The Rise & Rise of Australian Rugby - The Grand Slam: Deluxe Edition
ABC/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 535 mins .
E . PAL
Now that the 2003 Rugby World Cup is over and has been won by worthy winners England, there is a hope that Rugby Union will become a more powerful force in this country. Currently dominated by AFL and Rugby League, the popularity of the World Cup tournament has left the general population with a better understanding of the game and a desire to see more. Even though the locals beloved Wallabies put up a great fight in the World Cup Final and could have perhaps snatched the title, the further respect gained by the nation has only increased their popularity.
The second biggest prize in world rugby after the World Cup would have to be the Grand Slam, at least as far as the Wallabies are concerned. There is of course the Bledisloe Cup and most Aussies rate beating the Kiwis as a high priority, but surely the Grand Slam is a much harder goal to achieve. No disrespect to the Kiwis, but to beat the four home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is a much tougher goal, the proof being the rarity of it happening.
The Wallabies of 1984 managed to achieve this goal though, an achievement that is still recognised today as one of Australia’s finest victories on the rugby stage. They took a team littered with talented players such as Mark Ella, David Campese, Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynaugh and although the expectations were high, they knew that the teams they would face would not lie down and let them walk away with this prized achievement without one hell of a fight.
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England at Twickenham is always a tough game for any visiting team, but the biggest hurdle for the Aussies was to face Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. The Welsh scrum was renowned as the best in the world at the time and the majority of rugby fans could not see a way that Australia could overcome this. Ireland and Scotland were also challenging opposition but despite the odds, the Wallabies not only beat the four home nations, they also crowned this memorable tour with a win over the Barbarians, a team consisting of the best players in Europe. They even took the time in the game to have some fun and created a gridiron formation, but quickly took the game more seriously to round off the tour with another win.
Hosted by former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons, this documentary is fascinating, not only for rugby fans but also for those with an interest in sport or even in Australian history. It contains some terrific footage of this great achievement along with interviews from not only Wallaby players, but also players from the losing nations.
The 'Deluxe Edition' contains not only the documentary and basic extras contained on the single disc edition, but also the games against England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Barbarians in full on the remaining three discs. These full matches are also accompanied by a choice of the British BBC or Australian ABC original broadcasts to give a different perspective. This makes this collection a real treat for fans and something that will warrant repeat viewings.
This feat by the 1984 Wallabies has not been repeated and with England now being the number one team in the world it doesn’t look likely to happen anytime soon. There are many highlights throughout the history of Australian rugby and apart from Australia being the only nation to win the World Cup twice, this achievement must rate highly as one of their greatest achievements thus far. This wonderful documentary is a terrific account of the events of 1984 and rugby fans and historians should enjoy it immensely.
The video transfer for this release is a combination of two formats. There is the 16:9 enhanced aspect ratio of 1.78:1 for the documentary along with a full frame ratio for the five test matches. The footage contained is a mix of archival footage from the early ‘80s along with present day interview footage. As expected, the archival footage suffers in many expected areas such as grain and a slight washed out appearance, but does look pretty good overall considering its age. The fact that it is also widescreen adds to the overall quality, showing the amount of effort that has gone into this production. The present day interview footage really is pristine. It is sharp and vibrant and truly looks wonderful. There are no real problems with it at all and the producers can be proud of a job well done.
Subtitles are supplied in English for the hearing impaired for the documentary only and these are reasonably accurate. They are also well placed so as not to interfere with any other text shown on screen.
Audio is supplied in the stock standard Dolby Digital stereo and really does all it needs to do. For this type of feature there is no need for a reference quality soundtrack and this mix really is sufficient. This feature is obviously dialogue-driven and for this purpose it is extremely clear. Synch is also never a problem and supporting music is also well placed and clear at all times.
There is also a choice of commentaries that are covered more in the extras section but these are also of similar quality, doing all they are required to do without being spectacular.
The collection of extras is an interesting one and most are something that fans should really enjoy seeing.
Schoolboys in the Mist
This brief featurette runs for 1:49 and looks at the 1977 Australian schoolboys match at Twickenham played in thick fog.
1977/78 Schoolboys Exhibition
This featurette runs for 1:28 and shows footage of a reunion match with the 1977 Australian schoolboys played back in Sydney.
Wales on Tour in Australia
This featurette runs for 1:16 and contains an interview with the Welsh coach along with training footage prior to their tour of Australia.
The Topo Rodriguez Story
This featurette runs for 1:45 looks at Argentinian immigrant Topo Rodriguez who became a pivotal player in the Wallabies team. Many fans will recognise Topu from his reporting on SBS over the 2003 World Cup Finals.
Gordon Bray's 1984 Tour Preview
Commentator extraordinaire Gordon Bray gives a brief preview of the Wallabies tour of Britain in 1984. This featurette runs for 1:42.
Gordon Bray's Scotland Test Preview
Running for 1:47, Gordon Bray takes a look at the test match against Scotland during the 1984 tour.
Gordon Bray Interviews Alan Jones
Gordon Bray this time talks to Wallabies coach Alan Jones prior to the match with Scotland. This featurette runs for 2:06.
The Wind and Murrayfield
Running for 2:05, this featurette is an amusing look at the home of rugby in Scotland and its secret weapon – the wind. It looks at how Alan Jones sneaked in prior to the big game to gain some insight.
Gordon Bray's Celebration Story
Basically this featurette is how Gordon Bray reported on the Wallabies memorable Grand Slam victory. It runs for 1:45.
1984 Grand Slam Winners Interviews
The biggest featurette on offer running for 16:57, this one features interviews with the Wallabies players after their victory that clinched the Grand Slam.
BBC 1981 Tour Preview
Running for 6:23, this featurette is the BBC produced preview to the Wallabies tour of Britain in 1981. It contains interviews with Alan Jones and players and is a nice inclusion to show the viewpoint from the other side of the fence.
The two audio commentaries included with this release are easily the pick of the bunch. These are both available for the full games included on discs two, three and four. The reason they are such a nice inclusion is the fact that there is a choice of the original British BBC broadcast along with the original Australian ABC broadcast. This allows viewers to get a totally different perspective of these matches from both sides of the fence. The BBC commentary is a little more professional than the Australian one because Gordon Bray does get very excited, but when you consider the achievements here, his excitement is understandable and from an Aussie point of view adds to the feel.
This really is a terrific documentary and is wonderfully packaged. To not only get a great documentary but to also get the test matches in full, along with optional commentaries, is a real bonus and something that most viewers will enjoy immensely. The video transfer varies, ranging from the aged archival footage to the pristine recent footage and the audio does the job it needs to do extremely well. The extras on disc one are interesting and the audio commentaries on the remaining discs are terrific. Really, for a release such as this, the producers couldn’t have done much better – great job!