Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Even though Santa brought me Billy Birmingham’s brilliant The 12th Man – The Box Set and an old Thunderbirds DVD, I, like most blokes, detest Christmas shopping with a passion.

This year the Mackay clan celebrated Christmas in Tauranga and I can tell you the allure of the good old days of the Riversdale Discount Store have never been more appealing, following my experience of the inter-isle chaos that is Pak N Save on Christmas Eve.

The Warehouse was no better. Christmas is a supposedly a time of peace and good will to all men but I reckon it’s open warfare in the country’s biggest retail outlet. However in every war zone there is an oasis of peace and I found mine in the book section. And in the bargain bin, no less, I trawled up a little gem.

The book is entitled My Sports Hero and it’s all about famous New Zealanders talking about people who inspired them. It’s been compiled by arguably the best sports writer in the country, the New Zealand Herald’s Wynne Gray, and he’s cast his net wide with some very interesting reading the result.

For instance John Key’s sporting hero was Sid Going, because Key was a halfback at school when Super Sid was in his prime. Daniel Carter’s hero was 1987 World Cup hero John Kirwan. Marc Ellis loves Muhammad Ali and Murray Mexted!

Not surprisingly John Walker nominated Peter Snell, Temepara George admired Sanda Edge, Keith Quinn (Winston McCarthy), Richard Hadlee (Dick Motz), Ruben Wiki (Mal Meninga), Yvette Williams (Jesse Owens) and Colin Meads (Bob Scott).

There were some interesting choices. John Hart (Cardigan Bay), Sean Fitzpatrick (Edwin Moses), Jason Gunn (Lance Cairns), Rachel Hunter (Allison Roe), Sam Neill (Peter Snell), Christine Rankin (Jonah Lomu) and Stephen Tindall (Danyon Loader).

Each of the famous New Zealanders had their own story to tell. Sky TV’s Melodie Robinson spoke of her teenage crush on David Kirk, Jim Anderton of the terrors of facing Gary Bartlett in full flight and John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg) on the joy of receiving a letter back from his All Black hero Terry Lineen.

I had to have a laugh at John Hawkesby’s account of marking the indomitable Grahame Thorne in a trial match for the Auckland Grammar First XV. Young Hawkesby was by all accounts a useful league player and he was brought into the trial to give the brilliant but greedy Thorne a bit of hurry-up to encourage him to pass the ball more to this wingers. Hawkesby was subbed early in the first half. Thorne for his part scored five tries and within a couple of years was an All Black!

It got me thinking about my own sporting heroes growing up. The 1967 All Blacks Colin Meads, Brian Lochore, Ian Kirkpatrick, Earle Kirton and Tony Steel were my idols. Not far behind was the Southland rugby team of 1969 which also adorned my bedroom wall. The first five-eighth (my position at primary school) was Lindsay Meikle from Mataura and he was my hero from afar.

A few years later I got to play a couple of senior games with him at Riversdale. It’s more than 30 years since I’ve seen or heard from Lindsay. But once a hero, always a hero.


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