Born: 17 February, 1976 – Christchurch
Test record: 5 Tests (2000) – 4 tries (16 points)
Tours: 2000 World Cup
A blockbusting centre early in his professional career, Christchurch-born Tonie Carroll became better known as one of the code’s most feared defenders at lock during an occupancy in the Queensland side that spanned ten seasons, while he owns the distinction of being the only State of Origin player to represent both New Zealand and Australia at Test level.
Moving to Australia as a six-year-old with his Māori dad and Kiwi mum, Carroll was an impressive junior, representing Queenlsand Under-17s and Australian Schoolboys from Beenleigh in 1993. He was nurtured through the grades at Brisbane and played for Queensland Under-19s in 1995, before making his first-grade debut for the Broncos in 1996.
Predominantly a backrower during his junior career, Carroll was utilised as a three-quarter or interchange player in his early seasons of first grade, and was called into Queensland’s 1997 Super League Tri-Series side at centre after just 16 premiership appearances. The robust ball-runner’s barnstorming try on debut helped Queensland to a 26-12 win over New Zealand and a spot in the final, where he crossed for another four-pointer as the Maroons went down to NSW in a 104-minute classic. Carroll came off the bench in the Broncos’ 26-8 defeat of Cronulla in the Super League Grand Final later that season.
The 22-year-old was selected as an interchange in Queensland’s squad for the 1998 Origin series opener, scoring the winning try in the dying seconds. He was one of Brisbane’s best in the 38-12 Grand Final defeat of Canterbury, charging over for a crucial try and making several powerful busts – many pundits believed he should have won the Clive Churchill Medal.
Carroll played all six Origins for Queensland in 1999-2000, before featuring in the centres in the Broncos’ Grand Final win over the Sydney Roosters in the latter year. His decision to link with Leeds ruled him ineligible for Australia’s World Cup squad at the end of the year, so he accepted selection in the New Zealand team (after rejecting the Kiwis’ overtures for an Anzac Test call-up earlier in the season).
Used in the centres by coach Frank Endacott, Carroll played in all five of the Kiwis’ matches at the tournament and scored four tries – including a double on debut against Lebanon and a touchdown in the 40-12 loss to Australia in the final. His Super League move was an immediate success, crossing for 22 tries in 24 games for the Rhinos in 2001, before returning to Brisbane at the end of 2002.
Carroll finally made the move to lock for the Broncos in 2003 and was selected in the No.13 in Queensland’s line-up for the series-opener. Now regarded as one of the game’s most punishing defenders, the barrel-chested Carroll was the perfect candidate to act as a defensive ‘minder’ for his oft-targeted club and state captain and five-eighth Darren Lockyer.
He joined Lockyer in the Kangaroos’ Tri-Nations squad at the end of 2004, playing in all six of their victorious post-season campaign and becoming the first player since Bill Kelly in 1914 to represent both New Zealand and Australia. He made his last appearance in the green-and-gold against the Kiwis early in 2005, scoring a try in a 32-16 win at Suncorp Stadium.
The 30-year-old was integral to the Broncos’ 2006 premiership triumph, reaching career-best form during the club’s memorable finals charge. His representative swansong came in the 2007 interstate series, playing all three games in the second-row as Queensland retained the shield to extend his record to 18 Origins for the Maroons.
The powerhouse retired following Brisbane’s heartbreaking finals exit at the hands of Melbourne in 2008 but answered an SOS to help the club out of a slump during the second half of 2009. Carroll’s farewell NRL appearance – his 218th for the Broncos – was outside Lockyer at five-eighth in the preliminary final defeat to the Storm after injury had ruled out regular halfback Peter Wallace.
He was chosen among the Broncos’ greatest 20 players and at lock in a ‘People’s Choice XIII’ to mark the club’s 20th season in 2007.