1991 Trans-Tasman Test series

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The 1991 Trans-Tasman Test series was an international rugby league test series played in Australia between Australia and New Zealand. The series, which started on 3 July in Melbourne and finished on 31 July in Brisbane, consisted of three test matches, with the third test doubling as a 1989–1992 Rugby League World Cup tournament match. New Zealand did not play in any other matches while on tour.

Australia[edit]

The Australians, coached by Bob Fulton and captained by Mal Meninga, had come out of the successful 1990 Kangaroo Tour, while all players selected for the three Kiwi tests had recently participated in the 1991 State of Origin series, won by Queensland 2–1 over New South Wales. Queensland captain Wally Lewis made his return to the test team for the first test at Olympic Park, after missing most of 1990 and all that year's tests with a broken right forearm and later being controversially ruled out of the Kangaroo Tour by team doctor Nathan Gibbs. It would prove to be his final test in the Green and Gold, Lewis being one of four players dropped from the side after the 8–24 loss to the Kiwis (second row forward Bob Lindner, the player of the Kangaroo Tour, also missed the final two tests after breaking his leg in the game in Melbourne).

The series saw the start of the international careers of Canberra Raiders hooker Steve Walters, who beat out Kangaroo incumbent and NSW captain Benny Elias for first test hooking role, and wingers Willie Carne (Brisbane Broncos) and Rod Wishart (Illawarra Steelers), who made their debut in the second test in Sydney, with all three scoring a try on debut. Also making his Australian debut in Sydney was Eastern Suburbs front row forward Craig Salvatori, who played his only two career tests during the series. The series would be the last appearance in an Australian jumper of veteran test players Wally Lewis and Des Hasler as well as Penrith forward Mark Geyer. Lanky Broncos and Queensland fullback Paul Hauff made his only appearance in an Australian jumper after starring for Qld in the Origin series. It was to be his only test however, with Andrew Ettingshausen preferred for the final two tests.

New Zealand[edit]

The New Zealand test team was coached by Bob Bailey and captained by Balmain Tigers halfback Gary Freeman, who was actually playing Reserve Grade for the Tigers at the time. The Kiwis came into the series on the back of a two-test series win over France, and consisted of players playing in New Zealand, Australia and in the UK, while the Australian team consisted of players only from the Winfield Cup.

Goal kicking Wigan-based utility back Frano Botica, who had made his Kiwi debut in the first test against France, was the Kiwis fullback for the three tests (Australian coach Bob Fulton rated Botica as good as any fullback in the Winfield Cup). The only Kiwi on debut in Melbourne was Christchurch-born, South Sydney Rabbitohs winger Jason Williams, playing the first of 12 career tests.

The Kiwis were managed by Ray Haffenden. The squad for the tour included Frano Botica, Sam Panapa, Jarrod McCracken, Dave Watson, Richard Blackmore, Kelly Shelford, Gary Freeman, Peter Brown, Duane Mann, Brent Todd, Dean Lonergan, Emosi Koloto, Tawera Nikau, Clayton Friend, George Mann, Mike Patton. Gary Mercer, Jason Williams, Tony Kemp, Esene Faimalo and Kevin Iro.

The ex-rugby union players playing in the Winfield Cup, John Schuster (Newcastle), Matthew Ridge (Manly-Warringah), Daryl Halligan (North Sydney) and Kurt Sherlock (Eastern Suburbs), were unavailable due to a dispute between their respective clubs and the NZRL over compensation.[1] Despite the unavailability of Winfield Cup 'superboots' Ridge and Halligan, the Kiwis lost nothing in goal kicking due to the selection of Wigan 'superboot' Frano Botica.

With around-the-corner style kicker Botica doing the goal kicking for New Zealand, and Australia relying on the older style (and less accurate) toe-poke style of kicking employed by captain Mal Meninga, goal kicking was one area where the Kiwis were thought to have an advantage over the Australian's going into the series.

Trans-Tasman Tests[edit]

The first test of the 1991 series was also the first-ever rugby league test match to be played in Australia not held in either New South Wales or Queensland. New Zealand pulled off an upset 24–8 win in front of 26,900 fans in Melbourne. Australian second-row forward Bob Lindner broke his right leg during the second half of the game. Neither English referee John Holdsworth nor the touch judges saw NZ front rower Peter Brown deliberately knock the ball from Lindner's hands as he was lying on the ground in pain. Holdsworth ruled play-on, believing the Australian had simply lost the ball. The Kiwis then swept the ball out to the left, where winger Richie Blackmore beat a Dale Shearer tackle to score.[2] Champion pivot Wally Lewis played the last of his 34 tests for Australia as age and injuries were finally catching up with the 31-year-old 1986 Kangaroos captain. It was also the last of 19 tests for veteran Aussie prop forward Steve Roach, while fullback Paul Hauff played his only test match in the green and gold after the Kiwis exposed the tall (6' 6" (197 cm)) fullback's problem handling balls around his feet with constant grubber kicks while avoiding using the bomb as Hauff and wingers Dale Shearer and Andrew Ettingshausen (also noted fullbacks) were considered safe under the high ball. On debut, Canberra and Queensland hooker Steve Walters was one of Australia's best in a losing side, scoring his team's only try with a determined drive from dummy half midway through the first half.

Lewis, Hauff, and 16-test veteran Dale Shearer were widely touted never to play for Australia again after poor performances. Shearer missed two tackles on Kiwi winger Richie Blackmore in the second half; the first allowed him to make a 30 metre break down the touchline before passing to Jarrod McCracken for the Kiwis' first try, and later Shearer failed to stop Blackmore only 5 metres from his line, letting the winger in for NZ's second try.

3 July 1991
Australia 8 – 24 New Zealand
Tries:
Steve Walters
Goals:
Mal Meninga (2/3)
Tries:
Jarrod McCracken, Richie Blackmore
Clayton Friend, Tawera Nikau
Goals:
Frano Botica (4/6)
Olympic Park, Melbourne
Attendance: 26,900
Referee/s: John Holdsworth United Kingdom
Man of the Match: Jarrod McCracken New Zealand

AUSTRALIA: Paul Hauff, Andrew Ettingshausen, Mal Meninga (c), Chris Johns, Dale Shearer, Wally Lewis, Allan Langer, Steve Roach, Steve Walters, Martin Bella, Ian Roberts, Bob Lindner, Bradley Clyde. Rep: David Gillespie, John Cartwright.

NEW ZEALAND: Frano Botica, Jason Williams, Jarrod McCracken, Dave Watson, Richie Blackmore, Tony Kemp, Gary Freeman (c), Brent Todd, Duane Mann, Peter Brown, Emosi Koloto, Dean Lonergan, Tawera Nikau. Rep: Clayton Friend, George Mann, Gary Mercer, Mike Patton.


24 July 1991
Australia 44 - 0 New Zealand
Tries:
Laurie Daley, Willie Carne, Bradley Clyde
Mark Geyer, David Gillespie, Des Hasler
Rod Wishart
Goals:
Mal Meninga (6/8)
Goals:
Frano Botica (0/1)
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
Attendance: 34,911
Referee/s: John Holdsworth United Kingdom
Man of the Match: Bradley Clyde Australia

The Australians, with a new-look side including six new faces following the first test loss, ran in eight tries to nil to level the series at one all with a resounding 44-0 win. Illawarra Steelers winger Rod Wishart became the second player from the club to represent Australia after Queensland winger Alan McIndoe, and scored a try on debut. Wishart, like his coach Bob Fulton, was an Illawarra region junior where he played for Gerringong where he was coached by long serving Parramatta, NSW and Australian goal kicking centre Mick Cronin. Australia's other winger on debut was Brisbane Broncos 1990 Rookie of the Year Willie Carne, who also scored a try in a confident display. With Australia going into the match with two specialist wingers, Andrew Ettingshausen was moved from the wing to his preferred fullback spot for his first test in the position after playing nine of his previous ten tests on the flank. Recalled Australian five-eight Peter Jackson, and Kiwi centre Jarrod McCracken were both sent off in the first half for fighting following a high tackle on Wishart by Kiwi five-eighth Dave Watson. After scoring 24 points in the first test, New Zealand's only scoring opportunity in the game was a missed penalty goal by Frano Botica in the first half, Australia's defence remaining rock solid while their attack, led by Allan Langer, Laurie Daley and man of the match Bradley Clyde, ran riot.[3]

AUSTRALIA: Andrew Ettingshausen, Willie Carne, Mal Meninga (c), Laurie Daley, Rod Wishart, Peter Jackson, Allan Langer, Craig Salvatori, Steve Walters, Martin Bella, Mark Geyer, David Gillespie, Bradley Clyde. Rep: Chris Johns, Ian Roberts, John Cartwright, Des Hasler.

NEW ZEALAND: Frano Botica, Jason Williams, Jarrod McCracken, Kevin Iro, Richie Blackmore, Dave Watson, Gary Freeman (c), Brent Todd, Duane Mann, Peter Brown, Emosi Koloto, Dean Lonergan, Tawera Nikau. Rep: Clayton Friend, George Mann, Gary Mercer, Mike Patton.


The third and final match of the 1991 Trans-Tasman Test series, played at Brisbane's Lang Park, also doubled as a 1989–1992 Rugby League World Cup tournament match.

31 July 1991
Australia 40 - 12 New Zealand
Tries:
Willie Carne (2), Laurie Daley, Bradley Clyde
Andrew Ettingshausen, Steve Walters, Rod Wishart
Goals:
Mal Meninga (6/9)
Tries:
Jarrod McCracken, Richie Blackmore
Goals:
Frano Botica (2/2)
Lang Park, Brisbane
Attendance: 29,139
Referee/s: John Holdsworth United Kingdom
Man of the Match: Mark Geyer Australia

Carrying on from their 44–0 win in Sydney only a week before, the Australians, who went into the match with an unchanged lineup, ran in seven tries to two, defeating New Zealand 40–12 to win the World Cup points.[4]

Australian captain Mal Meninga broke the Australian test point-scoring record of Michael Cronin (201 points) with his second-half try. Meninga justified coach Bob Fulton's decision for his captain to be the team's goal kicker when he landed 14/20 for the series, despite the addition of goal-kicking winger Rod Wishart to the team from the second test. Wishart had kicked 33 of 43 goals (76.7%) for the Steelers in the 1991 Winfield Cup before making his test debut, while Meninga had kicked 34 of 60 goals (56.6%) for his side Canberra.

AUSTRALIA: Andrew Ettingshausen, Willie Carne, Mal Meninga (c), Laurie Daley, Rod Wishart, Peter Jackson, Allan Langer, Craig Salvatori, Steve Walters, Martin Bella, Mark Geyer, David Gillespie, Bradley Clyde. Rep: Chris Johns, Ian Roberts, John Cartwright, Des Hasler.

NEW ZEALAND: Frano Botica, Dave Watson, Jarrod McCracken, Kevin Iro, Richie Blackmore, Gary Freeman (c), Clayton Friend, Brent Todd, Duane Mann, Peter Brown, George Mann, Gary Mercer, Tawera Nikau. Rep: Emosi Koloto, Jason Williams, Esene Faimalo, Mike Patton.

Aftermath[edit]

Australia went on to finish undefeated in World Cup pool play, with eight victories. New Zealand finished third, equal with Great Britain on points, with five wins and three losses, but behind on points differential.

In the 1992 World Cup Final, held in front of an international record 73,631 fans at the famous Wembley Stadium in London, England, Australia defeated Great Britain 10–6 to win their seventh Rugby League World Cup.

New Zealand would next defeat Australia in the 1998 Anzac Test at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland. They would not defeat them in a series until defeating them 24-0 in the 2005 Tri-Nations Final at the Elland Road stadium in Leeds, England.

See also[edit]

References[edit]