With only hours before the Tri Nations final and Bledisloe Cup decider between two of the greatest rival sporting teams in rugby history, it is timely to acknowledge members from both camps who will be playing their last test on Auckland soil tonight. With Carl Hayman, Chris Jack, Aaron Mauger, Byron Kelleher and probably Luke McAlister all heading up to France and England after the world cup to play out their retirements in the stodgy Northern Hemisphere championships; the All Blacks will hope they can reach their potential and give a hefty core of the departing team members a decent haere ra.
For Australia the exodus is also vast with two key players in Steven Larkham and George Gregan playing out their final test in Aotearoa. If Larkham has been the brain of the Australian backline for the last ten years, then Gregan, playing his 134th test would undoubtedly have to be described as the niggle, the edge and the heart of this Wallaby team. Even though he has broken the spirit of many New Zealanders over the years through his determination and grit (not to mention the backchat and winning ways with countless, hapless referees), we can’t help but admire the man. Right down to his shaven head and match inspiring tackles, Gregan is a character of the game that has always stood out. A feisty spirit, an orator to rival the greats and a true competitor in every sense.
We’ll miss you George. (But I wish you weren’t playing in the World Cup.)