FLASHBACK: October 2008


On October 26, 2008 I covered the Australia v New Zealand first round Rugby League World Cup match at the Sydney Football Stadium.

My memories are not so much of the Trans-Tasman clash, but more so surround the curtain raiser between the Indigenous Dream Team and the Maori.

When I arrived at the stadium, to cover the double header for ‘The Courier-Mail’, there were thousands waiting outside for the gates to open. Most were indigenous.

They wanted to see the likes of Rhys Wesser, Jamal Idris, Jamie Soward, Preston Campbell, Carl Webb and George Rose, do battle with a Maori side, which included James Tamou, Jordan Rapana, Chase Stanley and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

No-one who got there early was disappointed. The pre-match display itself, was worth the price of admission, with the traditional war cry of the Maori more than matched by an indigenous war cry.

The teams played for a replica of the OT Cordial Punch Trophy, that was last contested between Australian and Maori teams back in 1909.

The Indigenous side won 34-26, with Soward urging administrators to include separate Indigenous and Maori sides in future World Cups, as part of the tournament proper, not as curtain raiser sideshows.

I can’t agree with that, although a precedent was set with a Maori side competing in the 2000 World Cup. (They had a win over Scotland in Glasgow, but lost to Samoa, in Workington; and Ireland, in Dublin.

The World Cup, in my view, should not be open to countries within countries, if you get my drift.

In the MAIN match, back in 2008, Australia belted New Zealand 30-6, with winger, Israel Folau scoring two tries, and Australian halfback, Johnathan Thurston declared man of the match.

Other results in the late October opening to the tournament were: England 32 d Papua New Guinea 22 in Townsville; France 36 d Scotland 18 in Canberra; Tonga 22 d Ireland 13 at Parramatta; Samoa 20 d Tonga 12 at Penrith (Tonga had to back-up three days after a match against Ireland).

The day after the Trans-Tasman Test I attended the Aussies ‘recovery’ session at Maroubra, and that night covered the Ireland v Tonga game at Parramatta Stadium. The Irish put up a great show, and there were a lot of people there dressed in green, many of them, no doubt, Australians with Irish heritage.

Before the month was out I learned of the death of Tom Hogan and Harry Robison.

Hogan was the rugby league writer at The Daily News, when I began my journalism cadetship at Murwillumbah, in January 1971. He had to cover games in which I played, the poor man. He also wrote a book on the history of rugby league on the Tweed.

I remember him coming into the editorial office in Murwillumbah, to write his stories, long hand, with three paragraphs to each page. It was a style which did not please our night sub-editor, Jack Kay.

Jack loved the hockey correspondent, Barrie Smith, because his notes were typed.

Tom also brought his kids with at times, and they ran riot. I think one was P J Hogan, who went on to write and direct the hit movie, ‘Muriel’s Wedding’. Tom was controversial later in life, as a Tweed Shire Councilor, but he was always good to me, and that’s all you can do. Take people as they treat you.

Robison was 95, and, at the time of his passing, the oldest Kangaroo. He was residing at Fairhaven, Maryborough, Queensland when he died. Robison did not play a Test, but proudly represented his country in a host of games on the Kangaroo tour of Britain and France in  1937-38. He was selected from the Toowoomba Newtown club.

Photo: Johnathan Thurston.

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