Kiwis' Kidwell hoping to join elite club with first-up win
HISTORY is against David Kidwell tomorrow night.
If the Kiwis win in Perth, Kidwell will have achieved something that has been done only three times in more than a century.
Since the first Test was played between the two trans-Tasman nations in 1908, only three Kiwis coaches have beaten Australia at their first attempt.
Some of the greatest coaches New Zealand has produced - including Jim Amos, Lory Blanchard, Ces Mountford, Graham Lowe, Frank Endacott and Stephen Kearney - fell short in their first tussle with the Kangaroos.
It's been a near impossible task, with only Des White (1961), Tony Gordon (1987) and Brian McClennan (2005) managing the unique feat.
They are all games that have gone down in New Zealand league lore, matches that are imprinted on the collective consciousness of Kiwis fans.
McClennan's victory was particularly memorable, as the 38-28 win in the first game of the 2005 Tri Nations also broke a 46-year drought for the Kiwis in Sydney. It was a considerable upset. McClennan was without injured stars Sonny Bill Williams, Benji Marshall, Jerome Ropati and Thomas Leuluai (among others), while Wayne Bennett's Kangaroos had Darren Lockyer and Andrew Johns in the halves together as well as the talents of Mark Gasnier, Danny Buderus and Steve Price.
But McClennan and assistant coach Graeme Norton had hatched their "Bully the Bully” strategy, and the team was superbly led by Ruben Wiki, Stacey Jones and Nigel Vagana.
The Kiwis sprinted to an 18-0 lead, then had to withstand a Kangaroos comeback as the Australians scored 22 unanswered points. Clinton Toopi's third try in the 76th minute eventually sealed the win.
The 1987 triumph at Lang Park was one of the biggest upsets in Kiwis history. Gordon had been an unlikely choice to succeed Lowe, and the rookie international coach was immediately hit with the retirement of Mark Graham and the unavailability of Kevin Tamati and the Sorensen brothers.
Gordon's Test line-up featured 10 domestic-based players, with the likes of Gary Mercer, Kevin Iro and Ross Taylor drawn from local competitions.
They were facing the Invincibles - the Kangaroos side with Peter Sterling, Wally Lewis and Brett Kenny that had gone unbeaten through Britain and France the year before. The Kiwis led 13-6 at half-time then hung on grimly, with captain Hugh McGahan, Clayton Friend, Dean Bell and Iro particularly impressive.
White's first-up win came at a muddy Carlaw Park. Fullback Gary Phillips was the hero, kicking a 78th-minute field goal to break a 10-10 deadlock. Maunga Emery and Graeme Farrar scored tries on debut as the Ron Ackland-captained Kiwis held the visitors scoreless in the second half.
All other coaches have had to keep the champagne on ice - 1950s legend Amos and Lowe both won their second trans-Tasman Tests, while Kearney's first win over Australia came at his third attempt. Endacott wore four losses before beating the Kangaroos in 1997 and Blanchard beat Australia at his sixth attempt.
"I want to put everything I have into this,” said Kidwell earlier this month.
"I was so proud to play for my country, (so) to coach my country is a huge honour. I want to take things up another level, to give the players the best possible environment and preparation so we get the best possible performance.”
- NZ HERALD