Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
3 September 2014
ATHLETIC PARK in Wellington, New Zealand, was a much loved headquarters of the game in the Capital city for over a 100 years. It was finally closed in 1999 and the game in Wellington shifted to the Westpac Stadium in the city centre.
Everyone who played on Athletic Park's surface in its heyday had favourite memories. Here are those of the great lock forward Colin Meads.
MEADS ON ATHLETIC PARK:
He first played for the All Blacks there in the first test match against Australia in 1958. His last game there was in 1973 for the NZRFU’s president’s XV when they beat the All Blacks on their internal tour.
In all Meads played ten test matches on Athletic Park, a record for a New Zealand player and as the ground is no longer in operation his record will not be broken.
“‘From a New Zealand point of view it was my favourite test ground,’ Meads said. ‘Everything seemed to go right there. The ground had such an atmosphere, and was the one I had most success at.’
Meads played in seven winning tests on the park, his other games being a 9-all draw with Australia in 1962, a 20-5 loss to Australia in 1964 and a 13-3 loss to the British Lions, as captain, in 1971.
Meads witnessed two of the best-remembered moments on Athletic Park: All Black fullback Don Clarke’s sideline conversion in a southerly gale in 1961, which helped the All Blacks to a 5-3 win, and Pierre Villepreux’s massive penalty goal for France in 1968, when the All Blacks won 9-3. “‘It was unbelievable, Clarkie kicked it straight across the field and it went over,’ Meads said. ‘Don was pretty confident he’d judged it right, but really it was the biggest bloody fluke around.’
For Villepruex’s kick, some estimates put its distance at well over 60m Meads doesn’t argue. “To me it sounded like about 70 yards. When he lined it up the crowd was laughing and we were saying ‘what a joke.’ But over she went. It cleared the bar with a bit to spare too. Bloody amazing.”
Colin Meads test record on Athletic Park; 1958-71
1958 beat Australia (1st test) 25-3
1959 beat British Isles (2nd test) 11-8
1961 beat France (2nd test) 5-3
1962 drew with Australia (1st test) 9-9
1964 lost to Australia (3rd test) 5-20
1965 beat South Africa(1st test) 6-3
1966 beat British Isles (2nd test) 16-12
1967 beat Australia (75th Jubilee test) 29-9
1968 beat France (2nd test) 9-3
1971 lost to British Isles (3rd Test) 13-3
When the last test match was played on Athletic Park (New Zealand beat France 54-7, 26 June 1999) Colin Meads was asked for his most vivid recollections;
Best Memory; “My greatest memory of playing there was when I captained the President’s XV against the All Blacks in 1973. It was a farewell for me and a great occasion…and we won the game!”
Worst Memory; “We got beaten there in 1964 by Australia. We had won the first two tests but lost the third 20-5 on Athletic Park. It was a thrashing and the last time I featured for the All Blacks as a loose forward.”
13 August 1921
The All Black - Springbok rivalry starts
On the first tour of NZ by South Africa, Carisbrook in Dunedin hosts a 13-5 victory for the All Blacks.
Coaches come and coaches go, but the ever-popular ‘Tempo’ of Queensland and Australian rugby seemed to hang in and hang around forever. He started coaching Queensland in 1961, after a career as a hard-bitten prop with the Grammar Public School’s club side. On and off he coached them until 1988. He succeeded Des Connor as Australian coach in 1971, becoming a national selector as well.
Included in the years ahead were some rocky days for Templeton and the Wallabies. After failing to win a series as coach, he was replaced for the tour to Britain in 1975–76 by Dave Brockhoff. Templeton returned, albeit briefly, before Bob Dwyer had his first term as Wallabies coach, and when Dwyer took over again from Alan Jones in 1988, he took Templeton on board as his assistant.
The ever-cheerful Templeton had most to do with Queensland emerging from the ‘easy-beat’ category to become a world-class team at provincial (or state) level. Under his guidance it achieved a run of 20 straight victories in the 1970s before being forced (by Canterbury, New Zealand) to choke on the special celebration cake it had had baked to celebrate its 21st win!
In times of adversity, Templeton never lost his composure or his voice: he was quick to praise a victorious opponent and was generous in victory. He is remembered as one of the great characters of the Australian rugby scene. Not for nothing did ‘Tempo’ get the MBE for his services to rugby.
When he died suddenly, aged 67, the whole rugby world was stunned. His funeral was the biggest seen in Brisbane in memory.
Who were the players who first took successfully kicked test match penalties past the 6,7,8, and 9 World Record Marks?