Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
26 July 2019
I've got to say I really like this 2019 picture of a familiar 1970s ex-All Black player, who then became an All Black coach and then Argentina's international coach. The man in the frame of course is Alex 'Grizz' Wyllie of North Canterbury, New Zealand. This freeze-frame of the tough and rugged number eight forward is from a TV commercial he is involved with in 2019. The product he is endorsing is 'Wet and Forget' a cleaning product which removes household 'gunge' from homes, decks or roofs. Wyllie does a great job in it I reckon.
In Alex's playing days when he had a huge public profile I had an advertising mate who wrote a little ditty which was turned into an unpublished party song. In it there was a line which went 'With a face like granite, is he from another planet - that's Wyllie! Grizz Wyllie!'
I think you might agree with me nothing much has changed in terms of that facial expression! But good luck to Grizz - I hope the product is selling well!
The four 'Home' Unions were beaten on consecutive Saturdays by the rampant ABs! On this day NZ beat Scotland by 29-10
It was with great sadness but with a sense of inevitability that the famous Athletic Park ground in Wellington, New Zealand was pulled down in 2000. For over 100 years it had been known as the ‘Home of Rugby in New Zealand’.
Situated in the base of a high-sided valley running down to Cook Strait, Athletic Park was always in an exposed position, and was battered many times over the years by ferocious Wellington winds. The salty spray contributed to decay in the metallic stability of the double-tiered Millard Stand and after much local angst a decision was made to abandon the site for rugby and move to a new stadium in the city area of Wellington.
While there were many famous days on the superb playing surface, for both Wellington and All Black rugby, it is for its most infamous bad weather days that many remember Athletic Park most fondly.
The worst came in 1961 when the Wellington Rugby Union’s new pride and joy – the Millard Stand – was being ofﬁcially opened on the day of the France v New Zealand match. The southerly storm that weekend brought in winds gusting up to 80 mph (140 km/h) – one of the worst days in Wellington’s history. A large luxury liner, the Canberra, was so buffeted in Cook Strait that the ship could not enter the harbour, just a few miles away. Yet in this tempest a test match was played!
New Zealand won 5–3, with Don Clarke, the All Black fullback, kicking a sideline conversion that travelled across the wind in a crazy curving arc.
Athletic Park has also had its moments in the mud, no more so than in 1977 when the British Lions played the New Zealand Juniors. Not a single player from either side could be recognised at the end of the game.
But Athletic Park could be as effective a playing location as anywhere in the world and on its many top days, presented a ﬂat true ground and seating for the fans that was always close to the action. The record attendance was the 57,000 who crammed in to watch the second test between New Zealand and the British Isles in 1959.
New Zealand played its ﬁrst home test match at Athletic Park, against Great Britain in 1904. In the 1980s the All Blacks scored some handsome wins on the ground, including 42–15 v England in 1985, 46–15 v Argentina in the World Cup in 1987, and 49–12 v Argentina in 1989. In 1992 New Zealand beat a strong World XV 54–26 and in 1997 they posted the highest test score on the ground, beating Argentina by 93-8.
In its last years it became obvious that the facilities which are needed to service a modern rugby match were not all present at Athletic Park. It had very poor players’ changing rooms; there was one shabby function room and no permanent corporate boxes. And though there were some fierce debates about the ground’s future, the advantages of a new stadium in the city were overwhelming. The last test match was played on June 1999. Fittingly the All Blacks gave the old ground a great send off, beating France 54-7.
What did the famous Welsh and British Lions hooker Bobby Windsor achieve on his 42nd birthday?