What will it take for the Wallabies to beat the All Blacks?


wallabWhen it comes to winning, no one does it quite like rugby union giants the New Zealand All Blacks.

They remain hot favourites to beat the Wallabies in tonight’s final Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane — and with good reason.

The All Blacks’ 100-year win/loss record is phenomenal — they have tasted victory in 75 per cent of their matches.

They hold a dominant record over every rugby test team in the world, including the Wallabies.

Of the 160 test matches played between the two nations, the All Blacks have won 111.

Since their first encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1903, Australia has only beaten New Zealand 42 times.

The All Blacks also have an iron grip on the Bledisloe Cup, the annual competition with Australia that has been contested since 1931.

This year’s victory marks the 15th time in a row Australia has watched New Zealand hoist the trophy.

When the Wallabies last won the Bledisloe in 2002, the iPhone had not been invented, Eminem was topping the charts in Australia and John Howard was still prime minister.

But change is in the air, and there’s fresh optimism for the future of Australian rugby union.

So what’s it going to take?

The Wallabies are starting to think creatively about how they can attract new people to the game to build strength for the longer term.

The team now visits low socio-economic areas, traditionally the breeding grounds for rugby league.

Coach Michael Cheika has taken the team into the community, visiting dozens of union clubs and schools.

“This is part of what we need to do is start re-unifying the game as a whole,” Cheika said.

“Get supporters from all across the country back behind the Wallaby jersey, then behind all our Super Rugby teams as well and one of the ways we can do that is by getting out there and talking to people and letting kids see their heroes.”

Learning from the strong All Blacks culture

Connecting with the community is something New Zealand already have in the bag, with the country united behind their national team.

But making sure the players buy into the strong culture the All Blacks have created is the job of head coach Steve Hansen.

“Your characters is the key thing, and when you’ve got people with good character you’ve got good culture,” Hansen told the ABC.

“Your character is about when people aren’t looking and that’s when it really matters.”

Away from the spotlight, senior New Zealand players are known to clean up their changerooms after test matches.

They also foster a culture that focuses on building a team of leaders rather than followers.

The All Blacks have been known to cut talented players from their roster who do not fit into their system.

“You start with yourself you try to keep yourself grounded and we’re no different from anyone else – we just play sport,” Hansen said.

“We represent New Zealand and … whether you win or lose you have to be humble.”

“You don’t own the jersey you just pass through it.”

Australia shifting to a national approach

Last week, every professional rugby coach and high-performance member in the country met in Sydney.

The aim was to share information and get everyone on the same page to benefit Australia’s four super rugby teams and to build on that strength with the Wallabies.

Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn said it was an important step forward.

“They’re showing some real initiative, hopefully something comes out of it.”

Thorn knows more than most about the challenge of keeping up with New Zealand.

He represented the All Blacks between 2003 and 2011, helping them win the World Cup in his final year with the team.

“They work well together in New Zealand, they confide in each other they’re connected to each other and the whole of New Zealand rugby gets stronger for it,” he said.

“It’s great that Australia is looking to follow along those lines.”

This weekend the Australian rugby union side will become the first national team from this country to wear an Indigenous-inspired jersey during an international fixture.

The jersey, created by artist Dennis Golding, represents the 14 Indigenous players who have played the Wallabies.

Three of those players came from the one family.

Brothers Gary and Glen Ella represented the green and gold jersey during the 1980s.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Gary Ella said.

“Aboriginal culture’s been pretty well involved in a lot of sports, to get it in a national team, to have them running out on the field on Saturday night, I think is going to be a fantastic moment, not just for the rugby community, but for Aboriginal people.”

Ella believes the Wallabies decision to wear an Indigenous jersey is more than just a tokenism, with the big players in the game now supporting the development of Indigenous talent.

“We need the major bodies, the state rugby teams, the national rugby team to get behind and support it and we think that that’s happening.”