On Friday night, a group of elderly warriors assembled at the new Rugby Australia headquarters in Sydney to celebrate an important moment. They were there to watch rare footage of that long-ago afternoon when a touring Wallabies team defeated Wales for the first time.
Some from the 1966-67 Wallabies team have passed on. Others are struggling. But those who attended the viewing of a new DVD video titled 'Sometimes the Best Ever' which chronicles in detail their extensive northern hemisphere tour were so full of life, so delighted to again be in each other's company.
They were there, in the words of winger Stewart Boyce to celebrate an innocent time where 'we were paid a dollar a day, but the opportunity was priceless.' In the room were such notables as the mighty lock Rob Heming, the Test centre pairing of John Brass- who still looks as if he could sprint out onto a football field- and Dick Marks, fullback Jim Lenehan, winger Alan Cardy and prop Jim Miller, mingling with fellow tourists including Peter Crittle, Ross Teitzel, Peter Ryan and Jules Guerassimoff.
Footage of Australia's 14-11 win over Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on December 3, 1966 reminded all why the Wallabies had such a glowing reputation for playing fast, expressive football and that they knew how to overcome adversity. Heming played with a broken bone and torn ligaments in his right foot, while five-eighth Phil Hawthorne continued for 43 minutes with a depressed fracture of the cheekbone.
You can also comprehend why the players treated their captain John Thornett with such reverence. Not too many skippers would drop themselves from a game because they weren't happy with their form. Thornett did that for the Welsh Test. Ken Catchpole instead led the side that day.
These veterans were also able to witness at first hand Australian Rugby at last getting its act together. In recent times, Australian Rugby has stumbled from one blunder to the next.
However, those involved in the design of the new headquarters, in particular the erection of a large mural near the entrance which chronicles in graphic detail Australian Rugby's special moments, deserve rousing applause. The important teams, crucial players and defining events are all there. Well done.
Near the mural, the players, relatives and families mingled, before heading upstairs to watch Theo Clark's documentary. On the way, they passed another mural, which chronicles the importance the Ella brothers- Mark, Glen and Gary- had on the local game. Again, another perfect choice by Australian Rugby.
The next 70 odd minutes, they laughed, cried- especially when deceased colleagues appeared on the big screen- and finally applauded the first episode of a fine three-part documentary. All vowed that the next chapter was getting up on Sunday morning to see what the 2017 Wallabies could do to Wales.
They would have been happy that the early wakeup call was worthwhile. In those days, beating Wales was a mammoth event. Nowadays, it's become almost obligatory, and so no bells and whistles about the Wallabies beating the Welsh for the 13th straight time.
Nonetheless, this game reminded all of how crucial it is for any team to have a quality halfback.
The 1966-67 side had Australia's greatest scrumhalf- Catchpole. During the documentary, numerous players and former Sydney Morning Herald rugby correspondent Jim Webster who covered the tour, explain why 'Catchy' was regarded as the best. An often-told story from that tour is what the Rugby Football Union president Duggie Harrison uttered at the official dinner after Australia defeated England 23-11 at Twickenham. While praising Australia's open play, Duggie said: "I have also had the pleasure of watching the greatest halfback of all time."
The 2017 Wallabies haven't got a bad halfback either in Will Genia. He was the difference in the Welsh Test. His service was perfect, direction outstanding, and his authoritative tone ensured that Australia dominated the important moments of the game. Genia's exceptional pass to put Adam Coleman through for Australia's second try was something special.
As encouraging was that the Wallabies have overcome their defensive blemishes, which at the start of the season had them the butt of endless jokes. All Wallaby players could boast one or more effective, and often devastating tackles. Some no longer resemble spinning turnstiles.
They are now primed to confront Eddie Jones' England- a side that has inflicted considerable pain on them in recent times- at Twickenham next weekend.
Here's another Wallabies team, with an All Black defeat to recently boast about, who understand all that there is in trying to be 'Sometimes the Best Ever.'