Rugby's greatest mystery remains unsolved and with the All Blacks effectively exonerated of bugging themselves this time last year, tension in the opening Bledisloe Cup clash of 2017 is going to be extreme.

A festering sore that was opened last year when the All Blacks found a listening device in the team room of their Sydney hotel is going to continue to poison the relationship between New Zealand and Australia for the foreseeable future.

The relationship may in fact never heal because now that the All Blacks security contractor Adrian Gard has been found not guilty of making up claims he found the bug and subsequently made false statements to the police, suspicion about who put it there and for what reason will only intensify.

Australia remain convinced that the New Zealand Rugby Union suspects them of planting the device. It is a source of genuine bitterness for the Wallabies and the finding of Downing Centre Local Court Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson on the eve of the first Bledisloe Cup test of 2017, that there was insufficient evidence to convict Gard, will keep alive the uncertainty of who was behind the planting of the bug.


The Australian Rugby Union were desperately hoping for Gard to be convicted so the case could be closed and the suspicion removed. Such an outcome would also have allowed them the opportunity to throw plenty back at New Zealand Rugby.

But that avenue has been closed and the first test will kick off tomorrow night with more questions than answers: with more ill-feeling and bad blood.

"It has taken twists and turns hasn't it," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen of the relationship between New Zealand and Australia. "At the end of the day New Zealand and Australia have done a lot of things together. It is a sort of big brother, little brother back yard game. Little brother doesn't like losing to big brother and big brother certainly doesn't like losing to little brother so that creates a tension.

"So when little brother appears to be winning more than he should be you probably get hacked off about it and it does create a little but of resentment I guess but I think the rivalry is good."

While the Australians will want the whole business to die a death and be forgotten about, New Zealand Rugby will be determined to still find an answer to what happened this time a year ago and why.

And without resolution, there has to be little hope of these two fierce rivals patching things up and returning their rivalry to a more respectful and healthy footing.

Spygate has broken trust on an unprecedented scale. There have been multiple incidents between the two sides over the last decade or so. There was the whole, never ending thing between Richie McCaw and Quade Cooper.

There was the refusal by the Wallabies to have a drink with the All Blacks after the second test in 2010 and then the prolonged celebrations of the former in Hong Kong when they won, breaking a 10-test losing streak.

There have been warnings from New Zealand to stop pinching players and in the last few years a relentless niggle has come into Bledisloe tests.

But all of this is the expected and typical product of an intense rivalry. Everything has remained within the parameters of acceptability. But the discovery of the listening device and the subsequent court case, has changed everything.

On discovering it, the All Blacks immediately felt their team environment had been violated. On hearing that the All Blacks had discovered it, the Wallabies immediately felt they were being accused.

One cheap bit of electronics had the effect of elevating the rivalry to new levels that were no longer underpinned by mutual respect and a sense of morality that would guide both parties to stay within the limits.

The arrival of the police into any relationship can do that. In the last year several of New Zealand Rugby's most prominent figures have been grilled by the New South Wales Police and none have much enjoyed the experience.

There was genuine shock and outrage that Gard was arrested and the depth of that emotion was highlighted when All Blacks captain Kieran Read gave evidence on Friday.

He wanted to give Gard a character reference essentially. "It was just as a mate I guess," he said. "It was something that I wanted to do so I have done my bit. They decided to put the court case this week so it was what I had to do."

Likewise the Australian Rugby Union were unhappy and shocked to find the same police force at their headquarters before the third Bledisloe Cup test last year.

But that's how it had to be because the discovery of the listening device, regardless of who was suspected of putting it there, potentially compromised the integrity of that first test.

It was the most serious breach of security in rugby history with dark and potentially dangerous possibilities attached. This wasn't akin to the underarm incident in 1981; this wasn't on the same page as Australians claiming Pavlova was theirs or New Zealand saying Russell Crowe wasn't theirs.

This had an unknown edge to it as the discovery of the bug opened the possibility that rugby had been targeted by organised crime. That possibility remains, but for now, the more immediate concern is the near certainty that a rivalry that has been cherished for more than a hundred years, may have been contaminated beyond salvation.