Bell a man dedicated to his club

Veteran Zingari-Richmond loose forward Chris Bell will notch his 300th premier game for the club tomorrow. Club rugby writer Adrian Seconi caught up with the Dragons immortal ahead of the milestone.

How are you still standing? Seems a fair question. Chris Bell will play his 300th premier game for Zingari-Richmond tomorrow.

No-one else is documented as reaching that milestone in Dunedin premier grade rugby.

The veteran loose forward made his premier debut way back in 2003 when the world was still waiting for social media to greatly enhance our lives — huh.

Incredibly, the 39-year-old still looks sprightly.

Maybe he has an impeccable diet.

A shake of the head.

Veteran Zingari-Richmond loosie Chris Bell is about to pack down in a scrum against University in...
Veteran Zingari-Richmond loosie Chris Bell is about to pack down in a scrum against University in 2013. PHOTO: CRAIG BAXTER
Perhaps he is uber fit.

Another shake of the head.

So what is the secret, then?

It’s just passion and he runs good lines. Well, not always.

His debut comes to mind.

He came on as a replacement against Alhambra Union and boom!

"I ran straight into Filipo Levi. It was a big welcome to premier rugby."

Levi played 70 games for Otago and 25 for Manu Samoa. It would have been like running into a fridge-freezer.

"Everyone seems to be getting younger and faster and stronger, and here I’m getting older and weaker and slower," Bell added.

He keeps up just fine. The project co-ordinator will start at lock tomorrow in a key game against Green Island at Montecillo Park.

It is his favourite ground, of course. He joked you can leave the field and be in the bar a few seconds later.

But you do notice your age when you look around the dressing room and there are quite a few team-mates who were not even born the day you got crunched by said future international captain.

For years, Zingari-Richmond languished at the bottom of the competition standings. They were on the end of some very lopsided scorelines and Bell was there for almost all of them.

The Dragons lost 33 games in a row. It is the longest losing steak in the competition since the Otago Daily Times began keeping detailed records in 1976.

It was not as horrific as you might think. Bell has previously said the adversity brought the team closer together.

They snapped the barren run with a last-gasp 29-28 win against University A in 2012.

"That was like winning a championship," he beamed.

Chris Bell
Chris Bell
Bell was part of another likely premier record streak. He played 151 consecutive games in a row before he finally skipped a game to go duck-shooting.

The match he missed is pretty memorable. The Colours were routed 137-0 by an impressive University lineup.

It remains the highest score in the competition.

Bell returned the next week and they beat Taieri. Perhaps that underscores his value to the club more than anything else.

In his prime he was a very tidy club player. He really does run clever lines and has scored 67 tries in his 21-year run in the strip.

But it is what he adds off the field which helps lift the spirit. He is a fiercely loyal club man who wants nothing more than to see his beloved club succeed.

And they are doing that this year. Zingari-Richmond lead the competition standings midway through the second round.

The turnaround has been the product of a lot mahi behind the scenes.

"Like in every club there are a lot of people doing unseen work and that is coming to fruition now.

"We are really enjoying the club atmosphere at the moment. There is a good vibe in the club, there are teams in every grade right from the juniors to the senior teams.

"I’m having fun. I’m proud to see it back up where it belongs."

There should be a good crowd at Montecillo Park to see Bell bring up the milestone. But there are some people in particular he is looking forward to catching up with afterwards.

His wife, Anna, and sons, Spencer, 6, and Noah, 3, will be there. Spencer is fresh from scoring 15 tries at the Taieri Sevens at the weekend. He must run good lines as well.

Bell’s mother, Robyn, will also be there. She has barely missed a game in the last two decades and change, and that is noteworthy in itself.

Maybe she will get a break next season? Perhaps Bell will finally retire?

"I’d say this is my last year," he said.

He has said that before, but perhaps this time it has more gravitas.

Bell has been coaching the premier colts and "I might push into that a little bit more and pass on some of the knowledge that I picked up from other people along the way".

He might retire from playing, but he will not retire from the club.

"I’ll always be here."


Chris Bell - Veteran loosie
Age: 39
Club: Zingari-Richmond
Premier games: 299
Tries: 67
Superpower: Indestructible