Here is a first XV of under-rated players from Bledisloe Cup matches from the past forty years or so. The team is top-heavy with Wallabies- logically so because we have tended to under-rate some their abilities over the years.
Fullback: ROGER GOULD: Big for a fullback in his day and possessed of a booming punt. Was quite a thorn in the side of the 1980 and 1982 All Blacks. And a pretty accurate goalkicker using the old toe poke method.
Wingers: JOE ROKOCOKO and CRAIG GREEN: Rokocoko wasn’t under-rated per se, but we do tend to forget what a force of nature he was in the 2003 season before the World Cup. And Craig Green was cleverer than a barrel of monkeys. It’s hard to remember him ever having an off day for Canterbury or the ABs. Scorer of the try from the ‘Lefto’ move in 1985 on Eden Park- a great blindside try.
Centre: ANDREW SLACK. Almost a journeyman at centre compared to some, but consistently good and the captain of the excellent 1986 Wallabies who nicked off with the Bledisloe, including giving the ABs a good old donkey-licking on Eden Park- the last-ever Aussie victory on that ground.
2nd-five: JOHN SCHUSTER: Cut up the Wallabies during a period of real ABs dominance in 1988-89. Had a shimmy-type sidestep to die for. A bit of a forgotten All Black.
1st-five: KEN WRIGHT or TONY MELROSE: Both were brilliant for the 1978 Wallabies in NZ. If Wright had been born in Wales he’d have had songs or poems written about his twinkling feet and acceleration. And Melrose had a game way beyond his years of only 19 when we got dicked 16-30 on Eden Park in Cornelsen’s match. Both were snapped up not long after by Sydney Rugby League scouts.
Halfback: JOHN HIPWELL: Deserves to be rated in the top pantheon of Wallaby halfbacks alongside Catchpole, Farr-Jones and Gregan. Probably was the key to the emergence of the 1978 team in NZ. He was a real veteran at the time but still had plenty of toe from the base of the scrum. A superb player.
No 8: STEVE TUYNMAN: Athletic, but tough as well. Always seemed to raise his game in the mud and wet. Scored a try on Carisbrook in 1986 that was wrongly disallowed and which would have given the Wallabies the 1986 series 3-0. (Thankfully it was disallowed or Allan Jones would have become even more unbearable).
Flankers: CHRIS ROCHE and MIKE BREWER: Roche was a classic openside forager and number one nuisance in NZ in 1982. Brewer was very good deputising for Michael Jones in the first test of 1988, and was one of the best on the ABs’ 1992 tour of Australia.
Locks: STEVE WILLIAMS and BILL CAMPBELL: Williams was mobile and pacy for a lock before it became the norm. The Wallabies scrum never went backwards with him in it, either. Bill Campbell, along with Steve ‘Skylab’ Cutler, made the front and middle of the lineout a misery for the 1986 All Blacks.
Props: STAN PILECKI and TONY DALY: Pilecki made a couple of notable runs in the first Bledisloe of 1980, was a strong scrummager and had a head of concrete (which Stu Wilson broke his hand on trying to hit). Daly looked like the pudgy kid who made off with all the ice creams, but the Wallabies didn’t lose often when he was in the team. Scored the only try of the 1991 World Cup Final (the All Blacks having their own ‘Tony’ who would also score the only try of the World Cup final twenty years later). *Note I was sorely tempted to put in CAMERON LILLICRAP for the name alone.
Hooker: HIKA REID: The happy hooker from Ngongotaha. Like an extra loose forward. Was in devastating form on the 1980 tour of Oz and scored probably the greatest team try in All Blacks history in the second test at Brisbane on that tour.
Coach: BRYCE ROPE: Nicknamed ‘The Hinge’ by Murray Mexted and the other forwards- but that’s a story for another day. Did very well to gather up the ABs to win the 1984 series away against a seriously good Wallaby team after losing the first test and being 12-0 down in the second.
-Paul Montague (email@example.com)