Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
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MY TAKE ON SOME OF THE RUGBY NEWS STORIES WHICH COME INTO MY WORLD.
12 July 2016
It only seems like yesterday that I travelled to Athens for the 2004 Summer Games. I touched down and stepped out into the seasonal warmth of a glorious 30˚C. Read more »
2 July 2016
My last report here was from Barcelona 1992. I did not attend the Atlanta, USA, Olympics of 2000. Instead, bad luck (I don’t think so!), I was instead on assignment in South Africa on one of the great All Black rugby tours! Read more »
23 June 2016
I tell you the first week of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games was a nightmare to live through. No, it wasn’t because we had a lousy hotel, or the traffic was too tough, or there were horror boycotts to contend with. Read more »
18 June 2016
When I think back to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, a number of images jump immediately from my old memory bank. Yes there were crowded streets of the great Korean city and locals staring at us visitors. Probably because of our pale faces and funny freckles. Read more »
6 June 2016
*Your website editor has been chosen to commentate on rugby's return to the Summer Olympic Programme, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. His commentaries on the sevens will be part of the host broadcaster coverage for OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Service) the official broadcast TV outlet of the IOC. This will be my tenth Summer Olympic Games. I am publishing here my personal stories and memories of the previous nine Games I have been to.* Read more »
2 June 2016
It still reads very proudly; Meads played for his country over a span of 15 seasons; No one played longer. His full record of first-class rugby is listed here. Read more »
The 8-7 victory over France in Auckland was confirmed with a late (and now very famous) Stephen Donald penalty; and the nation which had waited 24 years went wild for Richie McCaw's team.
It was with great sadness but with a sense of inevitability that the famous Athletic Park ground in Wellington, New Zealand was pulled down in 2000. For over 100 years it had been known as the ‘Home of Rugby in New Zealand’.
Situated in the base of a high-sided valley running down to Cook Strait, Athletic Park was always in an exposed position, and was battered many times over the years by ferocious Wellington winds. The salty spray contributed to decay in the metallic stability of the double-tiered Millard Stand and after much local angst a decision was made to abandon the site for rugby and move to a new stadium in the city area of Wellington.
While there were many famous days on the superb playing surface, for both Wellington and All Black rugby, it is for its most infamous bad weather days that many remember Athletic Park most fondly.
The worst came in 1961 when the Wellington Rugby Union’s new pride and joy – the Millard Stand – was being ofﬁcially opened on the day of the France v New Zealand match. The southerly storm that weekend brought in winds gusting up to 80 mph (140 km/h) – one of the worst days in Wellington’s history. A large luxury liner, the Canberra, was so buffeted in Cook Strait that the ship could not enter the harbour, just a few miles away. Yet in this tempest a test match was played!
New Zealand won 5–3, with Don Clarke, the All Black fullback, kicking a sideline conversion that travelled across the wind in a crazy curving arc.
Athletic Park has also had its moments in the mud, no more so than in 1977 when the British Lions played the New Zealand Juniors. Not a single player from either side could be recognised at the end of the game.
But Athletic Park could be as effective a playing location as anywhere in the world and on its many top days, presented a ﬂat true ground and seating for the fans that was always close to the action. The record attendance was the 57,000 who crammed in to watch the second test between New Zealand and the British Isles in 1959.
New Zealand played its ﬁrst home test match at Athletic Park, against Great Britain in 1904. In the 1980s the All Blacks scored some handsome wins on the ground, including 42–15 v England in 1985, 46–15 v Argentina in the World Cup in 1987, and 49–12 v Argentina in 1989. In 1992 New Zealand beat a strong World XV 54–26 and in 1997 they posted the highest test score on the ground, beating Argentina by 93-8.
In its last years it became obvious that the facilities which are needed to service a modern rugby match were not all present at Athletic Park. It had very poor players’ changing rooms; there was one shabby function room and no permanent corporate boxes. And though there were some fierce debates about the ground’s future, the advantages of a new stadium in the city were overwhelming. The last test match was played on June 1999. Fittingly the All Blacks gave the old ground a great send off, beating France 54-7.
From Wyn Gruffydd - the Welsh broadcaster; 'How Do You Know a girl from Cardiff has had an Orgasm?'