As Australia try to find form for tonight’s Bledisloe Cup clash against New Zealand, former NRL and Wallabies legend Mat Rogers reflects on the night he thought he lost the match for his country.
The Wallabies take on New Zealand tonight at the MCG Melbourne, desperate to end their 21-year Bledisloe Cup drought.
Rogers was part of the last Australian team to win the coveted cup in 2022 when he was at the height of his powers.
But a dropped ball with a few minutes left on the clock when Australia were narrowly behind upset and motivated him greatly.
“With about 10 minutes to go, they were up by six points and I just dropped the ball,” Rogers told Stan Sport.
And I literally thought to myself: ‘I just lost the Bledisloe Cup’. I just remember having this clear thought in my head that I will do anything to win this game.
‘I scored right next to the post. I thought, ‘oh, (Matt) Burkey, he’ll knock this down and we’ll win the Bledisloe, straight as a dice. But oh no.
Wallaby great Matt Rogers scored the winning try in the last game Australia beat New Zealand in the Bledisloe Cup in 2002
All Blacks great Justin Marshall describes how a mindless bus ride to the game resulted in the Kiwis going on a high-speed and running rampage in Game 1 of the 2003 series.
Burke made up for that impressive miss that night by scoring the game-winning penalty kick to make it 16-14 for the Eddie Jones-coached Wallabies.
“For me, it was what dreams are made of,” Rogers said.
However, it would be the last time an Australian would drink from the holy cup.
Flash forward 21 years and New Zealand have dominated the Trans-Tasman clashes ever since.
The Kiwis view the Bledisloe Cup as second only to the Rugby World Cup. Nobody wants to be on a New Zealand team that hands it over to the Australians.
Mils Muliaina played for the All Blacks that night and in that series pointed out how deeply that feeling runs through New Zealand players.
It’s probably due to fear more than anything else. The All Blacks expectation is that you have to win every game,” he said at the time.
‘We’ve had it for so long. No one wants to be on that team that brings it back.
And to us rugby players, the beer tastes great. That’s part of the real special reason, but also the pain and pain that goes along with it…
New Zealand’s period of dominance that followed the 2002 loss highlighted how deeply the Kiwis took it, Rogers said.
“The first game (in 2003) that year was not a good day for Australian rugby,” he said.
They wanted revenge.
Indeed, in Sydney, the All Blacks were supreme as Joe Rokocoko scored three tries in a 50-21 wrecking job that was a record at the time.
Rogers said that that night’s hammering in 2003 “was one of the most demoralizing nights of my life” as the Kiwis were now one win away from recapturing the Cup as they all headed to Eden Park.
It’s probably one of the toughest things I’ve been through on a rugby pitch. It’s quite a tough thing to handle,” the former Cronulla NRL great who switched to rugby said of that 2003 series loss.
The All Blacks won that second game 21-17, the start of a dynasty Australia is yet to break.
Marshall in action for the All Blacks will call this year’s game on South African television
In a close physical encounter, Doug Howlett scored twice in New Zealand’s victory and the All Blacks have not released their iron grip on the Cup since.
“So now it’s been 21 years since we lifted that trophy and I know that every Wallaby that has come out has put their heart and soul into trying to get that trophy back,” Rogers said.
In an intriguing footnote that probably won’t be repeated, and the Wallabies certainly hope it won’t, the Kiwis prepared for that stunning 50-21 win in 2003 with a strange and tense pregame ritual.
All Blacks star Justin Marshall, who will call tonight’s game for South Africa’s SuperSport television channel, recalls how everyone in the team, players and officials became extremely tense in the moments leading up to the game.
“I vividly remember the determination on our side,” Marshall told Stan Sport.
‘What people probably don’t realize is that our bus broke down and we only showed up with 35 minutes to go. So all the refs panicked and said ‘well we have to delay the game’.
‘And you know what? We said, ‘no shit, we really want to play, cover it up.
Australia will play New Zealand in the first match of the Bledisloe Cup tonight at the MCG. Watch all Test and World Cup matches, ad-free, live and on demand at the home of rugby, Stan Sport