'I blame Damian Smith'
August 13, 2014
Nobody loves this time of the year like I do. Yep, it's the time for the Bledisloe Cup. And as much as I would like to forget a certain incident, let's be honest, somehow I don't think that is ever going to happen. So many things have happened since August 17, 1994, yet I will be subjected to reminders of the infamy of that famous day whenever the Bledisloe Cup rolls around.
I've told so many stories about "The Tackle" it is hard to remember what actually happened.
The one thing I find probably most puzzling is the "fact" that Sydney Football Stadium suddenly had four million New Zealanders in it. What I can guarantee is that 100,000 people can apparently sit in one portion of the stand, because that's about how many people have told me they were sitting in that corner on August 17, 1994. You know that old cliche, "If I had a dollar for every person"; well, if you applied it here I wouldn't need to write columns like this.
Former All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson did manage to cross for 44 tries in his 60-Test career © Getty Images
So let's break it all down. Here's the way I could possibly remember it. Let's get a few things straight. Apparently it happened in the last minute of the game. That's not entirely true.
I take great pride in the career of George Gregan, and I have asked his thanks on many occasions for my creation of his legend and for the 139 Tests he played; it if weren't for that tackle in his fourth Test he may not have got the 135 other caps for the Wallabies.
In a sense George has a lot to thank me for.
On a serious note, there is no doubt at the time as a young man and an inexperienced All Blacks player that it was an extremely difficult and stressful period. After growing up watching Bledisloe Cup Tests and great players contest such memorable encounters, it was devastating to be on the wrong side of the ledger. There was no doubt "The Tackle", and the defeat, knocked my confidence for a period of time; so, with that in mind, I am proud of what I managed to achieve post this unfortunate incident.
The Bledisloe Cup is one of rugby's great rivalries. Before the Rugby World Cup, it was our most important trophy, especially in the absence of our older traditional rival South Africa. It was the pinnacle of every All Blacks player's season, and all of New Zealand watched with both excitement and trepidation as the mood of the nation balanced on the result.
I think if you look back and watch the video footage of Gregan's tackle, you will find it was barely legal. In my recollection, it was probably high, almost late and I'm pretty sure, even though the game was still amateur, I class it as a professional foul. Let's be honest: in today's game, he'd probably spend time in the bin. Well, that's how I remember it anyway.
But this brings me back to Damian Smith. I've only ever done one speaking engagement with George Gregan in regard to this piece of Bledisloe Cup history. Fortunately, Damian Smith was in attendance.
Nobody remembers the four players I beat en route to the goal-line. I certainly remember the very first: had Damian Smith done his job and made the bloody tackle he should have made, my life at this time of the year would be a hell of a lot easier. I've certainly forgiven George Gregan but I'm finding it difficult to forgive Damian Smith.
What are your memories of "The Tackle"? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9