The Kangaroos delivered a rugby league master class to claim a 10th World Cup title with a 34-2 demolition of New Zealand in Saturday’s final at Old Trafford.
In front of a record international crowd of 74,468, Australia avenged their shock defeat to the Kiwis in the 2008 final, scoring five tries and not conceding one for a fifth straight game.
In capturing a first World Cup title in 13 years, Australia’s triumph ensured a host of rugby league greats crowned their careers with an achievement that had so far eluded them.
And it was Australia’s biggest stars who shone brightest.
Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston collected his fourth man-of-the-match award of the tournament while fullback Billy Slater capped a remarkable return from injury with a brilliant two-try performance.
Winger Brett Morris also had a double while Jarryd Hayne’s freakish skills were again on display and skipper Cameron Smith, Paul Gallen and Matt Scott led the charge.
“It’s a dream come true,” Thurston said.
“It’s been a long six weeks but to win a World Cup with your best mates, it doesn’t get any better.
“We’ve been building towards this (performance). Our main focus was to be here in the last weekend of the World Cup and to improve each week and we’ve done that.”
New Zealand’s newly-crowned world player of the year Sonny Bill Williams tried hard but was kept relatively quiet as the Kangaroos kept an incredible defensive record intact.
They finished the tournament having gone almost seven straight hours without conceding a four-pointer.
“What a fantastic campaign we’ve had,” Smith told his teammates before hoisting the trophy.
“We started off a bit shaky in the first game in Cardiff but we’ve certainly turned things around.”
Slater’s return, just two weeks after hurting his knee in the quarter-final win over the United States, meant Greg Inglis shifted back into the centres and forced an unlucky Brent Tate out of Tim Sheens’ side.
The Kiwis suffered a huge blow early with in-form winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck lasting only seven minutes before he hobbled off with the leg problem that had him in doubt for most of the week.
Australia suffered a scare when Hayne copped heavy knock but he was able to continue.
Slater, whose horror pass in the 2008 decider helped the Kiwis claim a famous win, continued his eventful tournament with the opening try in the 19th minute.
He latched on to a brilliant Thurston kick and scored next to the posts.
The Kangaroos looked to have scored with an equally spectacular play in the 26th minute after the impressive Cooper Cronk collected an incredible kick from Hayne.
But video referee Ashley Klein controversially ruled no try, ruling Andrew Fifita had made illegal late contact with Issac Luke.
Cronk wouldn’t have wait long for his try though crossing again in the 30th minute following a great backline move and a Darius Boyd grubber kick.
Thurston converted to break Mick Cronin’s 31-year-old of 309 points for the Kangaroos, and the playmaker added another penalty to give a Australia a 16-2 lead at the break.
Slater’s dream night continued just moments after halftime, crossing out wide a minute after the break.
Morris finished off some outstanding work from Hayne but there was a scare when he collided heavily with an advertising sign behind the short in-goal area.
New Zealand’s Manu Vatuvei did the same a short time later, just a day after the Kangaroos had voiced their safety concerns about the ground.
Hayne was again the creator as he set up Morris second in the 72nd minute.
“I just think Australia’s performance today was nothing short of outstanding,” Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said.
“They gave us a real lesson.”