The Press | Friday, 12 September 2008
The Canterbury Bulls and Auckland do battle in Christchurch
on Sunday. TONY SMITH has a look at a historic match between the two
Frank Endacott says Sunday's Canterbury Bulls-Auckland clash
in Christchurch has brought memories flooding back of 1993's magical
match which launched a legion of league careers. His included.
Rugby league stalwarts still speak of Canterbury's 36-12 national
provincial championship final conquest in reverential tones. They
recall the record 10,000 fans, sardine-packed into every seat, nook and
cranny of the Addington Showgrounds. They remember roaring themselves
hoarse at the two Logan Edwards-inspired tries which inflicted mortal
blows on Auckland in the first five minutes.
"Auckland brought all their pros back from the UK, but we went out
and absolutely demolished them that day," Endacott reflected this week.
The Bulls' two Bartercard Cup national titles this decade were
phenomenal feats. But nothing has diminished the glow of that
marvellous mid-winter afternoon 15 years ago. John Coffey, The Press'
long-serving rugby league writer, wrote: "It would have been impossible
for a Canterbury script writer, secluded in a red and black room, to
have come up with a more perfect climax to a highly successful season."
Endacott, who coached Canterbury then and will be barracking for the
Bulls on Sunday, still beams with pride at the '93 game on several
Eight Cantabrians toured Great Britain and France later that year in
Howie Tamati's team and Endacott still swears hooker Mike Culley
"should have been a Kiwi". Many went on to win to win professional
contracts with the nascent Auckland Warriors franchise, or other
Australian and British clubs.
Endacott's own coaching career took a stratospheric trajectory. He
was already Junior Kiwis coach in 1993 but he took over Tamati's top
job in 1994 and went on to have a record seven-season tenure.
He became the Auckland Warriors' foundation reserve grade coach in
1995 and replaced John Monie as first-grade boss two seasons later.
Endacott later coached Wigan and Widnes in England and is still
actively involved in the game as a players' agent who commands the
respect of Australian and British clubs. He is also proud of how many
of his charges have stayed in the game. A lot of them are still
coaching and giving back to the sport." Eight of the 17-man squad have
coached at club, representative or secondary schools level in the last
two seasons. Brent Stuart, a nuggety frontrower in 1993, is now the
Bulls' head coach after a six-year stint as assistant. Wing Mike
Dorreen and second-rower Edwards guide the Canterbury 18s.
Justin Wallace, the backline reserve in '93, is the current
Canterbury Rugby Football League chairman while former Kiwi Aaron
Whittaker has become a whistleblower, regularly refereeing junior and
lower grade senior matches after a successful club coaching stint.
Skipper Mark Nixon is now a part-time rugby league broadcaster.
Canterbury had just one overseas-based professional in 1993, backrower Brendon Tuuta was playing in England.
The red-and-blacks had put a record 40 points on Auckland's local
lads earlier on Anzac Day but lost 6-9 in the return encounter. So
Endacott was not surprised when Auckland coach Owen Wright brought back
seven pros from Britain for the final. He fielded five Kiwis, led by
legendary backrower Tawera Nikau. Ex-All Black centre Craig Innes was
one of three future Kiwis in the squad.
The Showgrounds were dubbed the Killing Fields back then. Canterbury
had beaten Auckland three times there in the 1990s and upset the
touring Great Britain team.
While Endacott says Canterbury "never needed motivation to beat
Auckland", but the wholesale inclusion of overseas pros gave his
players an extra incentive.
"We dusted them," he said. Skipper Nixon said: "They might have had
all those Kiwis and professionals, but ... the difference between them
and us is often only a lucky break."
Endacott said Canterbury had a "great bunch of blokes". "We were
like one big happy family. They just gave everything, it was a terrific
The Cantabs won all the individual arm-wrestles. Nikau was the only
Aucklander to enhance his reputation. Endacott said the battle between
"the two No.13s", Nikau and Tuuta was "exceptional".
"Tawera was a terrific player, but pound-for-pound, you wouldn't bet
against Brendon, he was one of the toughest blokes to play the game,
and he had it over Tawera that day."
Nikau would later lament that Canterbury "seemed to want it more than we did".
Stuart, still smarting at losing his Kiwis jumper to Se'e Solomona,
outplayed the Auckland prop. Mike Culley, overlooked for a Kiwi trial,
dominated Duane Mann, scored the match-clinching early second-half try
and kicked four goals.
Tuuta was man-of-the-match but the sparkplug was second-rower
Edwards. "Logan was the player in our team who could turn a game at the
drop of a hat" Endacott said. "We had a little blindside play we used
to use with Logan and he set up those first two tries. He had a great
Innes was shut out by Canterbury debutant Blair Harding, who scored
two tries "and unfortunately dropped the ball which would have given
him a hat-trick", Endacott said. Harding passed away several years ago
but Endacott said he was "a terrific player". "It's a shame, he's still
not with us."
Endacott says the '93 final was the "catalyst why we had so many
players on the Kiwi tour to UK and France that year and why so many
went on to better things, playing in the NRL and test footy.
"We all did it for each other and our province. We were proud to
play for Canterbury in those days and getting the chance to play
Auckland, who had two-thirds of the test team in their lineup, gee it
was a challenge we couldn't say no to."
Endacott also believes Canterbury had an important 18th-man the
partisan crowd. "It was absolutely chokka block in the stands, a huge
occasion, one we will never forget. It was the crowd that got us home
that day. The players said the crowd was absolutely phenomenal.
"I hope all rugby league fans in Canterbury turn up on Sunday. I'd
like to see the Canterbury crowd get real vocal like they were back
Last Modified on 12/09/2008 05:04