School’s out for summer! Here’s my end-of-year report card for the Stags:
Jamie Mackintosh (8): Powerful presence around the park and personable off it. Deserves his Highlanders’ captaincy and All Black destiny.
Chris King (7.5): In the 1990s we imported some real lemons at prop. This good old fashioned front-rower is the antithesis. He’s a peach!
Jason Rutledge (8.5): Huge heart. Huge loyalty. I can’t wait for the third generation of Rutledges. Just pipped for player of the year.
David Hall (7.5): Gutsy footballer. We’re so embarrassed for riches at hooker we had to move him to No.8. If the Highlanders had any idea, Southland would provide both hookers.
Josh Bekhuis (7): Last year I thought this young man would be an All Black. This year I’m not so sure. He has time on his side to prove me wrong.
Hoani McDonald (7): Has had better seasons for the Stags but even when he’s not at his best he’s not bad at all.
Daniel Ramsay (6): I’m a big fan of this bloke but I wonder whether David Henderson is? We farewell unfulfilled potential.
Dion Bates (7.5): Like Rutledge, he’s too small. But what a big ticker!
John Hardie (6.5): Saw just enough to know I liked what I was seeing.
Hua Tamariki (6): Solid without reproducing some of last year’s sterling efforts. Injury robbed him of that opportunity.
Jimmy Cowan (8): He’s an angry man and don’t we just love him for it. His tackling is unsurpassed, his passing and kicking superb. If he learns to run more, could be an All Black great.
Scott Cowan (6.5): The surprise package of the season. Mini-me Cowan is a cracker too. I think the SRFU needs to put Paddy Cowan out to stud to breed some more of these.
Blair Stewart (7): My hitherto love affair with this man was sorely tested by some dodgy defense and questionable running (across the park) of the backline. However, he’s still the fourth man (behind Cowan, Mackintosh and Boys) I’d pick in my team.
Jason Kawau (7.5): Brains are a wonderful asset, not every rugby player enjoys. This guy’s got plenty. A lot more than the Highlanders’ selectors.
Kendrick Lynn (7.5): At last a Southland back with real pace! Like brains, speed is a wonderful commodity. We’ve got Gordon Teitjens to thank for the turnaround in fortunes.
Matt Saunders (7): I’m a bit biased because I play golf with his old man. Has inherited considerable talent from his mother.
Pehi Te Whare (7.5): I wouldn’t have picked him for the Bay of Plenty quarter-final. I’m glad Simon Culhane is a better judge of talent than me.
Willie Rickards (5.5): In a club game last year he looked, to me, an All Black. Never looked like one for Southland but, like Ramsay, we never saw the best of his obvious ability.
Mark Wells (6): Lacks a bit of pace but not courage under the high ball. Great punter but I’m just not sure to what position he belongs in the modern game?
Robbie Robinson (7.5): The baby-faced boy wonder brought back memories of the mercurial Steven Pokere and Jeff Wilson. Can’t wait till he grows up!
Tim Boys (9): My player of the year. Unlike Samson, he went a lot better minus the mullet.