achieved a feat that even eluded the 1982 Invincibles.
It was all something of an anti-climax as the curtain fell on the 14th and most successful World Cup in front of sell-out crowd of 74,468 – a new record for a rugby league international.
Perhaps New Zealand had expended all their energy on their emotional last-gasp semi-final victory over England for they were never in contention despite the urgings of the vast majority of the crowd.
Australia coach Tim Sheens voiced his pride at his team’s performance after their demolition job on the Kiwis. The one-sided nature of the match mattered little to Sheens, who was thrilled with his players’ efforts.
“I’m extremely proud,” he said. “We came over in front of a great crowd, I thought we performed really well. Our defence was great, our attitude was great.
“It’s a great privilege [to coach this side]. We came to win it but you don’t count anything in this game until the siren goes. But we’re very pleased.”
Thurston was instrumental in Australia’s success and believes the win was just reward for all their hard work. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s been a long six weeks but to win the World Cup with your best mates – it doesn’t get any better.
“We’ve been building towards it. That was our main focus, to be here on the last weekend of the World Cup and to improve each week. And that’s what I felt we’ve done. We kept improving, our defence was rock solid, it’s what we’ve built our game on and we’ve shown that today.
“We’ve worked so hard as a team. To win this World Cup doesn’t get any better. It’s going to be a big few days.”
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney had few complaints about the result, admitting the best team had won.
He said: “Australia’s performance today was outstanding. They were ruthless.
“For us to have an opportunity today, we needed a lot of things to go our way and none of it happened for us.
“But I just thought Australia’s performance was outstanding. They saved their very best of the tournament for this performance and we just couldn’t match them. They did everything right.
“We’re very disappointed but we have a young side, some great young talent coming through. It’s just a matter of learning from this experience for next time.”