Australia have not beaten New Zealand at Eden Park in 23 years, a hoodoo captain Stirling Mortlock is well aware of and desperate to end today. The Wallabies have travelled to Auckland to take on New Zealand in the opening fixture of the Tri Nations with high hopes of overcoming one of Australian rugby's toughest challenges. At the same ground last year the All Blacks trounced Australia 39-10 to uphold their proud record at one of New Zealand's most famous rugby grounds.
Mortlock is desperate to turn the tables and said there had been a perfect build-up to the momentous match. "It shouldn't be tough to win at Eden Park, but the reality is that hoodoos sometimes eventuate in sport," said the centre. "Another reality is that they get broken. "For us, our mindset is that it's a great opportunity for the group and we know it's a significant challenge but we're very excited and ready for it."
Compared to last year, Mortlock, 32, said the 2009 Wallabies are a more focused group and have adapted well under Robbie Deans's leadership in his second season as coach. "The nucleus of this squad has grown a lot," he said. "Our understanding and clarity about what we're trying to achieve has improved. That shows in our training, in our mentality and I guess also in the pride the guys have in each other.
"We just keep building. Robbie's pretty keen to keep us moving forward and to keep on growing and improving. "When you keep on doing that, both individually and on a collective basis, it's a really positive environment to be part of and that does instil confidence." The Wallabies were in good spirits at their training sessions during the week and seem to be a lot more confident than they were when they arrived in Auckland in 2008.
Mortlock said the team have trained perfectly in the build-up to the Test and now have the opportunity to relax momentarily. "Obviously it's exactly where you need to be prior to a massive Test match, but the reality is we've got a big job ahead of us," said Mortlock.We all know that, it's a good time of the week because we've done all our physical work so now it's just about making sure we're all mentally right."