Otago con­trib­uted much to NZ rugby

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By STEVEN SA­MUELS

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

never

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.

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