The Last Word: The Enigma

How do you solve a problem like Adam Thomson?

That's probably unfair. Our Thommo has been a blessing to Highlanders and Otago fans since he finally got his opportunity five years ago. The only "problem" is he is about to leave.

But in All Black terms, he remains a bit of a mystery.

He has an extraordinary range of attributes - the speed of a wing, the height of a lock, the ball skills of a centre - and a higher than average intellectual capacity.

Yet, there has always been a lingering sense the All Black coaches have not QUITE believed in him at the top level, that he has been pigeonholed as a super Super rugby player and a merely decent All Black.

That is reflected in his record.

He has 29 caps (18 starts) over five years, and his longest streak is four consecutive starts.

Those of us who have been on the Thomson bandwagon since his early Otago days are frustrated he is destined to be remembered as a useful international player, when we believe he could have been quite special.

. . . that is Adam

So, as you take a moment to reflect on how lucky he was to escape with a one-week suspension (boot in contact with head equals trouble, no matter the intent or injury), think about where Adam Thomson will rate.

Your all-time greatest All Black blindside flankers are Kel Tremain, Ian Kirkpatrick and Alan Whetton.

The next tier includes Mike Brewer (he'd be a top-tier guy if he had stayed fit and stayed at blindside), Taine Randell, Mark Shaw, Jerry Collins and Jerome Kaino. Maybe Reuben Thorne sneaks in there. Michael Jones, too, if you concentrate only on his appearances in the No 6 jersey.

Thomson?

Loitering outside the top 10 along with his Highlanders coach, Jamie Joseph, and Kevin Schuler.

Liam Messam and Victor Vito are now the leading All Black blindside flank options. They can't be rated until they've played more tests.

For our man Adam, it's nearly time up. His supporters would have liked to have seen more of him, but he can be proud of his achievements.

Favourite teacher

In the old days, it was an apple.

Now the kids get a bit more creative.

Kaikorai Valley College teacher and Otago rugby player Scott Manson got a nice surprise this week.

One of his pupils produced a very large, very tasty cake - in the shape of a rugby ball.

Definitely the way to impress a prop.

Albion's big year

The Albion Cricket Club will celebrate a very special milestone at Easter when it turns 150.

The club, said to be the oldest continuous cricket club in New Zealand or Australia, has a big weekend of socialising and cricketing planned.

Organiser and historian-in-chief Warwick "Fox" Larkins tells me there will be two Albion XIs named, a greatest all-time XI and a best XI based on averages over the past 20 years.

The club is spoiled for choice when you consider some of its past and present heroes: Bert Sutcliffe, Glenn Turner, Alex Downes, John Bracewell, Ken Rutherford, Barry Milburn, Andrew Jones, Martin Snedden and those useful McCullum boys.

A wrong turn

Just a quick story about a colleague's experience at the Southland marathon last weekend.

This keen and fit runner had his first taste of what all long distance types, presumably, eventually encounter when he, er, got lost.

Nearing the finish line, he was waved down a road by some rather laid-back local officials, who neglected to add "to the left".

Our marathon man carried on for about 1km before realising the only pounding footsteps he could hear belonged to his shoes. Upon turning around, he could see in the distance some other runners making that left turn.

Lesser mortals would have spit and cursed but our patient hero quickly back-tracked and still managed a top-10 finish.

My Granddad . . .

My thanks to everyone who passed on messages following the death of my grandfather, Lex Meikle, last week.

Granddad - like all rural North Otago blokes - loved his sport. I have his old diaries and there are regular entries of "Went to Dunedin for the test" or "At the cricket".

Just a few weeks ago, he was reading the Richie McCaw book and complaining to me that there was far too much run-of-play stuff, and not enough personality insights.

He was also big on his bowls, and a loyal member of the old Weston club. I'd regularly tag along and Granddad would try to teach me the rudiments of the game. He was a finesse player, and if he was disappointed his grandson much preferred the heavy drive, he was too kind to say.

. . . and my Uncle

Later on Saturday, when Granddad had been farewelled, his youngest son made a surprise announcement.

My Uncle Ross enjoys a flutter on the horses - has appointed himself my personal racing adviser, in fact - and placed a bet in Granddad's honour.

He chose a horse with an appropriate name in the eighth at Riccarton. It won, and Ross presented the winning ticket to my Gran. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

The horse's name?

Never Die.

Moon power

Following on from Green Moon's win in the Melbourne Cup last week, an observant racing fan passed on this tidbit.

The winner of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington on Saturday was called Puissance de Lune - power of the moon.

Baby love

Football fans of my generation or thereabouts will never forget Brazilian forward Bebeto's celebration during the 1994 World Cup.

After scoring against the Americans, Bebeto and two team-mates launched into a cradle-rocking routine in honour of the recent birth of Bebeto's son.

Eighteen years on, the subject of that celebration - a lad called Mattheus (named after Lothar?) - has made the Brazilian under-20 team for the first time.

Birthday of the week

Speaking of Bert Sutcliffe, the great man would have been 89 today.

Good time to re-read The Last Everyday Hero, by former Otago Daily Times reporter Richard Boock.

-hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz