Journalist to take on fishing TV host

The captains have been named for the final Pack the Park encounter early next year.

Journalist Paddy Gower will make his debut as captain of the Blair Vining XV against Matt Watson’s ITM Invitational XV next month.

Mr Gower, a Newshub journalist, has been handed the captain’s armband for the January 27 match at Invercargill’s Rugby Park after successfully auditioning for the role.

The third Pack the Park rugby game is a thank-you to the southern public and all those who have supported the late Blair Vining’s dream of establishing the Southland Charity Hospital, which will open early next year.

"As a rangy lock or blindside, inspirational captain and relatively accurate goalkicker, I feel my rugby potential has been unfulfilled," Mr Gower, 46, said.

"I also want to bring attention to the desperate need to improve cancer care in regional New Zealand.

"Blair Vining is a hero to me.

"He stood up for his community and his country.

"The charity hospital is a massive step in his legacy but there is more work to do.

"It is an honour to be a small part of this important work."

Mr Watson, host of The ITM Fishing Show, led the ITM Invitational XV in their last outing at Rugby Park in 2020 and could not wait to return.

"Just like every other Kiwi, I was moved by Blair Vining’s journey and his incredible fight, so when I got asked to strap on the boots and help support the Southland Charity Hospital it was an easy decision, it took me about a second to say ‘I’m in’," he said.

"I’m a massive rugby fan, so to get the opportunity to get out on the paddock with some of the legends of the game was a childhood dream come true."

An exciting list of former rugby stars is starting to take shape for the game, with former All Black captain Kieran Read, Chris Masoe, John Afoa, Mose Tuiali’i, Kees Meeuws, Brendan Laney, Willie Walker, Paul Miller, Davin Heaps, Hale T-Pole, Pita Alatini, Jamie Mackintosh and Mils Muliaina all confirmed.

Mr Gower said his own rugby ability would at least provide some humour for the Southland crowd.

"I’m looking forward to the after-match.

"I am much more suited to after-matches than actually playing."

Mr Watson said the 2020 game was something he would never forget and he was looking forward to more of the same in January.

"I’ve said it many times, Southland has an incredible community spirit, from the time we arrived we were taken care of and even out on the paddock the crowd was incredible, it was more like a festival or concert vibe than a sporting event."