By PETER JESSUP
New Zealand and Australia have met 99 times on a league pitch, and the NZRL is celebrating today's match as the centenary of contests between the countries.
The Aussies aren't. For reasons best known to themselves they do not count World Cup games in their list of official tests, nor do they include games played between the countries under Super League in 1997. This is the 87th test, they reckon.
The NZRL says the international record between the countries is 99 played, with the Kiwis winning 25, losing 73 and drawing 1.
The ARL says the record is 86 played, with 61 wins to Australia, 24 to New Zealand and the one draw - 14-all in Auckland in 1993.
The two countries have clashed 11 times at the World Cup and the Kangaroos have won every encounter.
New Zealand's best efforts were in 1995 - when the team coached by Frank Endacott and captained by Matthew Ridge held the Kangaroos to 20-20 at fulltime in Huddersfield before losing 30-20 in overtime - and a 9-5 loss by Roy Christian's Kiwis in Paris in 1972.
There were two Super League tests. Australia won 34-22 in Sydney and the Kiwis won 30-12 in Auckland.
The Kiwis last won a series against Australia in 1953, and the playing strip for the centenary test will commemorate that of the winners from 50 years ago.
In 1953 the series went 25-5 to the Kiwis in Christchurch, 12-11 to the home team in Wellington and 18-16 to the Kangaroos at Carlaw Park in Auckland.
Included in the squad for that series was fullback Des White, who still holds records for points-scoring - 467 in all games in the Kiwi jersey, including 132 in tests from 63 goals and two tries.
His record of 70 points against Australia also still stands, as does his 22 in a test against the Kangaroos, from 11 goals when the Kiwis won 49-25 in Brisbane to square the series in 1952. The final game and the series were also won.
White said the reason for the good results was preparation.
The squad had been on a tour to England, their skills were well-honed and their combinations were working well.
That is a far cry from today's one-off after-thoughts, squashed into an over-crowded season.
The first contest between the two sides was initiated by New Zealand, when a group of rugby players led by 1905 All Black tourist to England George Smith and promising player Albert Baskiville rebelled against the New Zealand Rugby Union and organised a professional tour to England.
The news broke in the Herald on May 13, 1907. By August, the rebel "All Blacks", many of whom had toured Australia in 1905 playing rugby, were playing exhibition matches of "the northern game" in Sydney to earn the money to pay their passage to England.
Baskiville and the team were mightily impressed by one of the Australian players, Dally Messenger, and invited him to join them.
The squad of 28 played a gruelling schedule of 38 games between September 1907 and April 1908, one in Ceylon on the way over and the remainder against English and Welsh club sides, with one "test" against an English selection and another against Wales.
They won 22, drew one, and lost 14, including the England game, 16-14 at Wigan, and the Welsh, 9-8 at Aberdare.
In May, on the way home, they played a further eight games in Brisbane and Sydney, where they were dubbed the All Golds by the local press because they were the first professional footballers from downunder.
They played the inaugural test series against Australia, winning the first 11-10 in Sydney, the second 24-12 in Brisbane and losing the third 14-9 in Sydney.
The players were paid £29 a week while away, that and all expenses covered by gate takings of £10,000. Back home they were given £300 each.
Several players were offered professional contracts in the north of England and returned to play out their careers there.
Among them was Lance Todd, who went to Wigan for £400 a year plus the captaincy. His exploits were such that he still has a trophy named after him, for man of the match in the Challenge Cup final.
In recent times victory over Australia has been rare. The Kiwis last won in 1999, taking the opening Tri-Nations encounter 24-22 before losing the final 22-20 at Ericsson Stadium.
In 1998 they won 22-16 at North Harbour Stadium, despite prop John Lomax going off injured in the third minute with a neck tear.
Today's venue has been good to the Kiwis two times out of three. They were beaten 36-16 there at the end of 1998 but won the only other test played there, under Super League, 30-12.
Howie Tamati's team drew 14-14 in 1993.
Bob Bailey's team won 24-8 at Olympic Park Melbourne in 1991, when Gary Freeman came from reserve grade at Balmain and Clayton Friend from Manukau to engineer a famous upset.
They crashed badly in tests two and three. Bailey ruefully observed that Great Britain coach Mal Reilly won one test over the Kangaroos and was knighted; he won one and was sacked.
In 1987 Hugh McGahan captained Tank Gordon's team to a 13-6 win at Brisbane. In 1985 Graham Lowe's team won at Auckland, 18-0, after a 10-6 loss also in Auckland and a 26-20 defeat in Brisbane.
They had also won 19-12 at Brisbane in 1983 with Graeme West as captain.
Then it's all the way back to 1971 for the next win, on a muddy Carlaw Park. The Kiwis led by prop Henry Tatana took a 14-0 halftime lead and a 24-3 win.
By PETER JESSUP