Watch it here if you have a spare hour. (Positives: Neutral British Commentators, Great Streaming. Negatives: The pronunciation of anyone without an anglo name, pointless references the UK Superleague.)
Okay, so maybe Team NZ winning the America's Cup in 1994 was a bigger financial boon for the country, but honestly, it's yatching. If there were millions of dollars to be made from the Fencing World Cup, would that make a NZ victory our greatest sporting achievement?
And sure, there were only three teams with a realistic chance of winning the Rugby League World Cup (“realistic” may be flattering the English), but there are so many factors that make the 32-20 victory the sweetest of sweet:
- Beating Australia, in Australia (in a stadium I've sat and watched NZ lose to Australia twice by a combined margin of 60 points), after losing 8 straight to the Aussies, in the face of 10-1 odds, against a squad the pundits were calling the best ever... *cough*
- Beating Ricky Stuart. God I hate that guy.
- This was the first rugby league world cup for eight years, and even then, people were asking what's the point, we know who'll win. And I'm the first to say the format was beyond stupid. But NZ's victory (and the surprises in Pools B and C) proves the worth of a world cup, and that it should be a regular fixture. (Though eight years with NZ as World Cup champs without having to defend the title would be okay, too).
- The fact every New Zealand sports fan knows what it is like to be the favourite going into a rugby code's world cup, only to see that team confound expectations in the space of 80 minutes. And after 1991 and 2003, it was sweet that it was Australia's dream we ended.
- The game itself. New Zealand was the better team. We wanted it more. We weren't overly confident (see Billy Slater's gift to Benji Marshall) and played to the whistle (see tries by Jerome Ropati and Adam Blair). We were the perfect incarnation of a Wayne Bennett team. Oh, what, Stephen Kearney was the head coach... Hmm.