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The Roar


'Still haunts me': Matildas 'true believer' Mat Rogers hoping they'll avenge 'brutal' 2003 RWC moment

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15th August, 2023
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Two decades on and the Wallabies’ infamous extra-time final loss to England in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final still haunts Mat Rogers.

The dual international has never watched a replay of the game, having no desire to relive Jonny Wilkinson’s painful drop goal with 28 seconds remaining in Australia’s 20-17 loss at Sydney’s Stadium Australia.

“I know what happened. Not a fond memory, unfortunately,” Rogers told AAP on Tuesday. 

It’s little wonder, then, that Rogers would love nothing more than for the Matildas to gain a semblance of revenge for the Wallabies – and en entire nation – over the old enemy on Wednesday night.

The Matildas’ Women’s World Cup semi-final against the Lionesses is unquestionably the biggest sporting contest at the same venue between Australia and England since that fateful November night 20 years ago.

“They probably say they owe us from the Ashes that just happened. But there is nothing better than getting one over the Poms,” said Rogers, who still loses sleep over not playing his own opportunistic role in changing the course of sporting history.

Wallabies Jeremy Paul (L), Mat Rogers, Stephen Larkham and Wendell Sailor (R) show their dissapointment following Englands 2017 win over Australia in extra time in the Rugby World Cup 2003 final at the Sydney Olympic Stadium, Saturday. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

The fullback was under captain’s orders from George Gregan to send the clearing kick to the sideline for a lineout, rather than allowing England to counter-attack.


But a crash tackle from England flanker Lewis Moody knocked Rogers off balance.

“I was moving to my left and could only go to the left, which is fine being a left-footer, but it cut my angle down,” Rogers recalled.

“I wasn’t going to be able to get yardage. I remember thinking in that split second ‘should I just reef it straight down the middle of the field and back our defence?’.

“And I didn’t. I thought I’d just stick to the game plan.

“We still defended well off the back of the lineout but (halfback Matt) Dawson threw the dummy, went through the hole and it was all over.

“It was brutal. It still haunts me.”


With Rogers’ 15-year-old daughter Phoenix playing soccer for Gold Coast United in the National Premier League, with aspirations of one day herself being a Matilda, the former Cronulla, Gold Coast, Queensland State of Origin and Australia rugby league star is extra invested in the World Cup.

“I’m not just on the bandwagon. I’m proper into it,” he said.

“We’ve met the players, gone to other games prior to World Cups, had photos with the girls.”

He’s a true believer, likening the patriotic fervour for the Matildas to that which the Wallabies enjoyed 20 years ago at their home World Cup.

“There are a lot of parallels,” Rogers said.


“We were sort of the underdogs too. 

“We’d been pumped earlier in the season by the All Blacks but as the competition went on and we beat the All Blacks in the semi-finals, people were excited. The country just lit up.”

Rogers can see the irony if the Matildas beat England on penalties to advance to the final.

“Not the nicest way to win,” he said “But if you win that way, you’ll take it.”