Waratahs can't not be inspired by the SCG's rich rugby history: Growden

It is now the winter domain of the Sydney Swans AFL team. Nonetheless, if the Waratahs are looking for a psyche-up pill before what was for decades their most important match of the season all they need to do is dig into the archives and discover how crucial this weekend's match venue has been in the development of NSW and Australian Rugby.

There is no more important rugby plot of earth in Australia than the Sydney Cricket Ground. It is where Australian rugby established itself, found its feet and experienced some of its most controversial moments and epic conquests.

Even though the spectator view is pretty average -- as the playing field is a considerable distance from the grandstands -- the return of the Waratahs-Queensland Reds game to the SCG after 35 years has delighted those who grew up heading to the grand old ground to watch Tests or NSW games.

The novelty of rugby returning to the SCG is bound to provide a jolt to Waratahs attendance figures, which has dramatically nose-dived in recent years.

Australian rugby's first home was the SCG. It is where Australia played its first international in 1899 against a Great Britain team headed by Reverend Matthew Mullineux. The inaugural trans-Tasman Test was played at the SCG four years later, and with it an immediate trend -- the local press had to ruefully admit for the first of many times that the All Blacks were 'too good.'

It is also where NSW in 1937 enjoyed its greatest triumph. If their current coach Daryl Gibson has any brains he would track down the existing footage of that game -- even if it is of a scratchy 81 year vintage -- because if the few minutes of highlights which exist of that game doesn't inspire his players, nothing will.

The 1937 Springboks which toured Australia and New Zealand is still rated among the mightiest touring sides from any country. South Africa boasted a gargantuan pack, were expertly guided around the field by their scrum-half Danie Craven and complemented by a quality backline.

NSW were regarded as having no hope against them. Making matters worse in the days leading up to the match, Sydney was awash. The SCG on match day was a bog -- conditions which were supposed to suit the Boks. But that didn't deter NSW's ever-inventive coach Johnny Wallace, the mastermind of the successful 1927-28 Waratah tour of Great Britain where the visitors enlightened all with their extravagant ball-in-hand play.

Wallace was fascinated by the battle strategies of the Napoleonic wars. Some argued Wallace even believed he was Napoleon Bonaparte's rugby twin, repeatedly devising outlandish plans to win rugby matches.

Before the game, Wallace, who earlier in the year had enticed a disenchanted Cyril Towers to return to Sydney from South Africa to captain the NSW team, walked out to the middle of the ground. He returned to the dressing room drenched, with mud up to his ankles. That didn't bother him. Wallace's final words to his players were: "I want you to play just the sort of game we have been practicing. Throw the ball about!"

They did, attacking from all areas of the field to produce the greatest wet weather performance by an Australian team, winning 17-6. In the South African dressing room that night, their captain Philip Nel remarked: 'Had I not seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it possible any rugby team in the world could have played such open football as those NSW lads did on that morass.'

As Craven -- later the godfather of South African rugby -- wrote: 'I have never seen a finer exhibition of football under such distressingly adverse conditions. Absolutely marvellous.'

Three years earlier at the SCG the Wallabies also found a way to keep the All Blacks at bay. In the Australia pack that day was Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, who later became one of this nation's most celebrated World War II figures -- particularly for his care of men under his command while a prisoner of war.

During the SCG Test, several All Blacks attempted to knock him out cold. Weary's nose was flattened by a deliberate All Blacks' elbow. Australia captain Alec Ross tried to persuade Weary to leave the field. He refused. Weary instead told his skipper: 'I don't want to leave this ground until I've settled a score.'

Although his nose was gushing blood, he put his hands behind the back of whom he thought was the New Zealand culprit's neck and kneed him in the face. Shortly after, Weary discovered he had 'got the wrong man'. He kept his head down and was instrumental in Australia enjoying one of its most convincing performances against an All Black line-up, winning 25-11.

A key motivator was what the All Blacks manager A.J. Geddes said during the half-time break. Talking into a microphone which was relaying the match back to New Zealand, Geddes said his team had the game 'in the bag'. Standing nearby, the Australia players were enraged by Geddes' comments, and vowed to 'bash the All Blacks'. They did during a vicious second half.

The SCG is also where the Australian public at last discovered what the Bledisloe Cup actually looked like. In 1979, the Australian players for the first time took the Cup on a lap of honour around the ground after defeating Graham Mourie's All Blacks 12-6. In the middle of the Australian players was their effervescent coach Dave Brockhoff gleefully bounding around the field in his suit. It remains one of the Wallabies most cherished images.

It has also been the venue for some of Australian rugby's most hideous images especially when traditionalists, police and anti-apartheid protesters clashed during the volatile 1971 Springbok tour.

The last NSW-Queensland game at the SCG wasn't quite so colourful. There was a galaxy of big names on the field in June 1983, including Mark, Glen and Gary Ella alongside Phillip Cox, Simon Poidevin, Peter Lucas, David Codey and Ollie Hall up against Queensland's Roger Gould, Andrew Slack, Michael Lynagh, Peter Grigg, Tony Shaw, Chris Roche and Stan Pilecki. Queensland tried to stifle NSW. It didn't work.

In a good omen for the form team of the Australian conference, the Waratahs, NSW won by one point.