It’s difficult to imagine in this modern era of professional rugby and with today’s football internationals playing all over the world …
But there was a time when New Zealand’s biggest rugby and football stars could share the pitch, have a few beers afterwards and swap sporting stories.
The time was 1982. The newly–named All Whites were revelling in the public popularity inspired by their arduous against–the–odds qualification for the FIFA World Cup Finals in Spain.
The All Blacks were still smarting from the bad blood of 1981 when media coverage of New Zealand’s national sport was dominated by the protests, boycotts and riots that accompanied the Springbok tour.
All Whites coach John Adshead saw an opportunity for the two sports to align their promotional efforts for the benefit of his squad in the lead–up to Spain.
Adshead worked for the Radio i Sports Foundation, a charitable body run by an Auckland radio station. He challenged the All Blacks to play a few exhibition matches — half a game of rugby and half a game of football.
The above photograph records this special meeting of the codes before the sides played in Auckland.
At one event, played at Mt Wellington’s Bill McKinlay Park, several thousand spectators turned up to watch the All Whites play the All Blacks … with a special guest to kick things off. The guest was American actor David Hasselhoff, in New Zealand to promote his top–rating television series, Knight Rider.
Who won the exhibition matches? On the pitch, the matches were engineered to finish as honourable draws.
Off the pitch, football gained so much positive publicity, it was clear which sport had benefitted the most.
Photograph: Back row (from left): Adrian Elrick, Eddie Dunn, Ricki Herbert, Tim Twigden, Peter Simonsen, Andy Haden, Sam Malcolmson, Gary Whetton, John Hill. Middle row: Keith Mackay, Stu Wilson, Brian Turner, Bernie Fraser, Frank van Hattum, Lin Colling, Duncan Cole, Alan Hewson, Dave Bright, Gary Cunningham, Ken Cresswell, Bruce Robertson. Front row: Alan Whetton, Steve Sumner, Greg Burgess, Kevin Fallon, Bryan Williams, John Adshead, Graham Mourie, Bobby Almond, Dave Loveridge, Billy McLure. Image: Courtesy Radio i Sports Foundation.