Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
4 December 2014
Close your eyes and think of the green lawns of Twickenham, or Eden Park, or Ellis Park - or anywhere in modern times where test rugby is played. You would NEVER see mud like this. All you see these days is serried lines of mown greenery.
But this picture shows the conditions where so many famous rugby games up until perhaps the 1970s or 80s were played in. If it rained regularly grounds became 'heavy' but tour matches still went ahead. Teams learned to play 'wet weather rugby' or 'mud bath rugby.'
This picture was taken at Rugby Park in Whangarei in 1956 when the touring Springboks played North Auckland. The game was a critical one; South Africa had lost to Waikato in their first tour game just four days earlier so having a second loss would have been a disaster for their tour hopes.
South Africa beat the Northerners by just 3-0 in probably the worst conditions ever seen in a major match in New Zealand. The ground is now part of Whangarei Boys High School and is in much better shape these days.
Thank goodness for the advancement in understanding turf culture!
[And who is the injured player in the picture from that far off dramatic day?
Your guess is as good as mine.]
Played at Sydney Cricket Ground on this day. NZ won 22-3. They were not called the All Blacks then - that title never came till the 1905-06 tour to UK.
New South Wales and Australia
63 internationals for Australia 1984–93
As captain of the superb Wallaby World Cup-winning team of 1991, Nick Farr-Jones became one of the best-known men of modern rugby. His authority as a player and captain was crowned when he received the cup at Twickenham from Queen Elizabeth II and held it high for the rugby world to see. For Farr-Jones the 12–6 win over England was a culmination of a long pursuit of success for him and Australian rugby. Looking back, it can be seen that his career was regularly signposted with success, and not just in 1991.
Two significant records tumbled for him in 1990. First, in his seventh season as the Wallaby halfback, he took over from the great John Hipwell as Australia’s most-capped player in that vital position. He also became Australia’s most-capped captain, the World Cup final being his 31st appearance as team leader. And he and his partner Michael Lynagh cruised past John Rutherford and Roy Laidlaw’s old record for most tests together for any country as a scrumhalf–flyhalf combination.
Nick Farr-Jones made his first tour to Fiji in 1984 and played his first test on Twickenham against England. He was an immediate success, and in combination with Mark Ella played a vital role in the Wallaby team that went on to win a Grand Slam over British countries. Two years later he helped Australia win the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand.
The elegant yet aggressive style of Farr-Jones marked him as one of the world’s most significant modern players. He was possessed of a slick pass (in the Australian scrumhalf tradition of men who had gonr before him; Cyril Burke, Des Connor, Ken Catchpole and John Hipwell), he was a fast and explosive runner, and had a wide tactical knowledge of the game (including the best ways to exploit the blindside). His strength and fitness, enthusiasm and popularity among his fellow players, not to mention his from-the-front style of captaincy made him one of Australia’s best of all time. Many critics also considered him, in his time, the world’s best halfback. Injury around Rugby World Cup time in 1987 restricted his appearances and performances in that series.
Farr-Jones took over the captaincy of Australia in 1988 and although Wallaby teams under his leadership lost a number of series and games, his own form did not diminish. He could count numerous successes as captain, including the World Cup final of course, plus beating England in Australia in two tests in 1988, and beating Scotland, France and New Zealand at least once on their home soil in a little over 18 months.
Nick Farr-Jones also made a tremendous contribution to Australian rugby by his personal example. He has always been a learned rugby thinker and an eloquent speaker. In the face of the enormous popularity of rugby league in Australia he has always represented his game with true style.
After his career as a player was over he also made a significant contribution as a TV commentator and in local politics and business.
What caused confusion for the TV reporters when the All Blacks 1987 Rugby World Cup team was announced on live TV in Whangarei, New Zealand?