Stephen Larkham

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Stephen Larkham
Stephen Larkham cropped.jpg
Date of birth (1974-05-29) 29 May 1974 (age 39)
Place of birth Canberra, ACT Australian Capital Territory
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 12 in)
Weight 88 kg (13 st 12 lb)
School Lyneham High, Canberra
University Australian National University
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Fly-half
Inside centre Fullback
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1990–2004 Australia ACT and Southern NSW 112 (214)
correct as of 9 September 2006.
Super Rugby
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1996–2007 Australia Brumbies 127 (204)
correct as of 2006-09-12.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1996–2007 Australia Australia 102 (135)
correct as of 2007-07-07.

Stephen Larkham (born 29 May 1974 in Canberra) is a retired Australian rugby union footballer currently in the role of attack coach for the Brumbies. He is best known for his career with the Brumbies in Super Rugby, for whom he played from the inception of the professional Super 12 in 1996 through 2007, and his long tenure with the Wallabies at international level, for whom he played 102 times. After initial selection at fullback from 1996 to 1997, Larkham was the first-choice Australian fly-half from 1997 to 2007, playing in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups. He is married to Jacqueline and has two children, Jaimee and Tiahna.

Having started his career as a fullback, Larkham developed into one of the greatest flyhalves in the history of Australian rugby, being named in 2005 at the position in Australia's team of the decade (the "decade" being the first 10 years of professional rugby union). At his peak, Larkham was one of the best flyhalves in world rugby with reputation as an elusive runner and the lynchpin of a potent backline.

He first gained notice in 1995 when he was plucked from reserve grade club rugby to represent ACT in the Super 12 as a utility back in the Brumbies squad, playing a number of Super 12 games before attracting the attention of the national selectors. Larkham made his Test debut as a reserve against Wales in Sydney in 1996 when he replaced injured Ben Tune on the wing, and then joined the Wallabies on their undefeated tour of Europe. In 1997, Larkham proved more than a capable replacement at fullback for the injured Matt Burke, with a two-try effort in the Wallabies final Test against Scotland at Murrayfield. On 16 January 2008 Larkham signed a three-year contract with Japanese club Ricoh Black Rams. After two full seasons in Japan, Larkham negotiated an early release in order to return to Australia. He played in Japan for the first half of the 2010–11 Top League season playing for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan and then returned to Canberra in November 2010 to take up the role of attack coach for the Brumbies.[1]

Becoming a Fly Half[edit]

Larkham’s conversion from fullback to flyhalf is now hailed as a Rod Macqueen masterstroke that put the Wallabies on track to win the 1999 Rugby World Cup. This was initially a controversial selection as his tactical kicking was regarded as too weak for the position; however, his ability to get the Australian back line going and to slide through gaps himself quickly ended the debate. Simon Poidevin while commenting for Australian TV remarked during the third test against the All Blacks in 1998 that "anyone who thinks (Larkham) is a dud flyhalf needs their head read" (i.e. is wrong) and this was eventually accepted to be correct.

That drop-goal[edit]

Larkham’s famous 48m-drop goal to seal victory over South Africa in extra time of the 1999 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final has gone down in rugby folklore as the defining moment in the Wallabies' victorious Rugby World Cup campaign. South Africa had got to the semi final largely through the efforts of Jannie de Beer kicking 5 drop goals in their previous match. By contrast not one of the Australian players on the team had to that date ever scored a drop goal at test level. The fact that Larkham had quite a badly injured knee through the match caused Steve Smith[who?] to remark incredulously while calling the game for English ITV "He can barely stand on that leg and yet he just thwacked it over".

The feat was even more remarkable as Larkham's eyesight was very poor at the time. Since 1999 he has had laser surgery to correct his vision, however at the time he could not see the goal posts clearly. Following Australia's victory over France in the World Cup final, several television commercials aired in Australia humorously mocking Larkham's lack of kicking prowess. The commercial featured current & former team-mates, junior and senior coaches (including former Australian coach Rod MacQueen) and even Australian rugby icons (such as Phil Kearns) expressing their astonishment that Larkham managed to score.

The commercial begins with Larkham's school coaches saying he was a poor kicker, and had never successfully scored a drop-goal in a match. The climax of the commercial features then-captain John Eales, as well as Matt Burke, Kearns and MacQueen each saying "Don't kick it!" as footage of the moment is replayed. The commercial is available to view on YouTube.

Later career[edit]

Larkham was an important part of the Australian 2003 World Cup squad which lost in the tournament final to England. He has suffered greatly from injuries through his career, especially to his knees and right elbow. Despite these he remained a competent defender in spite of his relatively light frame. He was also tried at inside centre by John Connolly for one test against Wales 2006 but the experiment was not regarded a success and he never played there again.

The Gregan - Larkham Grandstand at Canberra Stadium

He was famous for forming a long standing half-back partnership with George Gregan, both of whom were foundation players with the ACT Brumbies rugby franchise. When both retired after the 2007 World Cup, not only were they the two most-capped Wallabies, but they played in more Tests than any other scrum-half/fly-half combination in history, with 79 appearances together.[2] So important were they to the team that in 2007 at Bruce Stadium (Canberra Stadium), a new stand was unveiled as the "Gregan-Larkham Stand" in honour of both players and their combination to the team.

He played his last test against Japan in the 2007 World Cup before a knee injury sidelined him, which effectively ended his Test career as Australia were then knocked out of the competition before he could return.

On 14 May 2007, despite larger offers from French and English teams, Larkham signed a contract with Edinburgh Rugby in Scotland to join them after the 2007 World Cup; however; this deal subsequently fell through,[3] reportedly because the Scottish Rugby Union would not fund the deal.[citation needed] Newly promoted Leeds expressed an interest,[citation needed] as did the Welsh side, the Dragons.[4] However, in January 2008 it was announced that he will join Ricoh Black Rams of Japan.

Honours[edit]

Larkham was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2012.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Larkham, Harrison and Caputo return to CA Technologies Brumbies" (Press release). Brumbies Rugby. 21 July 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Bond, Karen, Rugby News Service (19 October 2007). "Thanks for the memories". International Rugby Board. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  3. ^ Gregan and Larkham bow out on sad note
  4. ^ "BBC SPORT | Rugby Union | My Club | NG Dragons | Dragons hold talks with Larkham". News.bbc.co.uk. Last Updated:. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  5. ^ "Stephen Larkham". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 

External links[edit]