Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
31 December 2015
WHILE IN SYDNEY IN 2015 TO SEE THE PRE-WORLD CUP BLEDLISLOE CUP GAME I WAS REMINDED WHILE THERE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BLEDISLOE CUP STORY
IT EPITOMISES WHAT THE RUGBY SPIRIT OF THE TWO COUNTRIES STANDS FOR;
THE STORY CONCERNS THE 1951 ALL BLACK TEAM WHO WERE ON A KIND OF FORGOTTEN TOUR OF AUSTRALIA….
THOSE WERE THE AMATEUR DAYS WITH VERY LITTLE OR NO MONEY IN POST-WAR NEW ZEALAND, AND THE LUCKY PLAYERS IN THE NEW ZEALAND TEAM RECEIVED JUST GIFTS AND PARCELS TO WISH THEM WELL FROM THEIR CLUBS.……
* BEFORE LEAVING ON THE TOUR THE CANTERBURY UNION PRESENTED ITS TOURING ALL BLACKS WITH NEW SHAVING KITS….
* THE CENTRAL OTAGO RUGBY UNION PRESENTED ITS SOLE PLAYER TOMMY LYNCH WITH A WALLET. WITH HIS INITIALS IN GOLD LETTERING….
*AND THE AUCKLAND UNION PRESENTED ITS ALL BLACK PLAYERS WITH TRAVEL RUGS…TO PUT OVER THEIR KNEES TO COUNTER THE COLD OF THE FLYING BOAT FLIGHT OUT OF EVANS BAY IN WELLINGTON, TO SYDNEY.
IN THOSE YEARS..........IT WAS THE SAME FOR THE WALLABIES;
BEFORE THEIR FIRST POST-WAR TOUR OF GREAT BRITAIN THEIR PLAYERS WERE SENT A LETTER SAYING;
'* FOR THE UPCOMING 30-MATCH TOUR - YOU WILL BE ISSUED WITH ONE PLAYING GAME-DAY JERSEY TO PLAY IN...... ON NO ACCOUNT MUST YOU EXCHANGE YOUR JERSEY OR PART WITH IT IN ANY OTHER WAY.
'*PLEASE ALSO BRING YOU SOME WHITE SHORTS TO PLAY IN,
*A PAIR OF DARK SOCKS TO PLAY IN
* A TOWEL FOR YOUR POST-MATCH CLEANLINESS
*...AND SOME SOAP FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE....
THAT WAS THE WALLABY TEAM NICKNAMED THE 'CLEAN-SKINS' - THOUGH NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE TOWELS AND THE SOAP BUT BECAUSE IN THEIR FOUR INTERNATIONALS ON TOUR THEY NEVER HAD THEIR LINE CROSSED.....
BUT BACK TO THE STORY ABOUT THE 1951 ALL BLACKS.
THOSE ALL BLACKS WERE THE FIRST TEAM TO FLY TO THEIR TOUR FROM NEW ZEALAND.
THEY LEFT VIA FLYING BOAT FROM EVANS BAY IN WELLINGTON AND HAD TO FLY TO SYDNEY VIA LORD HOWE ISLAND....THAT WAS TO ALLOW THE LOW-FLYING PLANE TO REFUEL BEFORE FLYING ON TO AUSTRALIA.
WITH REGARDS TO THE GIFTS TO THE 1951 ALL BLACK PLAYERS MY FAVOURITE YARN IS ABOUT ONE OF THE DEBUT PLAYERS IN THAT TEAM
FROM THE BLUFF RUGBY CLUB, IN THE DEEP SOUTH OF NEW ZEALAND (OUR SOUTHERN MOST RUGBY CLUB)
HIS NAME WAS EDDIE ROBINSON.
THE CLUB WAS DOUBLY PLEASED WHEN ROBINSON PLAYED SO WELL ON TOUR HE WAS SELECTED TO MAKE HIS TEST DEBUT IN THE FIRST TEST IN
IT WAS THEN THE BLUFF CLUB REALISED THEY HAD NOT GIVEN EDDIE A DEPARTING GIFT BEFORE THE TOUR.
SO THEY DECIDED TO PAY EDDIE THEIR ULTIMATE TRIBUTE…..
ON THE THURSDAY BEFORE THE SATURDAY TEST IN SYDNEY, THEY PLACED TWO LARGE BUCKETS OF FRESH BLUFF OYSTERS ON THE OVERNIGHT RAILCAR TO CHRISTCHURCH.
ARRIVING ON THE FRIDAY, THE BUCKETS WERE THEN PUT ON THE OVERNIGHT FERRY TO WELLINGTON WHERE THEY WERE IMMEDIATELY TRANSPORTED TO THE EVANS BAY FLYING BOATS DOCK.
ON FRIDAY THE FLYING BOAT TOOK OFF FOR ITS 7-HOUR FLIGHT ACROSS THE TASMAN, THE JOURNEY EXTENDED OF COURSE FOR THE REFUELING AT LORD HOWE ISLAND….
THE FLYING BOATS FINALLY LANDED ON SYDNEY HARBOUR ON EARLY SATURDAY AFTERNOON….
THAT, OF COURSE, WAS TEST MATCH DAY
AFTER COMING THROUGH CUSTOMS THE BUCKETS WERE PUT IN A TAXI WHICH WAS DRIVEN ACROSS THE CITY, IN DRIVING RAIN, TO THE SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND….
THERE, THE BUCKETS WERE TAKEN INTO THE OLD GRANDSTAND AND PLACED OUTSIDE THE ALL BLACK TEAM’S DRESSING ROOM.
OUT ON THE FIELD EDDIE ROBINSON WAS HAVING THE GREATEST DAY OF HIS LIFE…HE WAS PLAYING A BLEDISLOE CUP TEST FOR HIS COUNTRY….!!
THE GAME WAS PLAYED IN A QUAGMIRE;…. IN HIS BOOK “WALLABY
GOLD” , THE WRITER PETER JENKINS SAYS THAT SOME OF THE ALL BLACKS TEAM MANAGEMENT HAD SAID BEFOREHAND THE GAME SHOULD
HAVE BEEN CALLED OFF.
BUT I DOUBT EDDIE ROBINSON WOULD HAVE WANTED THAT.
HE PLAYED AND IN THE MUD AND SLIME THE ALL BLACKS THRASHED THE WALLABIES - BY 8-POINTS-TO NIL!!
AND AS THE PLAYERS CAME UP THE TUNNEL AT THE END OF THE GAME
THERE WERE THE TWO BUCKETS ADDRESSED TO EDDIE ROBINSON….
THE BUCKETS WERE TAKEN INSIDE THE DRESSING ROOM, AND EDDIE OPENED THEM....
HE LOOKED INSIDE AND SAW THE SOUTHEN DELIGHTS; THE LUSH BEAUTIFUL OYSTERS FROM HIS HOME TOWN!
SO WHAT DID HE DO? OF COURSE HE POURED THE STILL-BEAUTIFULLY FRESH AND SUCCULENT CONTENTS RIGHT INTO THE BLEDISLOE CUP ITSELF!
THEN LARGE BOTTLES OF BEER WERE POURED IN OVER THE OYSTERS - AND THE MUDDIED ALL BLACKS, AND A BEAMING EDDIE
ROBINSON, CELEBRATED WITH A BEAUTIFUL, RICH, WINNING “BLEDISLOE CUP COCKTAIL”!!
4 August 2002
More Gold for New Zealand rugby at the Commonwealth Games
This time at Manchester with Gordon Tietjens as coach and Eric Rush as captain New Zealand wins the sevens final beating Fiji 33-25.
Jedforest, Newcastle and Scotland
51 internationals for Scotland 1988-99
Described once as ‘a one-off, a complete and utter mystery’ as a person, Gary Armstrong ended his international career remembered as a deeply steadfast scrumhalf whose commitment to any team he played for could never be denied. The 'mystery' referred to extreme shyness.
But like a lot of shy rugby people Armstrong expressed himself strongly once he ran on to the field. He always tackled way above his diminutive stature, was an elusive runner, especially around the short side of a scrum, and above all was unswerving in his courage. He may have been a quiet man but when he played his final game for his country, captaining the team against the All Blacks at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, he was described afterwards by his coach Jim Telfer as ‘the bravest man I ever saw play for Scotland’.
Armstrong made his debut for Scotland in 1988 and only months later was in the British Isles team which toured Australia. On that trip he failed to make the test teams, losing out to Robert Jones of Wales, but in 1990 he played some of his greatest rugby. Not only was he a powerful force in the Scottish touring team to New Zealand, a team which harried the All Blacks over two close tests, but he also played a pivotal role in Scotland’s epic victory over the ‘auld enemy’, England, in the critical Five Nations and Grand Slam match of that year.
Injuries kept him out for two seasons and one time, after 28 tests, he actually retired from test rugby to concentrate on his dearly loved Jedforest team. But Scotland seemed to always call Armstrong back and each time they did he gave his usual 110%. He was captain of Scotland when they won the Five Nations in 1999 (of great satisfaction considering they were 100-1 outsiders when the season started). He also was one of the rare players to play the 1991 World Cup series, then miss the 1995 series in South Africa (he was injured), only to be back for the World Cup in 1999.
He retired from international play after captaining and playing strongly in the quarter-final match against New Zealand on his beloved Murrayfield.
After sevens years of productive play as a professional with the Newcastle Falcons, Armstrong became one of the first professionals with the new Scottish Borders professional team in 2002, signing as a 35 year old on a three-year contract!
How did the 1902-05 England and Great Britain player D.D.Dobson die?