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."
Graham Mourie's touring team was beaten 12-0 by Munster in Limerick; the first win by any Irish team over the All Blacks. And poems, songs, books, films and reunions followed over the years.
Wellington and New Zealand
A tough New Zealand utility back in the years before international matches were played, Davey Gage performed an astonishing feat of endurance on the 1888–89 New Zealand Natives world tour when he played in 68 of 74 matches in Britain – twice as many as some of his fellow team members. He was nicknamed ‘Pony’ because of his small size but enormous work-rate on that tour. In all games on tour (counting games in Australia and New Zealand) he appeared 82 times.
Gage toured Australia with the New Zealand team of 1893 and was captain of his country against Queensland at Wellington in 1896. None of the matches played was considered a ‘test’ match.
Gage is remembered for another role during the Natives tour. The team adopted ‘On The Ball’ as its team song and he gained a reputation all over Britain as being the player who would stand up, climb on a table and lead its singing. The song, written in New Zealand, became a hit all across the country and is a rugby song that has endured ever since.
Who captained the British and Irish Lions on tour to New Zealand in 1977?