The last word

Union rugby coach Peter Stackhouse is hoisted aloft by players and supporters after the North...
Union rugby coach Peter Stackhouse is hoisted aloft by players and supporters after the North Otago president’s grade rugby final at Ngapara on Saturday. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN
The longest ...

When someone returned to the role of sports editor, many a colleague groaned as they predicted the sports pages would again be awash in stories about North Otago rugby and Liverpool football.

Pshaw, pfft and pah, said the incoming sports editor — and three weeks into the role, he got North Otago rugby on the front page.

In my defence, Monday’s story about the North Otago president’s grade final lasting a whopping 113 minutes was an objectively good sporting yarn, and on the front page it belonged.

We took a slight risk in proposing it might be the longest game in the history of New Zealand rugby but it was a calculated risk: either we were right, or the story would prompt people to come forward with stories of other epic games.

The mouth of the south, club rugby bloviator Paul Dwyer, swears there was a game in Dunedin some years ago that lasted longer. But the best he could offer was that it might have involved Pirates (RIP) and it might have involved Harbour and it might have been a semifinal. So we can easily discard that.

Southland man Brent Johnstone recalls playing for Oxford against Waiau in a North Canterbury senior B semifinal in 1992. He reckons it went the normal 80 minutes then had 20 minutes of extra time. As it was still a draw, there was ANOTHER period of extra time, and Oxford kicked a penalty on the 120-minute mark.

That story sounds reasonably convincing, to be fair.

... game of all

Another good angle comes from an old mate of mine, Jack Salter, a man who loves his league and boxing but also used to play for the Zingari-Richmond open grade rugby team.

In 2000, Jack says, he was captaining that Zingers team in a semifinal against Green Island at the University Oval.

‘‘The game started at 2.45pm and it went past two hours, finishing at about 5.15pm.

‘‘It is 21 years ago, so the memory is not quite as sharp as it once was, but there was at least three lots of extra time and possibly even four.

‘‘Of course, it was back in the days where there was no golden point and instead 20-minute extra time periods.

‘‘I remember the game well. It was the game that pretty much ended my playing days after I was pulled down in a lineout about 25 minutes in, partially tearing my ACL.

‘‘We went on to win and then beat Alhambra-Union in the final.’’

Great stuff.

My teams

The Last Word is in Oamaru (#paradise) today for the biggest club rugby game of the year, the Citizens Shield final between Valley and Kurow.

Professionally, the column does not have a dog in this fight. But personally, yes, this rugby fan very much hopes the shield will be staying with the men in blue and gold.

Happily, Valley is playing a fellow country club, and Kurow would be a heck of a story if it won today.

It got me thinking about the teams I follow, and the level of passion I feel for each.

In the Liverpool tier is ... well, that’s obvious. Lose and I am crushed.

The second tier is led by the Old Golds, with Waitaki Boys’ High School rugby and Valley and my NFL team, the Los Angeles Rams, close behind.

The third tier consists of the New York Knicks, the Boston Red Sox, the Penrith Panthers and the Queenslanders in State of Origin.

The ‘‘get me on the bandwagon when they win’’ tier includes the Edmonton Oilers, the South City Royals and pretty much every New Zealand national team.

You decide

Which has the potential to be more of a fizzer — the Lions tour of South Africa, or the Olympics?

I have a real soft spot for the Lions as the five weeks I spent on the road covering them in 2005 was a career-changing experience, and the rugby could still end up being quite good.

But sheesh, the tour itself, what a nightmare.

Covid-19 could also yet devastate the Tokyo Games, which are under way — and will probably be quite a lot of fun — but could veer from weird into disastrous if the pandemic has the final say.

The pain game

Thanks to those who shared their memories of their most painful sporting experiences after reading mine last week.

I have to highlight a contribution from a bloke I know called Alistair Banks, who is a teacher when he is not swanning around on All Black-style sabbaticals.

He remembers feeling sick as a dog after the infamous ‘‘Gregan Tackle’’, and I suspect he was not alone. Unbelievably, that was 27 years ago.

Happily for Mr Banks, his beloved Moneybags City has bought its way to a thousand football trophies since then.

On the wireless

I’m not a huge radio listener but tuned in to the opening morning of SENZ on Monday for a short spell.

Our boy Brendon McCullum is starting to sound very polished, and could be set for a long career. As for his mate Izzy, well, they say personality goes a long way.

Newspapers are clearly a far superior platform for sports news and features, but it’s good to have a New Zealand sports radio station back on the air.

Power is power

After a six-year absence, the ODT sports power rankings will return in a few weeks — perfect timing, just after the Olympics.

If you’ve forgotten (you have), they’re an annual, basically random list of the most powerful sportspeople in New Zealand.

Send me your suggestions now, or send me your critiques post-publication.

Richie McCaw is still No1, right?


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