Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
31 December 2015
WHILE IN SYDNEY IN 2015 TO SEE THE PRE-WORLD CUP BLEDLISLOE CUP GAME I WAS REMINDED WHILE THERE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BLEDISLOE CUP STORY
IT EPITOMISES WHAT THE RUGBY SPIRIT OF THE TWO COUNTRIES STANDS FOR;
THE STORY CONCERNS THE 1951 ALL BLACK TEAM WHO WERE ON A KIND OF FORGOTTEN TOUR OF AUSTRALIA….
THOSE WERE THE AMATEUR DAYS WITH VERY LITTLE OR NO MONEY IN POST-WAR NEW ZEALAND, AND THE LUCKY PLAYERS IN THE NEW ZEALAND TEAM RECEIVED JUST GIFTS AND PARCELS TO WISH THEM WELL FROM THEIR CLUBS.……
* BEFORE LEAVING ON THE TOUR THE CANTERBURY UNION PRESENTED ITS TOURING ALL BLACKS WITH NEW SHAVING KITS….
* THE CENTRAL OTAGO RUGBY UNION PRESENTED ITS SOLE PLAYER TOMMY LYNCH WITH A WALLET. WITH HIS INITIALS IN GOLD LETTERING….
*AND THE AUCKLAND UNION PRESENTED ITS ALL BLACK PLAYERS WITH TRAVEL RUGS…TO PUT OVER THEIR KNEES TO COUNTER THE COLD OF THE FLYING BOAT FLIGHT OUT OF EVANS BAY IN WELLINGTON, TO SYDNEY.
IN THOSE YEARS..........IT WAS THE SAME FOR THE WALLABIES;
BEFORE THEIR FIRST POST-WAR TOUR OF GREAT BRITAIN THEIR PLAYERS WERE SENT A LETTER SAYING;
'* FOR THE UPCOMING 30-MATCH TOUR - YOU WILL BE ISSUED WITH ONE PLAYING GAME-DAY JERSEY TO PLAY IN...... ON NO ACCOUNT MUST YOU EXCHANGE YOUR JERSEY OR PART WITH IT IN ANY OTHER WAY.
'*PLEASE ALSO BRING YOU SOME WHITE SHORTS TO PLAY IN,
*A PAIR OF DARK SOCKS TO PLAY IN
* A TOWEL FOR YOUR POST-MATCH CLEANLINESS
*...AND SOME SOAP FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE....
THAT WAS THE WALLABY TEAM NICKNAMED THE 'CLEAN-SKINS' - THOUGH NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE TOWELS AND THE SOAP BUT BECAUSE IN THEIR FOUR INTERNATIONALS ON TOUR THEY NEVER HAD THEIR LINE CROSSED.....
BUT BACK TO THE STORY ABOUT THE 1951 ALL BLACKS.
THOSE ALL BLACKS WERE THE FIRST TEAM TO FLY TO THEIR TOUR FROM NEW ZEALAND.
THEY LEFT VIA FLYING BOAT FROM EVANS BAY IN WELLINGTON AND HAD TO FLY TO SYDNEY VIA LORD HOWE ISLAND....THAT WAS TO ALLOW THE LOW-FLYING PLANE TO REFUEL BEFORE FLYING ON TO AUSTRALIA.
WITH REGARDS TO THE GIFTS TO THE 1951 ALL BLACK PLAYERS MY FAVOURITE YARN IS ABOUT ONE OF THE DEBUT PLAYERS IN THAT TEAM
FROM THE BLUFF RUGBY CLUB, IN THE DEEP SOUTH OF NEW ZEALAND (OUR SOUTHERN MOST RUGBY CLUB)
HIS NAME WAS EDDIE ROBINSON.
THE CLUB WAS DOUBLY PLEASED WHEN ROBINSON PLAYED SO WELL ON TOUR HE WAS SELECTED TO MAKE HIS TEST DEBUT IN THE FIRST TEST IN
IT WAS THEN THE BLUFF CLUB REALISED THEY HAD NOT GIVEN EDDIE A DEPARTING GIFT BEFORE THE TOUR.
SO THEY DECIDED TO PAY EDDIE THEIR ULTIMATE TRIBUTE…..
ON THE THURSDAY BEFORE THE SATURDAY TEST IN SYDNEY, THEY PLACED TWO LARGE BUCKETS OF FRESH BLUFF OYSTERS ON THE OVERNIGHT RAILCAR TO CHRISTCHURCH.
ARRIVING ON THE FRIDAY, THE BUCKETS WERE THEN PUT ON THE OVERNIGHT FERRY TO WELLINGTON WHERE THEY WERE IMMEDIATELY TRANSPORTED TO THE EVANS BAY FLYING BOATS DOCK.
ON FRIDAY THE FLYING BOAT TOOK OFF FOR ITS 7-HOUR FLIGHT ACROSS THE TASMAN, THE JOURNEY EXTENDED OF COURSE FOR THE REFUELING AT LORD HOWE ISLAND….
THE FLYING BOATS FINALLY LANDED ON SYDNEY HARBOUR ON EARLY SATURDAY AFTERNOON….
THAT, OF COURSE, WAS TEST MATCH DAY
AFTER COMING THROUGH CUSTOMS THE BUCKETS WERE PUT IN A TAXI WHICH WAS DRIVEN ACROSS THE CITY, IN DRIVING RAIN, TO THE SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND….
THERE, THE BUCKETS WERE TAKEN INTO THE OLD GRANDSTAND AND PLACED OUTSIDE THE ALL BLACK TEAM’S DRESSING ROOM.
OUT ON THE FIELD EDDIE ROBINSON WAS HAVING THE GREATEST DAY OF HIS LIFE…HE WAS PLAYING A BLEDISLOE CUP TEST FOR HIS COUNTRY….!!
THE GAME WAS PLAYED IN A QUAGMIRE;…. IN HIS BOOK “WALLABY
GOLD” , THE WRITER PETER JENKINS SAYS THAT SOME OF THE ALL BLACKS TEAM MANAGEMENT HAD SAID BEFOREHAND THE GAME SHOULD
HAVE BEEN CALLED OFF.
BUT I DOUBT EDDIE ROBINSON WOULD HAVE WANTED THAT.
HE PLAYED AND IN THE MUD AND SLIME THE ALL BLACKS THRASHED THE WALLABIES - BY 8-POINTS-TO NIL!!
AND AS THE PLAYERS CAME UP THE TUNNEL AT THE END OF THE GAME
THERE WERE THE TWO BUCKETS ADDRESSED TO EDDIE ROBINSON….
THE BUCKETS WERE TAKEN INSIDE THE DRESSING ROOM, AND EDDIE OPENED THEM....
HE LOOKED INSIDE AND SAW THE SOUTHEN DELIGHTS; THE LUSH BEAUTIFUL OYSTERS FROM HIS HOME TOWN!
SO WHAT DID HE DO? OF COURSE HE POURED THE STILL-BEAUTIFULLY FRESH AND SUCCULENT CONTENTS RIGHT INTO THE BLEDISLOE CUP ITSELF!
THEN LARGE BOTTLES OF BEER WERE POURED IN OVER THE OYSTERS - AND THE MUDDIED ALL BLACKS, AND A BEAMING EDDIE
ROBINSON, CELEBRATED WITH A BEAUTIFUL, RICH, WINNING “BLEDISLOE CUP COCKTAIL”!!
On this day New Zealand did beat USA 34-3 in Marcoussis, France but other results saw the Black Fern's great run at the previous four Rugby World Cups come to an end.
New South Wales and Australia
25 internationals for Australia 1980–84
uth Wales and Australia
6 internationals for Australia 1982–88
New South Wales and Australia
4 internationals for Australia 1982–85
Three brilliant Australian aboriginal brothers who, in combination at either school, club, state or international level, dazzled and delighted rugby crowds with their backline interplay.
The Ella brothers came from a modest family of 12 children in La Perouse, Sydney. Glen and Mark were twins and Gary was 13 months younger. Mark was a flyhalf possessed of brilliant balance, speed and intuition; Glen, a fullback who sometimes played as a centre, and Gary, a long-striding runner, who was used mostly as centre and occasionally on the wing.
The brothers first made headlines as schoolboys. Their uncanny understanding of each other’s play brought suggestions of telepathic aboriginal powers – when viewing some of their tries and plays it was often hard to argue otherwise. From Matraville High in suburban Sydney, all three made the 1977–78 Australian Secondary Schools touring team which went on a nine-week tour of the United Kingdom, France, Japan and the Netherlands.
The team went unbeaten in 16 games. Australian writers were quick to point out that only the 1924–25 All Black ‘Invincible’ team had done as well on tour in Britain. The team also scored 110 tries on the tour (averaging nearly eight a game), and between them the Ella brothers scored a quarter of all the points.
Everywhere the team went the Ella brothers were high in curiosity value for the media. Nor did they let the reporters down. They became stars of the Australian rugby scene before they had even left school. It was inevitable that in time their talents would be utilised in the Wallabies.
Mark was the first to make the grade. After having shone for his club Randwick, Sydney and New South Wales, he toured to Argentina with the Wallabies in 1979 and thereafter became a regular and vital member of Australian test sides. He was made captain for the Wallabies tour to New Zealand in 1982, when aged only 23, and led the team until 1984 when a new coach, Alan Jones, preferred Andrew Slack. That did not deter Ella from playing brilliant rugby and on the 1984 tour of Britain, though seemingly at odds on a personal level with Jones, he was one of the team’s brightest stars. He became the first touring player in Britain to score a try in each of the home internationals, a feat he had also achieved on the schoolboys’ tour seven years earlier (though that team did not play Scotland).
Mark Ella retired at the age of 25, having played 25 internationals, amid rumours that he could no longer tolerate playing in teams coached by Alan Jones. He resisted many lucrative offers to play rugby league and settled into a life as a businessman, TV commentator and newspaper columnist. He returned to Sydney club rugby in 1989 and also played and coached in Italy.
Twin brother Glen and younger brother Gary also played for Randwick in Sydney and both joined Mark in the Wallabies for the 1981–82 tour of Britain. Injuries damaged both their chances of playing consistently on that tour and neither joined Mark in the international matches.
The trio’s best tour for their country was to New Zealand in 1982. Mark was captain and, along with David Campese, he was the team’s star player. Glen was an excellent fullback but could not force his way into the test team ahead of Roger Gould. Gary’s form was such that he made the first two tests at centre. Once again the brothers’ consummate passing and mutual understanding surprised opposition backlines and astonished the hard-to-please New Zealand crowds.
Surprisingly the three Ella brothers never played together in a test match. Gary retired with a knee injury in 1986 and Glen bowed out after being part of yet another Randwick championship winning team in 1987. he became a top coach, leading Australia on many seven aside trips as well as being assistant coach for the Wallabies. Gary returned to play one test against the All Blacks in 1988.
Former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer, who had coached the trio for Randwick and Australia, said ‘the influence of the Ella brothers on Australian rugby has been absolutely immeasurable.’ They were best summed up by the word that was coined by Australian journalists to describe their play – ‘Ellamagic!’
Piri Weepu played 71 tests for the All Blacks; how many times did he play for the full 80 minutes?