Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
8 January 2019
By Keith Quinn (from his book Quinn's Quips) Early in my broadcasting career by 1969 I was deemed sound enough by the bosses of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation to be the regular studio host of the Sports Roundup radio show. It was quite simple broadcasting work and therefore very good for a young bloke to be involved with. But one day I think I played a major role in New Zealand winning a cricket test match! Read on...
Basically for that job I would arrive at one of the studios at Broadcasting House in downtown Wellington and open up the show. The 'show' actually was pretty uncomplicated action for me. After going on the air I would read a few news, scores and stories from around the place. Then I would 'cross over' to a major sports event which we were featuring that day and which had commentary running ball-by-ball for hours. While that happened I waited in the studio, monitoring the broadcast in case it broke down. At any breaks in play, like lunch breaks, or rain, or change of innings etc, I filled in by reading more sports news and adding additional news interviews and local updates.
On this particular day in early March 1969 (but 50 years from 2019) the game I was monitoring was a West Indies v New Zealand cricket test in Wellington. The weather was fine, the game was meandering along without need for my interruption, so I arrived at the studio; I supposed I was in for an easy day.
For me at that time I felt that my job was akin to being near the very peak of what was possible in the life of a sports broadcaster. I had made the odd appearance on TV reading the night-time sports news and my rugby reports from the Ranfurly Shield season in Napier were very exciting to do.
So when an assistant editor from the Radio Newsroom upstairs entered the studio holding a telegram (yes, a telegram!) and asked me what to do with it I looked at it and blinked.
It was addressed to "The Manager, West Indies Cricket team, c/- Broadcasting House, Wellington New Zealand" - and its content clearly and simply said 'Here is the West Indies Cricket team to tour to England at the conclusion of their tour of New Zealand.'
So I thought; 'wow! As I am in Broadcasting House this telegram must be directed at whoever the studio host for that day is. So I thought 'I'll be the one who reads out this significant sports team in the next break in play!'
I never hesitated to think maybe the current West Indies team members, battling away against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve, might not have yet heard for themselves who of the current team in Wellington were to be included for the England tour - and who were not included. The tour was to follow in only a few weeks time.
'Surely they would have received their own telegram,' I thought.
Accordingly on the fifth and final day of the test match, when the tea break came at the Basin Reserve and both teams had headed for their dressing rooms the radio commentary (no live TV sets in those days) was audible in the rooms for all the players to hear as they sat down for their 20 minute rest.
In my mind’s eye I now see someone in the West Indies room. on hearing a callow youth (that's me!) start to read from the telegram. The whole room would have shushed down as the implications of what was being said were taken in by the team.
The West Indies had had a tough time in Australia and accordingly, listening back home the WI selectors were not impressed. Changes were seen as being needed from the Australian to the English conditions. So right there on the radio were the changes .the home selectors were making (five out of 16 of the Australian tourists were dropped);
They were read out very publicly by an ego-driven youth who was busting to make a name for himself; rather than checking to see if it was appropriate for him to do so.
Of course after tea apparently on the field at the Basin Reserve all hell broke loose. When the West Indies went back into the fray the most angry ones came from among their pace bowling attack, five had been callously and cold-heartedly and publicly dismissed. Accordingly the bowlers ignored their previous tactics and just charged in, wildly flinging ball after ball loosely at the New Zealand batsmen. The tenor of the game quickly changed totally.
New Zealand had been set 166 to win and at one point were down to 39-3; so a tough last session lay ahead. But with Charlie Griffith and Richard Edwards, two of their speed bowlers both in a rage at being dropped - along with the injured great Wesley Hall New Zealand cruised on to a six-wicket win.
The clipping I kept for my files is not of a glaring next day one; I don't think the reporters at the ground were aware of the 'background drama.' Rather the clipping I have kept it is a 'reflective' interview the captain Garfield Sobers gave to Gabriel David of The Evening Post in which Sobers spoke of being '"bitterly disappointed" with the West Indies selectors and their method of choosing and announcing the side (for the England tour.)
When Sobers added 'the team was subsequently announced on Monday afternoon, with the players hearing the side during the tea break in the second test, 'and the entire pace attack having been dropped' he said he had 'threatened to quit' as West Indies captain.
I (the secret announcer)was quietly thrilled.
So you be the judge; had I had played my part for my country? Maybe I did = or maybe I didn't.
(As I have often said 'it is my story and I'm sticking to it!')
The four 'Home' Unions were beaten on consecutive Saturdays by the rampant ABs! On this day NZ beat Scotland by 29-10
If there has been a problem for Aborigines in Australian rugby history, it mirrors attitudes by the Australian public in general. There was an early typecasting of the race as non-achievers in life as in sport. But in rugby the Aborigines have produced a number of champion players.
The most famous were the Ella brothers, Mark, Glen and Gary, who showed the world a brilliantly instinctive degree of understanding of each other on the field of play. Their fame was worldwide in rugby. All were test players around the same time, though they never all played in the same test match.
Mark Ella was one of the First Fifteen of players inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in London in 1997. He is remembered as one of the glittering stars of Australian rugby. The other two from the family, Glen and Gary, were thrilling backline runners too, and all later became much respected coaches.
It is thought that the first Aborigine player to be capped for Australia was Jack ‘Blondie’ Howard in 1938. His teammates at the time were not all sure of his racial background and Howard apparently was never keen on discussing it. Alongside Howard in the tests of 1938 was Cecil Ramalli,who was part-Indian and part-Aborigine. It is said that Ramali, too, never revealed his Aboriginality. He preferred to be known as part-Indian.
Eventually Aborigine players emerged who were happy to declare their race. Lloyd McDermott of Queensland was a pacy winger who played tests against the All Blacks in 1962.
In the years after the Ella brothers came Lloyd Walker, Barry Lea, Andrew Walker and Jim Williams, all of whom were Wallabies. After originally being a centre, Williams was the first forward of Aborigine descent to play test football.
How many All Blacks played for New Zealand in 2013?