A title is a title: Blues seek to end 18 years of pain

Blues players at training before Saturday's final. Photo: © Andrew Cornaga / Photosport Ltd 2021 www.photosport.nz

For the first time since 2003, the Blues will contest a Super Rugby final, and players and fans alike are desperate to bring an end to the title drought.

It might not be the full Super Rugby competition but for a team labelled consistent under achievers for the past decade, beating the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday night to lift the trans-Tasman trophy would mean just as much.

The Blues beat the Crusaders in 2003 to claim their third and last Super Rugby title, with former All Black number 8 Xavier Rush as captain.

“To get the result it was an amazing feeling and obviously a lot of joy. I can remember we partied pretty hard for about three days down the viaduct haha, I won’t forget some of the memories from that. The person who had the wildest time was Geoff Thomas, the gone outdoors fishing guy (host of former TV show Outdoors with Geoff).

“He was a great ambassador for Auckland rugby and he’s a top bloke. I’ve got vivid memories of him, he must of been about 55 at the time, drinking from the beer tap in some bar and I thought, ‘Yep, it’s going to be a goodnight’. We didn’t lose the trophy like we lost the Ranfurly Shield though, that was a debacle,” Rush recounted.

The Blues have gone through a few on field debacles since, with the team failing to reach a final in 18 years.

Hooker Kurt Ekland believes if they win tomorrow night, the celebrations may also mirror the Blues of 2003.

“It would be the cherry on the top wouldn’t it? It would definitely be a couple of good days celebrating. We can’t count our chickens before they hatch though.”

The Blues haven’t even reached the playoffs since 2011 and Rush, who now lives and works in Cardiff, says it’s heartening to see them back at the top.

“As a proud Aucklander it’s great to see the Blues hitting their straps. I’ve wondered for a long time why it’s taken so long, only because Auckland has so much talent. I went back direclty after retiring from playing and the amount of talent in the schoolboy rugby in Auckland is huge. It’s great to see the team being where I think Auckland rugby should be.”

Those sentiments are echoed by Ekland, who was a fan of the team long before he was a player.

“Growing up and watching the Blues and seeing how much we’ve improved over the last couple years, it’s pretty cool to have been a part of. To make the first final the team has had in quite a while is pretty special again.”

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