Article by Wayne Smith, Senior Sport Writer for The Australian.
It will be the highlight of the Classic Wallabies’ pre-World Cup roadshow around Australia, when the Gold Blooded tour meets cold blooded reptiles as Justin Harrison and Steve Larkham jump into a crocodile-infested pond in Darwin next Wednesday.
Admittedly, there will be a hopefully very solid perspex barrier between the two former Wallabies greats and the crocodiles, although as an extra security measure, Harrison is planning to slip some meat into Larkham’s pocket, just in the event things don’t work out so well.
The event will mark 100 days until the start of the World Cup in Japan and Harrison, as Classic Wallabies general manager, has arranged for a string of former Test greats — from Glen Ella to Mark Gerrard and Radike Samo — to then join in the two-month national tour which will wind up in Perth on August 10, the date of the Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks.
From Uluru to Launceston, from Rockhampton to Bunbury, the Wallabies will be spreading the word of the World Cup — with backrower Matt Cockbain certainly able to speak with authority as a member of the 1999 world champion Wallabies.
At each pitstop in every Australian state, the Classic Wallabies will host free clinics at local schools, clubs and community centres, helping with fundraising for local rugby clubs and charities.
As organiser of the tour, Harrison arranged to spend the opening day in Jabiru, close by to where he lived as a child, following his schoolteacher father from posting to posting around the Northern Territory. Indeed, he did not play rugby until he went to Southern Cross University in Lismore, starting off with the Gold Rats as a 19-year-old.
Eight years later, he was making his Test debut as a 27-year-old in the deciding third Test against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney. Come the 78th minute, the Lions, needing a converted try to win, formed up for a lineout 15m out from the Australian line, with hooker Keith Wood targeting English colossus Martin Johnson at the front with his throw.
Harrison, with all the innocence of a first Test rookie, stole the ball from Johnson’s grasp and Australia prevailed 29-23 to win the series. It was, arguably, the most significant lineout win in Wallabies history.
“A rich tapestry of trial and error mixed with some high achievement and abject failure,” is how Harrison described his career yesterday and there is no doubt that when he gets, as he puts it, tactile with rugby followers throughout the country on the tour, some tall tales and true will inevitably spill out.
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