HAS there been a more brutal, spiteful or violent rugby league rivalry than the war Paul Harragon and Mark Carroll waged on the field during the 1990s?

Their hatred for each other reached flash point in the 1997 grand final between Newcastle and Manly.

Every time these two gladiators took the field together, there was carnage.

As members of the 1994 Kangaroo Tour gathered in Brisbane for the 20th anniversary of the last "long tour" before the Four Nation series kicks off today, Harragon revealed how the hatred they shared had ultimately forged a great friendship.

The former Newcastle Knights great revealed NSW officials had forced him to room with Carroll during the 1995 State of Origin series despite his loud protests.

"It was like sleeping with the enemy," he laughed, recalling how he was forced to bunk in with his fiercest rival.

"I got to know him better and while we continued to be arch rivals, we also became great mates.

"We ring each other if something happens in our lives, that's the way sport should be. It was an honour to tussle with him."

Harragon openly admits in the early 1990s through to 1999 they "hated each other".

He said Carroll set the scene for their memorable 1997 grand final battle after smashing him in the opening minute when he was just a decoy runner.

"From that moment it was on," said Harragon.


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Their long-running feud featuring some of the biggest collisions of the modern game brought the best out of both men.

"I know the game has changed now and we're saying that style is not acceptable and I'm with that," he said.

"But at the end of the day, when you've got a couple of big blokes fighting each other, nobody gets hurt, we were ready for it and It was just a part of the game.

"I enjoyed it and I know Spud did too.

"I had to give it to him (Carroll), he never disappointed anyone, he was always ready and up for it."

Paul Harragon of the Blues goes to the blood bin during game three of the State Of Origin series between the Blues and Maroons in 1997.
Paul Harragon of the Blues goes to the blood bin during game three of the State Of Origin series between the Blues and Maroons in 1997.


Harragon said the running battle between English rivals Sam Burgess and James Graham in recent seasons reminded him of his skirmishes with Carroll.

"James Graham is a great competitor, he'd chew his own arm off to win and I respect him as much as I respect anyone.

"Sam is a once in a generation player when you have a player with all that size and aggression wound into together.

"You just want to play with those guys.

"I enjoyed watching them and that's what the game needs, the more of that the better."