Thursday, 24 September 2009

Gidday Southland. I write from 17,000 feet on my way to Wellington to hopefully witness another win from the Stags.

Weather aside, Wellington is a great a city and the Cake Tin is without peer as a rugby venue, as there’s not a bad seat in the house.

I have some wonderful rugby memories from Wellington but because I’m currently internet- incapacitated, I cannot use the columnist’s best friend, Google, to validate my aging memory banks. Three memories however do come to mind.

The first goes back to 1996 and the first and only test match I attended at the grand old lady, Athletic Park. In my more than 40 years of following the All Blacks I have never seen a better 40 minutes of rugby than what John Hart’s star-studded All Blacks dished up into the southerly in the first half against Australia.

They went on to win, by memory, 43-6, but that was hardly surprising when the team included Cullen, Wilson, Lomu, Bunce, Little, Mehrtens, Marshall, Zinzan and Robin Brooke, Michael and Ian Jones, Kronfeld, Dowd, Brown and Fitzpatrick.

Wouldn’t Graham Henry kill to have such talent at his disposal?

Fast forward to 2001 ( I think!) and I remember going to my first game at the Cake Tin and a gutsy Southland upsetting the highly-fancied home side featuring Cullen, Lomu and Umaga (I think!) courtesy of three Ashley Barron penalties.

I have a clear memory of 2005 and an election day visit to Wellington. Labour, under Head Girl Helen, just sneaked home over dithering Don Brash’s Nats but the Stags suffered a landslide defeat, conceding 50 or more points.

We ended up drowning our sorrows at the iconic Backbenchers bar just down the road and unwittingly gate-crashed Peter Dunne’s United Future party wake. At the end of the evening there was only a disconsolate Dunne, myself and Rugby Southland manager Craig Morton left in the bar. So we duly introduced ourselves, thanked him for the beer and left.

By the time you read this, the result will be history. Win, lose or draw I’m sure a good night would have been had by the entire Southland contingent and we will be awakening to a headache of some description. If fate has smiled on the Stags, however, there will one punter with a bigger headache than us. Here’s hoping he has 150,000 reasons to regret not backing Southland.


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