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7 January 2019
By Keith Quinn (from his book Quinn's Quips) In my career by early 1969 I was deemed sound enough by the bosses of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, as a very young broadcaster, to be the regular studio host of the Sports Roundup radio show. It was quite simple broadcasting work and good for a young bloke to be involved with. But one day I think I played a major role in New Zealand winning a cricket test match!
Basically for that job I would arrive at one of the studios at Broadcasting House in downtown Wellington and open up the show. The 'show' actually was pretty uncomplicated action for me. After going on the sir I would read a few news, scores and stories from around the place. Then I would 'cross over' to a major sports event which we were featuring that day and which had commentary running ball-by-ball all for hours. I then waited in the studio, monitoring the broadcast in case it broke down. At any breaks in play, like lunch breaks or change of innings or halftime etc, I filled in by reading more sports news and adding additional news interviews and local updates.
On this particular day in early March 1969 (but 50 years from 2019) the game I was monitoring was a West Indies v New Zealand cricket test in Wellington. The weather was fine, the game was meandering along without need for my interruption, so I arrived at the studio I supposed I was in for an easy day.
For me at that time I felt that this was akin to being near the very peak of what was possible in the life of a sports broadcaster. As about a 23 year old I definitely thought of myself as a bit of a hotshot you must understand. I had made the odd appearance on TV reading the night-time sports news and my rugby reports from the Ranfurly Shield season in Napier were very exciting to do.
So when a man from the Radio Newsroom upstairs entered the studio holding a telegram (yes, a telegram!) and asked me what to do with it I had no hesitation.
It was addressed to "The Manager, West Indies Cricket team, c/- Broadcasting House, Wellington New Zealand" - and its content clearly and simply said 'Here is the West Indies Cricket team to tour to England at the conclusion of their tour of New Zealand.'
So I thought; 'wow! As I am in Broadcasting House this telegram must be directed at whoever the studio host that day is. So I thought 'I'll be the one who reads out this significant sports team in the next break in play!'
I never hesitated to think maybe the current West Indies team members, battling away against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve, might not themselves, have yet heard who of the current team were in for the England tour and who were in or out of the tour which was to follow in only a few weeks. 'Surely they would have received their own telegram.'
Accordingly on the fifth and final day of the test match, when the tea break came at the Basin Reserve and both teams had headed for their dressing rooms the radio commentary (no live TV sets in those days) was audible in the rooms for all the players to hear as they sat down for their 20 minute rest.
In my mind’s eye I now see someone in the West Indies room hearing a callow youth (that's me!) start to read from the telegram and my words beamed across the city into the West Indies touring team. The whole room would have shushed down as the implications of what was being said were taken in by the team.
The West Indies had had a tough time in Australia and accordingly, listening back home the WI selectors were not impressed. Changes were seen as being needed from the Australian to the English conditions. So right there on the radio were the changes the home selectors were making (six out of 16 of the Australian tourists were dropped as I recall);
They were read out very publicly by an ego-driven youth who was busting to make a name for himself; rather than checking to see if it was appropriate for him to do so.
Of course after tea apparently on the field at the Basin Reserve all hell broke loose. When the West Indies went back into the game the most angry ones came from among their bowling attack, those who had been callously and cold-heartedly and so publicly dismissed. So the bowlers ignored their previous tactics and just charged in, wildly flinging ball after ball loosely at the New Zealand batsmen. The tenor of the game quickly changed totally.
New Zealand had been set 166 to win and at one point were down to 39-3; so a tough last session lay ahead. But with Charlie Griffith and Richard Edwards, two of their speed bowlers both in a rage at being dropped - along with the injured great Wesley Hall New Zealand cruised on to a six-wicket win.
The clipping I kept for my files is not of a glaring next day one; I don't think the reporters at the ground were aware of the 'background drama.' Rather the clipping I have kept it is a 'reflective' interview the captain Garfield Sobers gave to Gabriel David of The Evening Post in which Sobers spoke of being '"bitterly disappointed" with the West Indies selectors and their method of choosing and announcing the side (for the England tour.)
When Sobers added 'the team was subsequently announced on Monday afternoon, with the players hearing the side during the tea break in the second test, 'and the entire pace attack having been dropped' he said he had 'threatened to quit' as West Indies captain.
But I your writer (now revealed as the secret announcer) was quietly thrilled.
So you be the judge, dear reader; had I had played my part for my country? Maybe I did - or maybe I didn't.
(But as I have often said 'it is my story and I'm sticking to it!')
A great day for NZ at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Sean Fitzpatrick and John Hart's team silence the ghosts with a 33-26 triumph.
MCBRIDE, WILLIE JOHN
Ballymena and Ireland
63 internationals for Ireland 1962–75
17 internationals for British Isles 1962–74
One of the outstanding figures of world rugby who, in his time, set a record for most international caps by an individual player, and who gained great respect as a leader.
During the latter days of his playing career, William James McBride became known, as ‘Willie John’. He was an imposing lock, immensely powerful in all aspects of forward play, who specialised in giving only good ball to his halfback whether from lineout, maul or scrum. He had enormous determination and his rivalries with other top players of his day, such as Colin Meads of New Zealand and Frik du Preez of South Africa, were worth traveling miles to see. Perhaps his greatest attribute was his ability to inspire others to play with equal dedication. Perhaps it was a commentary on rugby in its time that those three men became firm friends after their rugby days were over.
In his time McBride knew success: as pack leader for the 1971 Lions in New Zealand, as captain of the 1974 Lions in South Africa and as captain of Ireland in its first championship win in 23 years, in 1974. But he also knew defeat: 26 of his games for Ireland were losses. From those varying results McBride emerged as a player of true character and greatness. He never gave in. He was idolised at home and deeply respected abroad.
McBride, then known as ‘Bill’, began his international rugby as a lock for Ulster in 1960–61, marking the great South African, Johann Claassen, in a Springbok tour game. The young McBride was one of nine new caps brought in by the Irish selectors for the match against England in 1962. Even though he was not in the winning team that day, or indeed that season, he was chosen soon after, as a 21-year-old, for the British Isles tour of South Africa. His courage was epitomised that season when he played the last part of the game against France with his left tibia bone broken.
South Africa in 1962 was a baptism of fire. The young Ballymena man played in two tests: both were losses. He also suffered the pain of defeat in New Zealand in 1966 when the All Blacks wiped aside the Lions by four tests to nil. Two wins against Australia were small consolation.
In 1968, on the Lions tour to South Africa, McBride was again in the losing team, and it was not until 1971 in New Zealand that he smelt the sweetness of victory.
His ultimate performance was with the British team of 1974, which won its test series with the Springboks so dramatically. On that tour McBride, the captain, exhorted his men to ‘take no prisoners’. They reacted superbly to his leadership demands and did not lose a game on tour. Their three test victories, with a draw in the fourth test, represented the biggest humiliation for a major ‘home’ team in rugby history.
On that tour the cry ‘99’ was also used. It was said that McBride had previously suffered at the hands of All Blacks and Springboks in the physical side of the game. He was determined that there should be no more. Thus ‘99’ called for all his players to get alongside their team-mates and if necessary physically fight the opposition together. It was a controversial tactic but one which McBride and his team felt was necessary.
Between his Lions tours he added to his tally of Irish caps, building towards the massive total, in that time, of 63. His five Lions tours, three in all to South Africa and two to Australia and New Zealand, added another 17 caps, bringing his total to 80 caps. Thus he became the world’s greatest cap-winner, an honour he kept until his fellow Ulsterman Mike Gibson passed it in 1979.
In all his test matches McBride scored only one try, against France in his second to last game for Ireland.
After his retirement in 1975 he was, for a time, the Irish coach. In 1983 he was manager of the British Isles team in New Zealand.
Which New Zealand sports broadcaster once described a tight tennis match as 'a Battle of Nutrition.'