More than rugby pride is at stake when Australia and New Zealand clash in this afternoon’s World Cup final Remember when your little brother or sister beat you for the first time?
You tried so hard to pretend like it didn’t matter, but deep down the pain was gnawing at your soul.
That’s what it’s like to lose to New Zealand if you’re an Australian. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, the most important rule is this: don’t let the Kiwis beat you.
And if you do lose, make sure you fight tooth and nail so it never happens again.
If you’re having trouble getting pumped up for the World Cup final between the Wallabies and All Blacks, think about the pleasure Ireland gets every time it beats England.
This World Cup final is the match Australians and New Zealanders have been waiting for since 1987. This match is the first time the Wallabies and All Blacks have played in a World Cup final.
So many times the two teams have been close to fighting it out for the William Webb Ellis Cup, but one has always fallen short.
The winner of this one will be the first team in World Cup history to win the tournament three times.
But to find out why the two nations are jilted lovers, you’ve got to look beyond Richie McCaw’s battle with David Pocock or Michael Cheika’s clash of the minds with Steve Hansen.
Cricket, rugby league, netball, basketball – you name it, there’s a history.
We make fun of their accent and take jabs at their fondness for sheep.
The most famous racehorse in Australian history, Phar Lap, was actually foaled in New Zealand. But Phar Lap, the 1930 Melbourne Cup champion, is still our hero.
Movie star Russell Crowe … yeah, he grew up in Auckland but Australia is his home (he filed for citizenship in 2006).
A war almost erupted when Trevor Chappell rolled an underarm ball down the cricket pitch in 1981 to prevent New Zealand hitting a six to tie the match.
Ever since then the Kiwis have claimed we have an underarm problem, but our personal hygiene is top notch.
It’s the rugby history that runs deep in every sport fan’s veins.
Australia’s World Cup-winning captain John Eales drove a dagger into New Zealand hearts when he booted a penalty after the siren to win the Bledisloe Cup in Wellington in 2000.
When George Gregan tackled Jeff Wilson and knocked the ball loose in 1994 in a try-saving, game-winning moment, we rejoiced as one.
Every Australian shouted Gregan’s famous “four more years” sledge at every Kiwi we knew after the Wallabies beat the All Blacks in the 2003 World Cup semi-final.
We jumped up and down in lounge rooms everywhere when Toutai Kefu scored a last-minute try to win Eales’ last Test.
Alas, that’s where the love ends for the Wallabies. In the past decade the Wallabies and All Blacks have played 154 times. The Kiwis have won 105 of those.
We haven’t won the Bledisloe Cup – the most prestigious trophy in the southern hemisphere — since 2002. That hurts. It really hurts.
So this is the chance we’ve been waiting for. An opportunity to make up for all the times they’ve gloated and poked fun at the Wallabies’ expense.
If a Bledisloe Cup rivalry is intense, imagine what it will be like to beat them on the grandest stage of all.
Imagine knowing your neighbour/enemy is superior and you can’t do anything about it for four years.
It’s an opportunity to get revenge for all Australians. For all the big brothers who have been forced to sit in the shadow for too long.
The All Blacks are defending world champions and the Wallabies have tried to stand up to them in the past.
Quade Cooper (who funnily enough was also born in New Zealand) famously took on McCaw on the field, a stray knee and a tiny shove here or there.
But touching New Zealand’s national treasure means you’re the country’s No. 1 enemy.
Australia has to ruffle some Kiwi feathers. No one doubts the All Blacks’ dominance - their record of losing just two games in the past four years speaks for itself.
But the World Cup final isn’t about respecting your opponents, it’s about beating them.
One colleague described this moment as rugby’s Romeo and Juliet moment – a forbidden love between two feuding families.
Australia loves to hate New Zealand. New Zealand loves to hate Australia. Somewhere among all that there’s a respect.
For so long Australia has dominated trans-Tasman cricket, rugby league and netball.
Rugby has been New Zealand’s saving grace. It’s their No. 1 sport while the Wallabies compete for air time against rugby league and Australian football.
Now this is a chance to beat them at the one thing they think they’re better than us at. They can keep their “fush and chups”, Australia wants the World Cup.
If the Wallabies’ win, Australia will hold the rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, the rugby league World Cup and the netball World Cup simultaneously.
The best part is Australia would have beaten New Zealand in every one of those finals.
So where does this game rank among the battles between the nations? It’s the biggest.
Former Wallabies World Cup-winners say they are envious of the gold jersey. This a moment to make history.
Wallabies 1999 champion Joe Roff said it best: “Maybe for the first time since I retired, I envy and would love more than anything to be in that position to create history.
“The rest of us believe in them. This is the biggest game between Australia and New Zealand. Fullstop.
“t’s just the greatest opportunity a player can have. And I genuinely believe it’s time to bring back the Cup.”
Chris Dutton is rugby correspondent of The Canberra Times
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