Andrew Slack: Hooper has team to seize the day

By Andrew Slack

Wallabies captain Andrew Slack celebrates the 22-9 Bledisloe Cup victory over the All Blacks at Eden Park in 1986.
Wallabies captain Andrew Slack celebrates the 22-9 Bledisloe Cup victory over the All Blacks at Eden Park in 1986.

The Wallabies outfit which beat the All Blacks at Eden Park 28 years ago had been a good team for a few years, but it was coming to the finishing line.

Players such as Nick Farr-Jones, Michael Lynagh, Simon Poidevin and David Campese still had a few triumphs ahead of them but, as a unit, fatigue and the ticking of the clock were having an effect.

My recollection now, and feeling at the time was that September 6, 1986, couldn't come quickly enough.

Michael Hooper's team might think August 23, 2014, can't come quickly enough either, but for an entirely different reason.

It's not because they are running out of puff, rather that they must sense the day could be the springboard to an era every bit as successful as their predecessors were enjoying three decades ago.

After the 1984 Grand Slam, the majority of the 1986 mob held on long enough to see their way through to the inaugural World Cup the following year.

But, by then, it was a tired old engine. Conversely, next year's RWC should see a Wallaby squad revving on all eight cylinders as they approach their prime. Emerging rather than submerging.

Talent, energy, enthusiasm and increasing dosages of killer instinct characterise a squad boasting the depth no Wallaby coach has had the luxury from which to choose since the John Eales era.

None of this guarantees anything tonight except, I believe, a fair dinkum contest. The longer this Wallaby drought goes on in Auckland, the more popular I become in the days leading up to any Eden Park Bledisloe Cup match.

Why did Australia win on that day, they ask. Outside of the fact we got 22 points and they got 9, I struggle to be able to give the definitive answer. Possibly because there isn't one.

You do feel obliged to try to find a reason, though, and the best I can do is that we defended well and we did what any successful team does - we fed off some magic moments.

The All Blacks had dominated the first half hour of play and while we were keeping them out, the wall was pretty close to collapsing. New Zealand hooker Hika Reid charged from about 3m out, and from my distant view in the midfield looked certain to score. Our prop Enrique Rodriguez thought differently and when he'd completed his tackle, Reid was about 10m from the glory line.

Just before that, Mark Hartill and Michael Lynagh had also made vital tackles, while soon after the Rodriguez hit, we won a scrum on the All Blacks feed, allowing the boys in gold to go to the halftime huddle feeling good about themselves.

Those five minutes was the momentum shift, I daresay, both teams felt.

Every closely contested test match, be they in 1898, 1986 or 2014 have those defining moments. Tonight will be no different.

The Wallabies have the attacking prowess and the defensive steel to beat anybody. It's about capitalising on those periods of play when you've earned a mental edge, and ensure the energy sticks with you at those times you're swimming against the tide.

Greg Cornelsen scored four tries in one afternoon against the All Blacks at Eden Park on a day we won 30-16. It can't be that hard.

Patience and belief are greater virtues than the venue.

Andrew Slack captained the last Wallaby team to win at Eden Park in 1986.

- NZ Herald

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