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21 September 2014
A story here which probably means nothing much except for two old Kiwi mates having a bit of fun. And one of them, an old commentator indulging in skiting just a wee bit....! Before being straightend out!
I had a call at home the other night from the 1974 Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres athletics gold medallist Dick Tayler. He's a top bloke and a good mate of mine since those far off days of yore. Here in 2014 Dick passes himself off as a Cantabrian through and through but I always rib him that I definitely know otherwise.
Basically it goes like this; I will always remind Dick that when he won his great Gold Medal he was not running then as a New Zealand rep athlete out of Christchurch with their Red-and-Black Canterbury colours. Nor was he even as a Green-and-Black from his birthplace in South Canterbury! That's because in 1974 Dick was living in Marlborough and as the Marlborough Amateur Athletics Association was then affiliated to the Gold-and-Blacks of my home province of Wellington when Dick was picked to go to the Christchurch Games for his great success he went as part of the Wellington squad to join the New Zealand team.
Ha! Good on yer Dick, y'er one of us!
The two of us have had a lot of fun with our more then slightly obscure gag over the years! Everyone thinks Dick is a long time Cantabrian - and maybe he is now - but factually in his greatest hour he was a Wellingtonian.
But back to the phone call to my place. When Dick calls for a yarn he never introduces himself he just starts talking. But his voice is distinctive and his manner is always cheery. So the other night he opened with a question; "I'm sitting here in a bar with two South Canterbury originals who played their sport to international level for their country and are often thought to be Wellingtonians - but they're not actually! Who do you reckon is here?'
I paused only for about four seconds. Then said quietly down the line....'..OK, one of you is YOU Dick ... and how is Tom?' I said.
I swear I almost heard the phone drop; that was followed by a muffled voice saying 'I knew he'd be onto you Tom! He got you straight away!'
In truth I just took a wild guess. Of course I knew one of the two would have been the Timaru-born Dick Tayler himself. He has always been proud of his origins in South Canterbury but I love his link to Wellington.
But to identify the other man present from my memory-bank which still can surprise me - I instantly made a South Canterbury-Wellington sports connection to the 1968-71 All Blacker Tom Lister. I was correct so Tom was called onto the line and we had a good yarn for a couple of minutes. Mostly about the good old days.
Tom was a terrific player. A loping flanker of great intelligence who came to Wellington to play for the Athletic Rugby Club after three impressive early seasons for his local province. He quickly fitted into a tough loose forward combination with two other top Wellington players of the 1960s, Andy Leslie and Graham Williams. All three became heroes of a young commentator. And all became All Blacks.
Down the line Tom then put me nicely in my place. The proud skiter in me had assumed from memory that having been in Wellington for three seasons 1965-67 that Tom had progressed to the All Blacks from the high standards of play he would have found in the Capital.
'No way,' said Tom, 'The All Black selectors wouldn't look at me until I decided to go south again. After 1967 I went back to much smaller Timaru but the next thing I'm off on the 1968 tour to Australia. And I got all my tours, tests and matches over the next four seasons as a South Canterburian - and never from Wellington!'
I was chastised (in a very kind way) and the conversation ended a short time later.
The story I relate to you here as nothing more than one of the nice things that can happen through men getting together and yarning. There's always something you forget or misplace in your mind. But rugby can still conjoin old mates. Sport does that.
So Wellington fans of a certain age; by all means we can claim Dick Tayler as one of ours - but not the great Tom Lister! He remains a proud All Black, but only out of Timaru and South Canterbury. Just ask the locals down there - including broadcaster John McBeth. He's actually been reminding me of the Lister facts for decades now. I should have listening more closely!
And on a damp Friday the ABs passed 50 points in a test for the first time; they beat Italy 70-6 with John Kirwan running 75 metres to score, untouched.
Otago and New Zealand
51 internationals for New Zealand 1997-2002
The talented New Zealand utility loose forward, who sadly, might be remembered more as the man who had the unenviable job of returning home after being the captain of the beaten All Blacks at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Such a summary is totally unfair as Randell’s team left for the Cup with excessive expectations from the New Zealand public, and it belies the fact that Randell was a top international forward right through his playing career. It is just that by various All Black selectors he was shunted though three loose forward positions and not ever being allowed to settle in one.
Randell came into the All Blacks on the 1995 tour of France, and within 12 months on the 1996 tour of South Africa he had become a 21 year old captain of the midweek New Zealand team. By 1997 he made his test debut against Fiji at Albany Stadium at North Shore, Auckland. That year, in a gruelling sequence at the time, he played in all 12 tests on the All Blacks programme. One of those was as a number eight forward, the others as a blindside flanker. In the next year the All Black coach John Hart elevated him to the test captaincy. At 23 years old he was the fourth youngest leader in All Black history. He played the first five of those tests as a number eight but was then shuffled back to the flanker’s role.
Initially the captaincy sat kindly on Randell’s shoulders. But as a sequence of defeats crept in, rather than blame the older players, it was the young captain who took the rap from the public. He seemed to lose confidence and, at times, composure.
In 1999, World Cup year, the New Zealand public believed that the spirit of the All Blacks would come through again and young Randell was again charged with leading the team, with the massive trust again on his shoulders.
The All Blacks reached the semi-finals against France at Twickenham but there the New Zealanders world came crashing down. France won 43-31. In Britain (and France no doubt!) the game is remembered as one of the greatest ever seen at Twickenham; in New Zealand it was seen as a national disaster. And heads had to roll. Coach John Hart resigned as soon as the Cup series was over. Randell had to wait till new coach Wayne Smith decided if he wanted to retain him or not. Smith did, but not with the captaincy. Todd Blackadder was preferred instead. The leadership was wrenched away from Randell who had to publicly face the wrath and scorn of the public.
He played most of the season in the team however and after the departure of Smith as coach, (replaced by John Mitchell), and injuries to two further All Black leaders (Anton Oliver and Rueben Thorne) Randell was restored as captain for the late season tour to Europe in 2002. By then, at 28 years old, Randell was a much more mature person and to most people’s delight he handled things well. In the game against France at Paris he became one of the small band of All Blacks who in those times had passed 50 test match appearances.
What was unusual about Daniel Dubois' play in the second half of the South West France game v Australia in 1967?