Otago contributed much to NZ rugby
In light of the Otago Rugby Union’s financial problems, I thought that I’d better write a report on the issue. It is very sad to see a proud union like Otago going into liquidation and in danger of not being able to field a team in this year’s ITM cup.
Otago has contributed many players, coaches and administrators to New Zealand rugby over the last 130 years.
The first ever captain of the All Blacks under the control of the New Zealand rugby union, Tom Ellison, was from Otago.
Also from Otago was the first to coach the all Blacks, Jimmy Duncan.
Only Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington have contributed more All Blacks than Otago.
Since the National Provincial Championship began in 1976, Otago has won the title twice in 1991 and 1998.
They have been finalists six out of a possible 16 and semi-finalists 11 times. Even though Otago have not held the Ranfurly Shield since 1957 they still have a great record with a win ratio marginally lower than 50 per cent (36 wins, 38 losses).
During the 1940s when they were at their peak, the Ranfurly Shield went north of the Waitaki River.
In 1949 they had 11 All Blacks and even without them they still defended the shield.
Their record against teams is remarkable.
They have beaten many of the heavyweights of international rugby such as Australia twice in 1972 and 1978, and the touring British and Irish Lions four times. Otago have also beaten England, South Africa and Scotland.
Otago have had many great coaches and administrators who have played a
international key role in the province and New Zealand rugby.
Men such as Vic Cavanagh senior and Vic Cavanagh junior (known as Old Vic and Young Vic) were regarded as coaches who took the game to new levels.
The influence continued with Charlie Saxton who was manager of the 1967 All Black team.
The Otago line of coaches continued unbroken through Eric Watson, Laurie Mains, Gordon Hunter and Tony Gilbert.
Another Otago man, Samuel Sleigh, organised the first New Zealand team in 1884.
Ned Parata, acknowledged as the father of Maori rugby, organised the first ever National Maori team in 1910 and was also the first Maori to sit on the New Zealand union.
Otago rugby is more than just about the elite players or the national level coaching.
It is a game carried in the heart and soul of Otago people right through to the grassroots level.
So I think it is up to everyone in the organisation to make sacrifices – right from the chairman of the Otago Rugby Union through the administration and down to the players to take pay cuts and do whatever they can to make sure that they are able to field a team.
It seems to me that ever since the game went professional in 1996 players have only thought about themselves, about how much money they can make and about where the next pay cheque is coming from, rather than thinking about the team they play for.
This is more than about the money – it’s something much bigger. It’s about making sure that the great history of Otago rugby continues.
It’s not just about Otago either. It is also to make sure that other provinces don’t go the way of Otago.
On a local note to end with, good on Hinuera As and Bs on beating UMS in the local derby over the weekend. It was a good pre-season hit out to start the year off.