Hooray for the rugby stoush, it’s been a long time coming |OPINION

The Waratahs' Greg Peterson at the Super rugby trial.
The Waratahs' Greg Peterson at the Super rugby trial.

THE Super Rugby trial at the Albury Sportsground on Saturday, between the Melbourne Rebels and the NSW Waratahs, was something that should have happened years ago.

After all, Victoria and NSW have been at war since John Batman first tricked the local indigenous people — at what is now Melbourne — into giving up their land.

After that, we had the blue between the two colonies as to where the actual border between them was.

And as Australia at that time was a series of colonies, rather than a federation, we then had the situation where transport of goods between the two became subject to rather expensive customs and excise duties.

Then we had the battle between the two identities whereby the jealous Victorians refused to be reasonable about what size rail gauge should be used.

Which probably worked out in Albury’s favour because it was at the Albury railyards that an extra long platform had to be built for the Melbourne trains whose journey ended north of the Murray River.

That, of course, was eventually settled in 1962 when the Mexicans finally gave in and a new standard gauge was installed between Albury and Melbourne.

And, of course, there has always been this galloping paranoia and cultural cringe the Victorians have had, born out of their massive inferiority complex.

After all, the New South Welshmen can hardly be blamed for having the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, superb beaches and bays and a vibrant, cosmopolitan community to go with it.

But, as I said, it is strange the states had never tried to sort out their differences on the rugby field.

Made even more strange by the fact it was a New South Welshmen, Tom Wills — educated at Rugby School in England — who was a driving force behind writing the rules of the sport the Victorians, rather jealously and like a child who will not share his toys, call “our game”.

Wills, a superb cricketer who died tragically and at a relatively young age, and his mates were trying to come up with a game that wasn’t too rough and so could be used to help keep cricketers fit in their off-season.

And rugby, as in rugby union — not rugby league — has been in Albury since 1905, according to historian, author and Border Mail journalist, Howard Jones.

In his outstanding publication Albury Heritage, Jones outlines the Albury Rugby Union Club (the first of a series of clubs over the years) played throughout the Riverina for some years.

Coincidentally, the team had a black and gold strip, colours that are pretty similar to those of the Albury Football Club — yellow and black — where Saturday’s rugby trial was played.

In some ways the rugby union mob have been beaten to the punch by the mungos, the participants in that Johnny-come-lately sport of rugby league, formed in 1908 by those more interested in lining their pockets with cash rather than maintaining their status as honourable amateurs.

The Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club was formed some 13 years before the Melbourne Rebels and NSW teams have been travelling down to Melbourne for that long to take on the Storm.

However, technically, Melbourne and Sydney representative teams have never clashed on the Border, so that gives the rah rahs some sort of boasting rights.

Thank God the Albury Thunder rugby league mob did not embarrass everyone — except themselves — by taking out the tens curtain-raiser on Saturday and claiming they were the superior code.

And OK, I’ll admit to it — I was a little bit pleased the Rebels got up and sat the Sydney mob on their backsides.

Hopefully the clash will be an annual event, a showcase where rugby can prove it is not only the original but also still the best.