The day the QLD-NSW rivalry changed forever

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The 1975 clash between Queensland and NSW is not a match Andrew Slack remembers fondly.

Slack, who was fresh out of Brisbane's Villanova College and yet to make the switch to outside centre, watched on from the bench as NSW dominated QLD, as they had done consistently throughout the late 60s and early 70s.

The NSW-QLD clashes were, in essence, standalone Wallabies trials in those days and NSW dominated that squad as well, just as they had in the 10 years prior.

Fast forward six months and in 80 minutes of near-perfect rugby, Slack, alongside the likes of Paul McLean, Mark Loane and Tony Shaw, had transformed the very landscape of Australian rugby.

Mark Loane was one of the Queensland players that day. Photo: Getty Images“It was so sudden, to literally come out six months later and knock them off 42-4 after they’d beaten us so easily that year before, it was for the code and for those guys who had suffered the previous few years, a watershed moment,” Slack said.

“That changed things - if you’re trying to find a marker as to when things changed - that game was definitely it.

“The Loane’s, McLean’s, Shaw’s, those guys who were clearly very good players but had suffered through the beginning of their careers, they suddenly had a pretty good team around them and things turned around.

“For those guys and for the team on the whole, that was the day.

“For me, as my first interstate game when I got on the field, I just sat there and hoped I didn’t make a mistake while running off the coattails of the good guys.”

The 38-point drubbing sparked a golden era for Queensland rugby.

The 1977 side won 20 straight matches and the 1978 team was just as strong, as players such as Slack started to hit their prime.

Then came the 1979 thrashing of NSW - a 48-10 win that was “just one of those days”.

“My recollection of '79 is that we were much more comprehensive," Slack said.

“Though the scoreline was pretty similar to 76, in 79 it was just fun because we absolutely smashed them.

“76 felt a bit like hard work even though we knew we were going to win with 20 minutes to go.

“There was something there that made it harder than 79.

“Everything worked - everything was going our way.

“We got a few bounces of the ball and they looked like rabbits in the headlights.

“We just had literally everything going for us - that’s how it was for us that day.”

The QLD-NSW rivalry that Slack speaks so glowingly of has transformed since QLD vs NSW became Reds vs Waratahs.

The Queensland-NSW rivalry is long and storied. Photo: Getty ImagesNow reaching its 135th anniversary, there is still ill feeling between the two states but Slack says it is near impossible to recreate the “us against them” mentality that saw the rivalry thrive pre-Super Rugby.

“That 79 team, we had spent every minute together over the last three or four years and we were a good team that loved playing together - obviously there were one or two people who might have retired or come from NSW but the core remained the same and that just can’t happen nowadays,” he said.

“When you’ve got that you can form an us against them mentality.

“In today’s world it is hard for coaches to rely on that us against them mentality but you’ve got to try to do it.

“But the reality is, some of the guys in this Reds and Waratahs teams only met each other in November.” - Andrew Slack

For that reason, Slack is all for a potential State of Origin clash, should the packed World Rugby schedule allow it, though it's been ruled out for 2017.

“If we could sort the logistical side of it and by that I mean that the discussion is that there is too much rugby at the moment, rather than not enough.

“If we could sort that out then I think it would be fantastic.

“It would be brilliant - I am skeptical as to how it could be practically worked but if someone could find that out, I would be all for it.”