Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
13 May 2016
Maybe 15 years ago, shortly after the great Zinzan Brooke retired from test rugby he did a series of rugby luncheons and dinners around New Zealand. They were sponsored by Ronald McDonald House and at them Zinny regailed the audiences in fine style with his many stories, yarns and rugby tour memories. One of his best memories was how he originally was named Zinzan Valentine Brooke by his family; then later he became known just by the shortened 'Zinzan Brooke' and later still when a great national presence grew in recognition of his enormous All Black talent he was known by young and old by gthe very friendly 'Zinny.'
I was the MC at the Wellington luncheon and I leaned across at one point and asked Zinzan to please sign the menu for my son. (Of course I knew damn well it was for me actually) The great man obliged with all three signatures of the unique 'naming' story he had just told the crowd.
I liked this - as a record of Zinny's quirky manner. And I wonder if it is a rare piece indeed - not worth much in monetary terms but in rugby terms - priceless!
20 year old Richie McCaw was the new kid in the team as NZ beat Ireland in Dublin by 40-29
Headquarters for the game of rugby in Samoa. Apia Park is a ground with a colourful past. Just as Twickenham in London was once a market garden, and cabbages were grown at Lancaster Park in Christchurch during World War I, Apia Park in the capital city of Samoa was once a horse racing track and a golf course.
Situated close to the city, the ground was originally owned by the occupying German Government. The first horse racing was held on Kaiser Wilhelm II’s birthday in 1910. Later, Chinese, Melanesian and Samoan labourers ploughed the swampy land, aided by oxen-drawn carts. They levelled an inner field and plans for rugby were drawn up. The locals did not worry that a large, shady tree was left intact on what was to be inside the field of play.
Horse racing died out in 1939. The first rugby game on the park was in 1924 when an Apia Selection played a Pago Pago Naval XV. Apia won 33-0. During the same year a Fijian team on its way to play Tonga stopped in Apia. Its two games against the locals were split one win each. It is not recorded how the teams coped with playing around the tree!
These days the rebuilt ground, with its superb backdrop of palm trees and other native flora and fauna, must be one of the prettiest in the world.
Apia Park has always been a highly significant place for sport in Samoa. In 1991 before the advent of a home TV network, crowds used to come to the ground and sit for hours overnight waiting to watch on an imported giant TV screen the matches of (Western) Samoa at the World Cup in Britain.
For years the field was also used as a golf course, but in 1975 the inherent dangers of people walking near such a course led them to shift to a new venue, at the Royal Samoan Golf Club. Only then for the first time could rugby truly claim the grounds.
In 2007, Apia Park was one of the main venues for the 2007 Pacific Games. In 2015 it will play host many events at the Youth Commonwealth Games, the opening and closing ceremonies. It will also host the All Blacks from New Zealand for a much anticipated game against Manu Samoa. The ground has a capacity of 15,000.
Piri Weepu played 71 tests for the All Blacks; how many times did he play for the full 80 minutes?