The Wallabies secret Bledisloe weapon we haven’t used in years

By Sam Ryan

It was late August, 1999.

I was six years old and my local rugby club had organised a bus to take a bunch of us into Homebush to watch the Wallabies take on the All Blacks in a Bledisloe Cup match at the newly opened Olympic Stadium.

Most of our Dads had started on the lemonades earlier in the afternoon and probably didn’t remember at this stage how many of their children came to the rugby that night.

But we didn’t care. It was like nothing any of us had ever experienced before.

107,000 fans packed into Stadium Australia and if we weren’t sitting in the last row, we were very, very close.

The atmosphere was incredible and shortly after the players entered the stadium and sung the national anthems, the Kiwis performed the Haka.

At that point, most of us kids would have gone home happy but it got even better.

As the Australian players removed their tracksuits, a tactic created by coach Rod Macqueen to calm the nerves of his players after the Haka, a strange looking man with a guitar walked onto the field.

He started singing Waltzing Matilda and 107,000 of us sung with him.

Even the All Black fans joined in. It was incredible, an experience I’ll never forget.

And for the record, the Wallabies went on and won that night 28-7.

I’ve largely suffered as an Australian rugby fan ever since, particularly around Bledisloe time, but the terminal disease is something I’ve learnt to live with.

It does make you wonder though.

At a time when Rugby Australia is desperate to create unity in our game, would it be worth looking back at what worked when we truly were the best in the world, on and off the field.

I can’t tell you anything about that game, almost 20 years later, but I’ll never forget the pre game experience.

And most rugby nations still have something similar.

I’m not going to reference the debate around the Haka at the moment, but clearly it hasn’t hurt the All Blacks performance or their fan experience.

The Irish crowds were nothing short of brilliant when they came out in June and rugby in the Northern Hemisphere certainly has worked out how to put on an event.

So why not give John Williamson a call and see if he’s busy on Saturday night?

It certainly won’t hurt.

Because 20 years later, despite all the pain, I still can’t wait for the Bledisloe Cup.

And I really hope some young Australia rugby fans get the same experience this weekend.