As we count down the hours to one of the most feverishly anticipated mid-season Australia-New Zealand Tests ever, Flashback Friday celebrates the 30th anniversary of one of trans-Tasman Rugby League’s most explosive and iconic moments.
In the opening match of the three-Test series in 1985, a wild brawl broke out in the dying stages in front of the 22,000-strong Lang Park crowd. Rival front-rowers Kevin Tamati and Greg Dowling were despatched to the sin-bin – but the enforcers were just getting started.
Jostling and verballing on the way to the sheds, Kiwi hard-man Tamati and Queensland stalwart Dowling engaged in a ferocious one-on-one stoush on the sideline that made the 2011 ‘Battle of Brookvale’ scrap between Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart look like a play-fight.
The punch-up dominated post-match coverage, overshadowing John Ribot’s late try that snatched a 26-20 victory for Australia.
While the Tamati-Dowling melee is arguably the standout memory, the ’85 series was jam-packed with moments that were destined for Test Rugby League folklore.
Ribot scored another last-minute match-winner in the second Test at Auckland’s Carlaw Park to clinch a 10-6 victory and the series. Despite the twin losses, New Zealand five-eighth Olsen Filipaina – playing opposite the great Wally Lewis – picked up back-to-back man-of-the-match awards.
The Graham Lowe-coached Kiwis scored a stunning 18-0 win in the third Test at Carlaw Park after Australian coach Terry Fearnley, also the NSW coach, infamously dropped four Queenslanders (including Dowling) from a winning side. Halfback Clayton Friend scored two tries in a man-of-the-match display.