Kurtley Beale with a young New Zealand fan. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley
Kurtley Beale with a young New Zealand fan. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

Wallabies to wipe memory of Bledis-woe

IT'S been so long since the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup that even the senior players have got foggy memories about exactly what happened.

There's not one member of the current squad that was old enough to legally buy booze when George Gregan was hoisting the trophy above his head back in 2002 so there's no hangovers to blame.

It's just that they were all just schoolboys at the time, some of them even in primary.

Kurtley Beale, one of the senior statesmen of the team with 74 caps under his belt, had just started high school at Sydney's St Joseph's College but now aged 29, he struggles to remember the game.

"I was probably studying. It was a long time ago," he said.

"It has been a while but look it's a great opportunity for us as a squad to take on that challenge."

Reece Hodge was just seven the last time the Wallabies won. He used to go to Tests with his family and remembers the 2001 match where Toutai Kefu scored the winning try right at the death but doesn't remember 2002, when Matthew Burke's late penalty sealed Australia's last win.

"I'm pretty sure I would have been out there," Hodge said. "I really enjoyed going out and watching the Wallabies, it was obviously a golden era back then."

The current Wallabies spent yesterday surrounded by kids at a Fan Day in Blacktown and can't help but look back on that period with a bit of envy.

Not only did Australia win the Bledisloe Cup five years in a row from 1998-2002, but they were also the toast of the nation, playing in from of packed houses, sometimes in excess of 100,000 people.

 

George Gregan was the last Wallabies skipper to hold Bledisloe Cup aloft.
George Gregan was the last Wallabies skipper to hold Bledisloe Cup aloft.

 

"We were just talking about it during the week, how big the crowds were and how much the support was behind Australia especially when we doing well," Hodge said.

"We want to be the ones to change that and to bring that kind of support and attitude back to Australian rugby.

"It's up to us, not the board and the executives to bring those crowds back so we're looking forward to that opportunity."

Before each series, the Wallabies trot out the same line that this could be the year. Their fans have heard it all before but maybe 2018 could be the turning point after all.

Australia did beat New Zealand in the third and final Test last year and were unlucky not to win the second.

The first was a blowout after the Wallabies got off to a horrible start but Beale said it was the third match that gave Australia the belief this year could be different.

"It's certainly a great game to look back on," Beale said.

"No doubt we'll take a lot of confidence from that and learn from the little things that we didn't do well in those games, especially that series.

"It's a big focus to start well, I think we're well aware of that and we're going to make sure we do everything we can to do that."



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