Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
17 June 2014
I liked this about athletes adapting to any conditions in an attempt to practice to get better in one's chosen sport. This story was told at the funeral of well-known Wellington and New Zealand Sports administrator Ian Wells in early 2014 by Ian's life-long sporting friend Ian Christison.
"Back in the 1960s Ian was a badminton player of some ability. Early in his working life he worked as an accountant at the Wellington offices for the J.C.Williamson Theatre Organisation. His work-place was a room one floor above the main stage of the Wellington Opera House. For the two Ians to get to their local club for practice entailed a journey of some significance. They would attempt this at lunchtime and after work but the sheer distance of travel from their city offices cut down on practice times.
'Wellsy" never had any ambitions to appear in any dramatic productions but when the theatre stage wasn't being used he came up with a cunning sporting plan. He would go downstairs into the empty arena and erect a temporary badminton court. He found he could leave it there for as long as the gap in show bookings permitted. Therefore he could practice with chosen mates (and virtually in private) without having to go more than a few paces. Their performance as players improved noticeably"
As Shakespeare himself might have had one of his character's utter, or was it Richie McCaw (to TV3's John Campbell in 2012); "Games don't care for fairy tales; in any sport you've just got to find a way to go out and do the work."
New Zealand's sevens team had won four gold medals in a row from 1998-2010 but on this day at Glasgow in the final New Zealand fell to Kyle Brown's South Africam by 19-12. A great rugby era had ended.
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.
Who was the New Zealand test cricketer who played one rugby test for England?