Thursday, 13 May 2010

Rugby apologies are very much in vogue these days so I, too, want to jump on the bandwagon by apologizing to a Southland rugby legend.

I apologize unreservedly to Kevin (KF) Laidlaw for inadvertently neglecting to mention him when we were paying tribute to the great 1959 Ranfurly Shield-winning side at last Friday’s ILT Southland Sports Awards. And I unreservedly apologize to anyone else I missed.

It’s a poor excuse, but I got a bum steer when I was told there were only two members of the magnificent men, Spud Tait and Ack Soper, present. As KF, in his inimitable Nightcaps manner, put it later, I should have “done my bloody homework”. And he’s right!

I had actually prepared a tribute to the 1959 team to go alongside Tom Conroy’s excellent Ranfurly Shield tribute, but time constraints meant I had to dump it. It’s a shame really because there’s not much about September 5, 1959, I don’t know.

Having been raised on stories of the historic 23-6 win over Taranaki, I’d long ago committed the fantastic fifteen to memory. For the Sports Awards I decided to go one better and memorize the two initials of each respective player, because 50 years ago players were referred to in print by their two initials rather than their Christian name. Thus we had KF Laidlaw, AJ Tait and AJ Soper.

The only tricky bit in memorizing the initials of the 1959 side came when players’ first initials were not their chosen names. For example we had DL Ashby who was of course Lloyd, WR Archer (Robin), EA Gorton (Alan), IM Miller (Murray) and LK Fyall (Keith).

All fifteen players who started the game in New Plymouth had two initials, with the notable exception of the late Ray Todd. He was just R Todd. I searched high and low through all my reference books and even ‘Googled’ him in the hope of finding his elusive second initial. All to no avail.

Then, at the Sports Awards, in one of those sports trivia gems, AJ (Spud) Tait put the record straight. Ray (one initial) Todd used to be listed in the rugby programmes as RW Todd. RW standing for right wing, the position he played!

These days we’d no more know an All Black’s second initial than his thoughts on nuclear disarmament, with the notable exception, perhaps, of seven-time serial offender Ma’a FFFFFFF Nonu.


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