High achievers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 November, 2008, 12:00am

Both nations have had their fair share of inventions and achievements

Neat idea: And the winner of the Bledisloe Cup for 2008 is ... Painswick. Yes, that's right. Painswick won the best-kept village competition (large village category) in Gloucestershire, England, a competition founded in 1937 by the former governor-general of New Zealand who did so much to stimulate trans-Tasman sporting rivalry. Lord Bledisloe, or just plain old Charles Bathurst to those who knew him well, had a life-long interest in agricultural and environmental affairs. On his return to England, he set up the competition and donated a trophy, also named the Bledisloe Cup, to foster pride in and care of rural communities by the inhabitants of his home county. Its success has made it the basis for similar competitions now held throughout Britain.

The Originals: New Zealand's 1905-06 tour to the United Kingdom, France and North America might be considered the most important in their history. The team played 35 matches, losing just once. In Britain, the team's prowess delivered a strong message about the quality of rugby in the colonies and New Zealand in particular. The tour also brought about the famous 'All Blacks' label, as the fame of the black-clad players spread. These tourists are now known as 'the Originals'.

The third century: Wallaby skipper Stirling Mortlock is closing in on becoming the third Australian player to post a century of points against the All Blacks. Mortlock has 84 points (including five tries) from his 15 previous tests against New Zealand. Just four players from any country have more test points against New Zealand, while just three players - Australians David Campese and Matthew Burke and South African Joost van der Westhuizen - have crossed the All Black goal-line more times.

Colonial cunning: Ever conscious of the need to nourish their legacies, Britain's colonial emissaries developed something of a penchant for bequeathing their names to sporting trophies around the globe, many of which have lasted well beyond the age of empire. The Bledisloe Cup, Ranfurly Shield, Grey Cup and Stanley Cup are but a few of these. The Ranfurly Shield, known as the 'Log o' Wood', is arguably the most prestigious trophy in New Zealand's domestic rugby union competition. It was first played for in 1904, having been donated by the then-governor-general, the Earl of Ranfurly. The Grey Cup is the name of the championship of the Canadian Football League and also the name of the trophy awarded to the winning side. Now Canada's largest annual sports and television event, it originates from a 1909 gift by the then-governor-general, Earl Grey, to recognise the top amateur rugby football team in Canada. The Stanley Cup, an ice hockey club championship trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League play-off champions, is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. The trophy was donated by a former governor-general of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston in 1892.

Long history: Rugby has been played in New Zealand since 1870, with the first match being played between Nelson College and the Nelson Football Club at the top of the South Island on May 14. The first representative game was held later that year between teams from Nelson and Wellington.

Provincial pride: The quality of the New Zealand provincial game, which has a two-tiered national competition featuring 26 teams, has long been considered the core strength of the All Black game. The first provincial unions - Wellington and Canterbury - date back to 1879 (13 years before the formation of the New Zealand Rugby Union), while the first overseas team were received in 1882 when a team from New South Wales toured.

The man in charge: In 2007, Graham Henry coached in his second World Cup, taking the All Blacks to the quarter-finals, after he had achieved the same with Wales in 1999. Henry has won 50 of the 58 tests he has had in charge of New Zealand.

One of a kind: New Wallaby coach Robbie Deans has already carved for himself a unique niche in Bledisloe Cup history. The first foreigner to guide the Wallabies presided over Australia's highest winning score against New Zealand - 34 points at Sydney in July - five years after he had been co-coach of an All Black side that had inflicted the highest concession of points - 50 - on Australia. Deans played fullback in the New Zealand side who retained the Bledisloe Cup with a 2-1 series win in Australia in 1984. He then helped the All Blacks regain the trophy for the first time in five seasons, in 2003, as assistant coach of the side who won that year's series 2-0.

Twenty not out: Wallaby flanker George Smith will line up against New Zealand for the 20th time today. His tally of 19 caps represents the seventh-highest figure achieved by any player against the All Blacks. The top four places are all occupied by Australians.

In 1987, A.J. Hackett took an illegal plunge off the Eiffel Tower with an elastic band tied to his back. Bungee jumping has now become part of New Zealand folklore, as well as a tourist magnet.

Multiple generations of Aussies who have grown strong through the consumption of Vegemite, one of the world's richest sources of vitamin B, owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Cyril Callister's 1922 concoction of brewer's yeast.

Kiwis draw their identity from the great outdoors, and this is strongly depicted in their inventions and ingenuity. Most people know that Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb Mount Everest, but few know that Burt Munroe, (played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie the World's Fastest Indian), set the world land speed record on an ancient motorbike when he was in his 60s.

Any Aussie worth his salt will want a return on his investment and none has performed better in this regard than the boomerang.

Both Australia and New Zealand are known for their intrepid ingenuity, and there ain't no mountain too high when it comes to inventions and a can-do attitude, even if your name isn't Sir Edmund Hillary.

A New Zealand rugby referee named William Atack was the first to use a whistle to control a game of

sport in 1884 and some say Aussies have been attacking and arguing with Kiwi referees on the pitch ever since.

Early 20th century physicist Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealander known as the father of nuclear physics, did his bit for the green movement in the greater Pacific region - ask any of the Bikini Atoll refugees.

Pharmacist and veterinarian Colin Murdoch made New Zealand proud and made himself a pile out of his patent for the disposable hypodermic syringe. Many of the finest examples of his invention now grace the sands of Sydney's Bondi Beach.

Any mention of New Zealand ingenuity would be woefully incomplete without a mention of the Zorb, which some claim is the backbone of modern tourism in the Land of the Long White Cloud. If you thought bungee jumping was gut wrenching, try rolling down a hill inside one of these giant inflated rubber balls - especially with a couple of pints of ale inside you.

Farming is a big thing on both sides of the Tasman and the introduction by Aussies Robert and Clarence Bowyer Smith in 1876 of the stump jump plough, which could jump over tree stumps and rocks as it helped transform gum tree valleys into wheat fields, was welcomed as warmly in Footrot Flats as it was in Wagga Wagga.

The Australian identity is bathed in beer so it may be a bit of a shock to find it was an Aussie, Thomas Angrove, who took time out from hop quaffing to introduce in 1965 the cardboard-housed plastic wine cask which collapses in concert with its imbiber as it empties.

Eugene Nicolle and Thomas Mort developed shipboard refrigeration in 1879 that resulted in the export of meat from Australia to Britain, but it is generally accepted that their greater contribution to society was the consequent enabling of an ice-cold beer to be served on demand.

To an Australian, his home is his castle. No wonder, then, that much inventive endeavour has lent in that direction. Where would the world be without squeezy mops? The rotary clothes line hoist, roller doors for garages, solar water heating, rotary engine lawnmowers, the genetically engineered blue rose, as well as the 'Splayd', the 1970s hybrid between a fork, spoon and knife, made famous by comedian/comedienne Dame Edna Everage?