The Bledisloe insult that backfired
IT'S the great Bledisloe Cup insult … being told the silverware is only in Australia for "promotion purposes" so certain is the trophy of returning to Kiwi clutches.
Forget the childish clown gag and spy-gate own goal by the All Blacks of recent years or the lightweight barbs in Perth this week before Saturday's sellout Test.
There can be nothing worse than being dismissed as having no hope on the field as the Kiwis did most infamously in 1979 before their visit to the Sydney Cricket Ground.
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A telegram from Auckland, informing Qantas of a prized cargo, summed up exactly what cocky Kiwis at large must have thought of the Wallabies of the day.
"One large box containing Bledisloe Cup … required for promotion purposes during All Blacks annihilation of Wallabies on Sat," read the telegram. " … Cup will return to NZ."
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The Kiwis were left red-faced because, 40 years on, skipper Mark Loane and his Wallabies can still rejoice at one of Australian rugby's most memorable triumphs.
That 12-6 victory at the SCG was all penalty goals and field goals yet it was flavoured with something far greater than tries against renowned All Blacks Graham Mourie, Andy Haden, Bruce Robertson and co.
"It was one of the first times we beat an All Black pack in forward drive and winning in that fashion is one of my fondest memories," Loane said.
The impatient modern Wallabies' fan whinges about an 18-year Bledisloe Cup drought.
In 1979, a crowd of 32,935 put the roar behind Australia's first Bledisloe Cup triumph in 30 years and the first Test win over the All Blacks in Australia since 1934.
The trophy's ad libbed lap of honour was led by Loane and Paul McLean as well as coach Dave Brockhoff, who had been a flanker in the 1949 success.
1979 HEROES RELIVE HOW IT FELT TO WIN THE CUP
"I'm sure 'Brock' must have torn a hamstring jumping the fence onto the SCG to get at the Bledisloe Cup," Loane said with a laugh.
"The police security must have thought he was some nefarious character from the crowd but he was too quick and was off on the victory lap."
Beating the All Blacks at their own game was the highlight of the colourful Brockhoff's coaching career.
"We were midgets in the lineout and outweighed yet we took on the All Blacks technically up front and climbed home," he said countless times before his death at 82 in 2011.
"Like two bull terriers with teeth on the jugular for 80 minutes … release your grip and you're dead."
To even put up the Bledisloe Cup in a one-off Test was unheard of and it's unlikely the All Blacks ever considered losing it for the first time in 30 years.
As All Black winger Stu Wilson said of the parading of the Bledisloe Cup in 1979, "until then we didn't even know we had the bloody thing".
It had been in the trophy cabinet with little fuss for that long.
It stung the Kiwis too because, for the first time, they were watching on TV just how much Lord Bledisloe's often-neglected silverware meant to the Wallabies and Aussie rugby fans.
In the same instant, they knew how much they wanted it back which is the refrain constantly from Kieran Read, who says he never wants to be the All Blacks captain who loses it.
It was no average All Blacks side in 1979 and the heroes for the Wallabies didn't come newer than debutants Peter Carson and Andy Stewart, both from Sydney's Northern Suburbs club.
"We had our diver for grenades in Andy Stewart. He forever dived for the ball and play exploded around him. Fabulous," back-row partner Loane enthused.
Flanker Stewart, in his trademark headgear, played fearlessly like a 1970s David Pocock at the rucks and mauls.
He grappled memorably, beside master mauler Tony Shaw and the more experienced heads of the pack, in a superb Test debut against Mourie's pack.
Teammates always joked that being an easy bleeder put prop Chris Handy in more newspaper photos than he deserved.
Handy never wiped off the blood either. It trickled red down his face that day as he kept annoying the towering Haden in the lineouts and scrummed hard against Kiwi strongman Gary Knight, a wrestling bronze medallist at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.
"We took away their space and we took their ball and I felt, as a Test pack, we had totally matured," Handy said.
"The Kiwis had downplayed our win in Auckland (30-16) the previous year with the line 'but it won't happen in Sydney' so it was extra sweet.
"Credit to Brock. He was crazy but rugby crazy with a total focus on winning for Australia.
"He'd tell us stories of 1949 and the back of the plane being so heavy it was nearly touching the water when the Bledisloe Cup was flown home from NZ.
"It had been 30 years so there was no keeping Brock off the SCG."
Halfback Carson pinged his long pass accurately to composed young flyhalf Tony Melrose, who controlled the game so well at just 19 and added an invaluable field goal.
They are still firm friends and "Carso" will head to Melrose's 60th birthday celebration next month.
"We gave it to them that day and it was one of the turning points in Australian rugby," said Carson, who souvenired one of the leather match balls.
He still has the old ball and it shares a proud place beside his gold Wallabies jersey and the No. 9 All Blacks jersey he swapped for that day with opponent Mark Donaldson.
Carson played just two Tests and won both against the All Blacks. Will Genia has played for a decade to claw just three wins from 25 Tests against the All Blacks of his era.
McLean, at fullback that day, knocked over three penalty goals and one inside pass after a diagonal run got centre Geoff Shaw within a stride of the tryline.
"We were shaking hands with the All Blacks after the Test and next thing 'Brock' is saying 'there it is, let's get hold of it'," Carson said.
Added McLean: "It sounded like a fun thing to do so off we went on the victory lap.
"It was so innocent and impromptu and I think the security guards came after us."
Fast forward to 2019 and Wallabies' fans need a starburst of hope and unexpected excitement in Perth just like the wonderful trailblazers of '79 provided.
"Brock" had waited so long to get his hands on Lord Bledisloe's trophy again that the euphoria was very much alive the following morning.
With his father, their breakfast of cornflakes was topped with whiskey rather milk.
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