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‘Let it go, champ’: Harrison-Healey feud reignites 20 years on

But it was a newspaper column on the eve of the deciding third Test in Sydney, won 29-23 by Australia, that really made Healey public enemy No.1.

“Spin this, you Aussies: up yours,” Healey wrote for the Guardian. “Is that enough to get into the Sydney Morning Sun Telegraph Herald Load of Shite?

Harrison and Healey go toe-to-toe during a Lions and Australia A match

Harrison and Healey go toe-to-toe during a Lions and Australia A matchCredit:Steve Christo

“Justin Harrison’s in the team to face us. Me and the plank. Do you think one of us will have the final say? I’ll say so.”

In his maiden Test, Harrison pulled off a lineout steal in Australian territory the dying stages when the Lions threatened to score in what was the defining moment of his 34-Test international career. Healey was injured for the final fixture.

In a column for the Telegraph this week, Healey put forward his version of events from the Australia A game.

“[Harrison] knee-dropped one of our players when playing for Australia ‘A’, so I caught him with a little jab in the face, nobody saw it, and he lost the plot, chasing me over to the sidelines,” Healey wrote. “I looked at the ref and said, ‘He’s lost it, you’ve got to send him off,’ which made Harrison even angrier.”

Wallabies second-rower Justin Harrison gestures to British and Irish Lions back Austin Healey during a match in 2001.

Wallabies second-rower Justin Harrison gestures to British and Irish Lions back Austin Healey during a match in 2001. Credit:Getty

Contacted by the Herald, Harrison could not believe Healey had accused him of kneeing a player in the back. Whilst not wanting to turn the comments into a slanging match, Harrison was eager to set the record straight.

“It was a kick through in play,” Harrison said. “[Wallaby Graeme] Bond ran back and dove on it. I was running back onside to try and get around and secure possession. I saw Healey slide in with his knees into Bondy’s back, so I grabbed him straight away.

“And he said he gave me one on the chin that nobody saw? Of course no one saw it, because it didn’t happen. I grabbed him and started remonstrating with him and the referee. I took him over to the sideline and he’s changed the story to be exactly the opposite.”

Harrison accused Healey of stretching the truth.

“He says that I slid in with my knees when he scored the match-equalling try against the Brumbies and he’s blaming me for injuring him for the third Test?” Harrison said.

“He’s got an inventive, envious streak going through him where he mentions me. It’s like a Mr Men character, where he can’t tell the truth. I think because he has a fear of losing relevance. Let it go champ, you were on QF2 flying home to London at kick-off.”

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As Healey put it in a newspaper column 20 years ago following Australia’s series win: “My mate Justin had a bit of a game, didn’t he? Of course, he had the freedom of the park without me there to irritate him. Well played, Justin. Wow, that didn’t hurt too much.”

Harrison finds it amusing that Healey has tried to be amicable when the pair have bumped into each other in recent years.

“He’s cordial and will shake my hand when I see him,” Harrison said. “When he writes that sort of stuff, it’s not great. “I had a chat with Graeme Bond and he enjoyed the bedtime story too.”

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