1988 Rugby League World Cup Final

The 1988 Rugby League World Cup final was the conclusive game of the 1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup tournament and was played between New Zealand and Australia on 9 October 1988 at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Australia won the final by 25 points to 12 in front of a New Zealand rugby league record attendance of 47,363. Australia, the defending champions, won the Rugby League World Cup for the 6th time.

1988 (1988) Rugby League World Cup Final  ()
Eden Park cropped.jpg
12 Total
NZL New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg 012 12
AUS Australian colours.svg 214 25
Date9 October 1988
StadiumEden Park
LocationAuckland, New Zealand
Man of the MatchGavin Miller Australian colours.svg
RefereesGraham Ainui Papua New Guinea
Broadcast partners
← 1977
1992 →


Team Played Won Drew Lost For Against Difference Points
  Australia 8 6 0 2 252 91 +161 121
  New Zealand 8 5 1 2 158 86 +72 111
  Great Britain 8 4 2 2 203 90 +113 10
  Papua New Guinea 8 2 0 6 84 325 −241 41
  France 8 1 1 6 35 140 −105 3

1 France's 1987 away fixtures against Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were scratched and each team awarded two points as the French were unable to tour Australasia that year due to financial difficulties.

New ZealandEdit

The Tony Gordon coached New Zealand started their World Cup campaign on 7 July 1985 (under the coaching of Graham Lowe) when they defeated Australia 18–0 at Carlaw Park in Auckland. Until the Final, The Kiwis won another 3 games while losing 2 and drawing 1 for a 4-2-1 record.


Opposing Team For Against Date Venue Attendance Stage
  Australia 18 0 7 July 1985 Carlaw Park, Auckland 15,327 Group Stage
  Great Britain 6 6 9 November 1985 Headingley, Leeds 22,209 Group Stage
  France 22 0 7 December 1985 Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan 5,000 Group Stage
  Australia 12 32 29 July 1986 Lang Park, Brisbane 22,811 Group Stage
  Papua New Guinea 22 24 22 May 1988 Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby 15,000 Group Stage
  Papua New Guinea 66 14 10 July 1988 Carlaw Park, Auckland 8,392 Group Stage
  Great Britain 12 10 17 July 1988 Rugby League Park, Christchurch 8,525 Group Stage


Australia began their World Cup campaign with a shock 18-0 loss to New Zealand in the third test of the 1985 Trans-Tasman series in Auckland on 7 July 1985 (under the coaching of 1977 World Cup Final winning coach Terry Fearnley). The Don Furner coached Kangaroos would win another 5 games while losing 1 for a 5-2 record.


Opposing Team For Against Date Venue Attendance Stage
  New Zealand 0 18 7 July 1985 Carlaw Park, Auckland 15,327 Group Stage
  New Zealand 12 32 29 July 1986 Lang Park, Brisbane 22,811 Group Stage
  Papua New Guinea 62 12 4 October 1986 Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby 17,000 Group Stage
  Great Britain 24 15 22 November 1986 Central Park, Wigan 20,169 Group Stage
  France 52 0 13 December 1986 Stade d'Albert Domec, Carcassonne 5,000 Group Stage
  Great Britain 12 26 9 July 1988 Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney 15,944 Group Stage
  Papua New Guinea 70 8 20 July 1988 Eric Weissel Oval, Wagga Wagga 11,685 Group Stage

Head to HeadEdit

This would be the first time that New Zealand and Australia would meet in a World Cup Final.

Host venueEdit

Australia won the right to host the World Cup Final. However, in the interests of rugby league, and with international attendances in Australia on the decline since the domination of the Kangaroos had begun a decade earlier, the Australian Rugby League (ARL) agreed to allow the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) to host the Final. Additionally, the Australian venues that would have been used, the 40,000 capacity Sydney Football Stadium (SFS) and the 32,500 capacity Lang Park in Brisbane were both smaller than the ultimate choice of Eden Park, while the 50,000 capacity Sydney Cricket Ground which had hosted the 1968 and 1977 World Cup Finals was not considered as the ARL had moved its playing headquarters to the new Football Stadium in 1988.

At the time the largest rugby league venue in New Zealand was the 20,000 capacity Carlaw Park in Auckland. New Zealand's largest stadium, the 48,000 capacity Eden Park stadium in Auckland, the spiritual home of rugby union in New Zealand was chosen as the host venue. Eden Park had also hosted the 1987 Rugby World Cup Final (attracting 48,035) giving it the distinction of being the only venue to host both the Rugby League and Rugby Union World Cup Finals.

This would be the first rugby league match to be played at Eden Park since 1919. As of 201 the attendance of 47,363 remains the record crowd for a rugby league match at the venue and the record attendance for a rugby league match in New Zealand, easily beating the recorded 28,000 attendance from 4 August 1928 when New Zealand had defeated England at Carlaw Park.[1]

Match detailsEdit

9 October 1988
New Zealand   12 – 25   Australia
Kevin Iro
Tony Iro

Peter Brown (2/5)
[1] Tries:
Allan Langer (2)
Gavin Miller
Dale Shearer
Michael O'Connor (4/7)
Field Goal:
Benny Elias
Eden Park, Auckland
Attendance: 47,363 [2]
Referee: Graham Ainui  
Man of the Match: Gavin Miller  
New Zealand
FB 1   Gary Mercer
RW 2   Tony Iro
RC 3   Kevin Iro
LC 4   Dean Bell (c)
LW 5   Mark Elia
FE 6   Gary Freeman
HB 7   Clayton Friend
PR 8   Peter Brown
HK 9   Wayne Wallace
PR 10   Adrian Shelford
SR 11   Mark Graham
SR 12   Kurt Sorensen
LF 13   Mark Horo
IC 14   Shane Cooper
IC 15   Sam Stewart
  Tony Gordon
FB 1   Garry Jack
RW 2   Dale Shearer
RC 3   Andrew Farrar
LC 4   Mark McGaw
LW 5   Michael O'Connor
FE 6   Wally Lewis (c)
HB 7   Allan Langer
PR 8   Paul Dunn
HK 9   Benny Elias
PR 10   Steve Roach
SR 11   Paul Sironen
SR 12   Gavin Miller
LF 13   Wayne Pearce
IC 14   David Gillespie
IC 15   Terry Lamb
  Don Furner

Despite Australia's successful Ashes defence against Great Britain earlier in the year, the inexperience of the Australian World Cup Final team (and because NZ had defeated Australia in their previous encounter in a one-off test in Brisbane in 1987), saw the hosts actually go into the match as favourites in the eyes of many critics. However, the Wally Lewis led Kangaroos, boasting veteran test players Garry Jack, Dale Shearer, Michael O'Connor (a dual rugby international and the only member of the team to have previously played at Eden Park), Steve Roach, Paul Dunn, Wayne Pearce, and Terry Lamb, along with 1986 Kangaroos Benny Elias and Paul Sironen, mixed with newer international players Mark McGaw, Allan Langer, Gavin Miller, Andrew Farrar and David Gillespie, triumphed over the ill-disciplined Kiwis, who at least made sure the victorious Australians were bloodied and bruised for their victory lap. For the Kiwis, the Iro brothers Tony and Kevin, Gary Freeman, Clayton Friend, Mark Graham, Adrian Shelford, Kurt Sorensen and captain Dean Bell dished out the punishment.

Other than the ill-discipline, some of the Kiwis had a game to forget. Gary Mercer at fullback missed first half tackles on Langer and Man of the Match Gavin Miller that led directly to each crossing for a try, while Langer simply stood him up and left him grasping at air to score his second of the first half, while Dean Bell dropped two balls in the first 20 minutes of the game (the second after a good break down the left flank by Freeman) that each time led to Australia scoring soon after.

Despite the pre-game predictions, the Aussie's led 21–0 at half time and scored soon after the resumption of play as Dale Shearer stood up Wayne Wallace and strode over in the corner. O'Connor missed the conversion, and a further two penalty kicks and Australia's score remained at 25. From there the Kiwis mounted a mini comeback with the Iro brothers crossing for tries, but the Australian's had the game well in hand to claim their 6th World Cup crown and 3rd in succession after also winning the 1975 and 1977 tournaments.

Despite Queensland having won the 1988 State of Origin series 3–0 over New South Wales earlier in the year and supplying the bulk of the players in The Ashes win over Great Britain, the Maroons only supplied three of Australia's 15 players for the World Cup Final - captain Wally Lewis, Dale Shearer and Allan Langer. Lewis broke his right forearm in the 15th minute of the game while tackling Tony Iro, the Kiwi winger had tried to duck under Lewis' tackle and Wally's right forearm came into contact with Iro's head. With his arm hanging limp affecting his passing (including a pass from dummy half that literally just fell to the ground), Lewis bravely played on for another 25 minutes with the Kiwis targeting him in defence before Terry Lamb came on to replace him. Queenslander's missing from Australia's record 70–8 win over Papua New Guinea just over 2 months earlier were Mal Meninga (broken arm), Peter Jackson, Tony Currie, Greg Conescu, Wally Fullerton Smith and reserve forward Paul Vautin. Lewis later publicly claimed that it was the same as had been the case since State of Origin had started in 1980, Qld wins the series but it was mainly NSW players picked for Australia. The Australian team included nine players who had played in the 1988 NSWRL Grand Final a month earlier (4 from premiers Canterbury-Bankstown and 5 from runners up Balmain), plus a further four players who had played in the Finals series. Only Wally Lewis and Allan Langer had not played during the NSWRL Finals.

After taking over the Kangaroos coaching role in 1986 and compiling a 13–2 win/loss record, this would be Don Furner's last game as coach of the Australian team. From 1989 the Australian coach would be former test captain and Manly-Warringah's 1987 premiership winning coach Bob Fulton.


The match was broadcast into Australia by the Nine Network with commentary from Darrell Eastlake, Ray Warren and special comments from five time Sydney premiership winning "Supercoach" Jack Gibson with Michael Cronin, Australia's record test point scorer and a World Cup winner in 1975 and 1977, the sideline reporter.


External linksEdit