Sunday, 2 November 2008

Jamie's Weekly Sports Thought

With the notable exception of Warwick Taylor and Walter Little, filling the number 12 jersey has long been a problem for the All Blacks. Now I wonder whether we are filling the jersey with a problem child?

No one would deny for a moment Dan Carter is anything other than a magnificent rugby player. Arguably only Richie McCaw could lay claim to being better. But have Carter’s tight-fitting Jockeys cut the circulation to his very astute rugby brain?

I realize it borders on blasphemy to take Dan’s name in vain but questions need to be asked about his and the NZRU’s behaviour. It’s not out of character for the latter to be dysfunctional but Carter, since his meteoric debut in 2003, has been the poster boy of All Black rugby and has hardly put a foot wrong, if you forgive him an indifferent and injury-affected World Cup.

His non-appearance in the Air New Zealand Cup final was nonsensical and reeks of the tail wagging the dog. The NZRU had already cut him considerable slack by allowing him a lucrative six month sabbatical. Surely an appearance in the country’s premier domestic showcase was not too much to ask in return.

Today in Riversdale, it’s with great sadness we farewell a man who has made a mighty contribution to Southland as a farmer and in sporting circles.

Like countless hundreds of other kids in this province, I have fond memories of being carted to sporting events around Southland by Bill and Claire Horrell. In my case it was for tennis tournaments as a youngster but many others will have equally enjoyable memories of jaunts to hockey and badminton.

Bill’s son Rohan, and I, claimed the Southland primary school doubles title way back in 1972. While I’d like to think I was an equal contributor to our success, the fact that Rohan had won the same title in the two preceding years with two separate partners probably indicated otherwise.

As an also-ran singles player I seldom ventured past the quarter-finals of the Southland champs which were seemingly always dominated by Michael Turner (who went on to be the chief reporter at the Southland Times before graduating to television) and Graeme Liddell from South Canterbury who was an excellent player. Other notables in our age group included Paul Dale, Paddy and Casey O’Brien, Terry Flynn, Ross Stewart and, of course, Rohan.

As a young country kid coming to the big smoke I can still remember being in awe of the multi-storey buildings, H & J Smith’s escalators and the size of the water reservoirs on Queen’s Drive.

We camped in the Horrell’s caravan at the showgrounds and amused ourselves after tennis by loitering in a really cool pool hall just up the road and mischievously hitting old tennis balls into the nearby Borstal.

I’m going to miss you Bill. Thanks for the memories.


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