Thursday, 14 October 2010

As reigns go it wasn’t quite up there with Queen Victoria’s 63 years, seven months and two days but it was a glorious 352 day reign none-the-less.

It’s gone but not forgotten. For those of us who waited a lifetime to see the Log of Wood, it was worth the 50 year wait. The Stags were beaten but unbowed, defeated yet defiant in defeat and made me proud to call myself a Southlander.

October 22, 2009 at Lancaster Park will live long in my memory. The other moment that stands out was the defeat of Auckland in the week of the southern snow storms. Southland was on its knees, awaiting a knock-out punch, but 22 brave young men got off the canvas and in 80 minutes did more to lift the sagging spirits of a province than they will ever know.

* Bob Howitt’s excellent new book on Sir Wilson Whineray, A Perfect Gentleman, is a must-add to any serious sporting library. Of particular interest to Southlanders is the segment on Whineray’s time in Southland, where as a 16 year old fresh out of Auckland Grammar, he played a season for Waikaia in 1952. Such was his ability, he was promoted straight into the Northern Southland senior sub-union side.

It was only after Northern’s opening game that the selectors realized his age. A special meeting was convened and it was resolved, in Whineray’s interests, that he should limit his appearances to senior club rugby.

Unfortunately for Southland, he left for the Wairarapa at the end of that year. And unfortunately for Southland, he returned in 1959 to captain the Auckland side that lifted the Ranfurly Shield.

* As Dunedin struggles to pay for its new stadium, let alone fill it with people to watch an under-performing rugby team, my faith in small-town New Zealand was reinforced when the Riversdale community raised $42,000 for Youth Olympic triathlon champion, Aaron Barclay.

Former Commonwealth Games champion Dick Tayler regaled the tale of his epic 10,000 metres victory in 1974, with some great one-liners thrown in for good measure.

However, the best line from last weekend came from Invercargill socialite Deidre Heenan at the post-election victory rally for fellow socialite John Norman Philip Young, who was successful in his quest to make the Invercargill Licensing Trust an even better organization.

A group of us, including Tayler, were pondering marathon running. I appreciate Tayler has changed somewhat in appearance over the past 36 years – gone are the flowing locks and he’s a bit broader of girth – but Deidre brought the house down when, in innocent bliss, she asked the athletics legend whether he’d “done a bit of running?”


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