Confidence a must in shield clash
When Mid Canterbury last hosted Canterbury in a Ranfurly Shield challenge in 2002, a virtually unheard of young lad from Southbridge ran rings around them.
The following year, that young player made his All Blacks debut, and went on to become the All Blacks’ most capped first-five. That player was Daniel Carter, and the players who had the job of trying to contain him knew he had a big future ahead of him.
Jason Gill was Mid Canterbury captain that day, and his memory of the game is hazy, but he remembers it being tough, and he remembers Carter.
‘‘I do remember that Dan Carter tore us to bits,’’ Gill said.
‘‘I just remember tackling really, pretty much for most of the game.’’
Mid Canterbury put up a good fight early on, but by full time it had blown out to 78-10. But, for the Mid Canterbury players who turned out and the 2500 people who watched on from the sidelines at the Ashburton Showgrounds, it was a day to remember. Now, the Mid Canterbury team of 2017 is preparing for their own challenge on home soil. Mid Canterbury will host the challenge on Friday August 4, at 2.35pm at the Ashburton Showgrounds.
In the crowd will be a number of players who played in that last home challenge 15 years ago, Gill included.
He said captaining Mid Canterbury in a shield challenge was a career highlight.
‘‘We knew what we were going to be up against, and I remember everyone saying ‘you just have to get into them in the first 10 minutes’,’’ Gill said.
‘‘We always went into games with a thought that we could win it on the day. You’ve got to put your best foot forward.’’
John Ellis also played that day, and said if Mid Canterbury could stick with Canterbury for the first 30 minutes on Friday, they were in with a chance. He urged the players to keep it simple, and remember they might only get one crack at the Ranfurly Shield, so they needed to ensure they gave it their best shot.
He said there would be nerves, and adrenalin would be flowing; he remembers that feeling.
‘‘I remember we started off pretty well and then I just think their size, speed and skill level took over,’’ Ellis said.
‘‘We came out with a bit of adrenalin and thought we would take it to these city slickers and teach them a lesson.’’
Jarrod Ross was also in the squad, and he remembers that confidence, instilled in them by their coach.
‘‘We had a coach from Auckland called Nigel Marshall and he had the theory we were going to ambush Canterbury; that was his motto,’’ Ross said.
‘‘The night before we had a bit of training and then he bussed us up to Pudding Hill Resort for the night, which I couldn’t get my head around; the home team actually had to travel further than the away team.’’
But after a stellar 2001 where they earned themselves the right to stay in the then NPC division two, Mid Canterbury did have high hopes, Ross said.
‘‘I guess every team that challenges for the shield thinks they have a shot at it, and I think we thought it was going to be the best shot we’d get, but it wasn’t meant to be,’’ Ross said.
Ross was a reserve prop, and by the time he entered the fray about 10 minutes into the second half, the game was already gone. But he knew that it was his one shot at the shield, and he was determined to give it his all.
‘‘You’ve just got to imagine it’s your last game and give it everything,’’ Ross said.
He remembers as a boy, finishing school early to watch Mid Canterbury take on the the British and Irish Lions in 1983 – his dad, former All Black Jock Ross, was in the Mid Canterbury team – and would love to see schools let their students out early for Friday’s match, and for employers to let employees head along.
Whatever the outcome, it’ll be a great game, he said.
‘‘I’m hoping that they will give it a fair shot. It would be one hell of an effort to win it, but stranger things have happened on a rugby field, like Japan beating South Africa at the last World Cup – who would’ve picked that?’’
John Ellis (front) and Regan Johns head onto the field for the 2002 Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury.