FLASHBACK FRIDAY: BROADHURST FAREWELLS TEST ARENA IN ICONIC LANG PARK UPSET
The rugby league world’s attention is fixated on Suncorp Stadium for Saturday’s blockbuster NRL preliminary final between Brisbane Broncos and New Zealand Warriors.
Flashback Friday goes back 40 years to the previous incarnation of the venue, the hallowed Lang Park, as one of Canterbury’s greatest players farewelled the Test arena in a watershed victory for the Kiwis.
Papanui and Marist-Western Suburbs hardman Mark Broadhurst carried on the fine tradition of teak-tough Canterbury prop-forwards, playing 17 Tests for New Zealand and carving out an impressive career on the Australian and English club scenes.
A two-time CRL grand final winner with the Tigers, Broadhurst made his international debut from Marist-Western Suburbs in 1979 against Great Britain and was a Kiwis regular for the ensuing four seasons.
Broadhurst joined Manly Sea Eagles in 1981 before being lured to the fledgling Illawarra Steelers in 1983.
Graham Lowe succeeded Ces Mountford as New Zealand coach that year and Broadhurst was in the front-row for the series-opening 16-4 loss at Carlaw Park to the all-conquering Australian side, who had completed a historic unbeaten Kangaroo tour of Britain and France in 1982.
Four weeks later, the Kiwis ventured to Brisbane – and pulled off one of their greatest-ever wins to snap a 12-year drought against the green-and-golds.
After conceding the first try, New Zealand clawed back to a 9-6 halftime lead at Lang Park before powering to a 19-12 triumph. Graeme West, James Leuluai and Test rookie winger Joe Ropati provided the highlight-reel moments by scoring tries, but the foundation for the Kiwis’ authoritative win was laid up front.
‘Broadhurst and Dane Sorenson ruled the middle third of the field at the expense of (Dave) Brown and (Brad) Tessman,’ praised John Coffey in The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League, recognition of the intimidation factor the Kiwi bookends provided that fortified a monumental upset.
The result proved a turning point for New Zealand rugby league. Under Lowe, the Kiwis swept Great Britain 3-0 at home in 1984 and engaged in an epic series with Australia in 1985 that further entrenched the code’s skyrocketing popularity.
But at just 28, Broadhurst announced his international retirement, bringing the curtain down on one of the great Kiwi careers.
Broadhurst then joined Hull Kingston Rovers for the first of three English winters before rejoining Papanui in 1985, before taking on a player-coach role at the club in 1986.
Inducted into the NZRL Legends of League in 2013, Broadhurst’s (and fellow Canterbury, Manly and New Zealand forward Adrian Shelford’s) cherished place Canterbury Rugby League folklore was underlined when the Sea Eagles and the Warriors played for the Broadhurst-Shelford in Christchurch-hosted matches in 2018-19.