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Champions of region’s sport

Aaron Slight … World Superbikes star of the 90s. PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES/FILE

Who’ve been our best athletes?

COGGIE’S CALL

Put on your thinking caps. Who’s been the region’s greatest athletes?

Sir Brian Lochore beats Sir Bob Charles in the Swinging 60s

With the Wairarapa Times-Age Sports Awards’ ceremony coming up tomorrow night it got me thinking about some of the great sportspeople, teams, and achievements of the past.

Sir Brian Lochore

In the absence of a Wairarapa Sports Hall of Fame [which should be set up], should we not recognise our ‘Decade Champions’ – even if it was only in print?

I decided to go for the latter option, simply because it was more difficult than just naming 10 or so inductees into a Hall of Fame.

So where do I kick the debate off?

What decade? Are teams included or just individuals?

Initially, I thought the 1900s and then the 1910s, but records are pretty scratchy going back that far.

There’s the odd interesting achievement such as Masterton club’s Edgar Wrigley holding the record for being the youngest player [19 years and 79 days] to debut in a test for the All Blacks – against Australia in 1905 – until that was bettered by Jonah Lomu [19 years and 45 days] against France in 1994.

But there was nothing of significance that I became aware of, so I will start a decade later.

1920s

Would it be Quentin Donald, an All Black who played 22 games and all four tests on the 1924-25 Invincibles’ tour of the UK, Ireland and France, or the fabulous Wairarapa Ranfurly Shield team of the late 20s?

Neither. My choice is Randolph Rose, regarded as one the world’s greatest middle distance runners of his time. He won five Australasian and eight New Zealand titles over the mile.

Sir Bob Charles

1930s

The most difficult task of all the decades.

After much searching, I did find one All Black, the only one to come from the old Bush Union, Atholstan ‘Tonk’ Mahoney.

A rugged loose forward, Mahoney played 26 games, including four tests from 1929 to 1936. Any better suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

1940s

In a decade where sport was impacted by war, a one-test All Black, Alan ‘Kiwi’ Blake, stands out.

But it was Blake’s form for the Kiwis [a rugby team comprising members of the NZ Expeditionary Force], for whom he played 24 matches, including all five unofficial tests in the post-World War II tour of the UK that puts him ahead of another All Black, Ben Couch, who played three tests between 1947 and 1949.

1950s

This is a no-brainer.

Tinks Pottinger

Sir Bob Charles is head and shoulders above the rest. The left-hander out of the Masterton Golf Club won the New Zealand Open as an 18-year-old amateur at Heretaunga in 1954.

1960s

Like the 50s, the Swinging 60s is a one-horse race, although one could argue that Sir Bob would qualify for winning the 1963 British Open. But by the time he turned professional in 1960, he had well-and-truly moved away from the district.

Even so, I would still pump for Sir Brian Lochore, widely regarded as one of the great All Black captains.

BJ played 68 games, including 25 tests from 1963-1971. He went on to coach Wairarapa-Bush to First Division promotion and the All Blacks to victory in the 1987 World Cup.

1970s

This decade was a real challenge, but in the end I chose my first team – the Wairarapa Hawke Cup cricket team of 1977-79. Led by Dermot Payton, who would be a contender in his own right, Wairarapa lifted the prestigious trophy from Southland and successfully repelled seven challenges before losing it to Nelson.

Dermot Payton

1980s
Another team dominated the 1980s. Wairarapa-Bush won promotion to the national rugby championship First Division in 1981. The green and reds had six years in the top division, including a brilliant fourth placing in 1985 when they beat Canterbury, Otago, and Wellington along the way.

A strong case can also be put for Tinks Pottinger, whose horse, Volunteer, was unluckily vetted out of the 1986 world eventing championship when she was leading. She went on to win Olympic bronze in the team’s event at the Seoul Olympics.

A difficult choice, but I will go for Wairarapa-Bush.

1990s

Aaron Slight races away with the 90s. Second in the World Superbike Championship twice [1996 and 1998], and third four times, the highly-talented Slight also won the Suzuka 8-Hour Race in three consecutive years making him a living legend in Japan. He had 13 Superbike race wins from 229 starts.

2000s
Motorsport is my selection for the second consecutive decade. Richard Mason won two national rally championships in 2005 and 2006. He went on to win another three — in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Wairarapa-Bush’s wins in the 2005 NPC Third Division and 2006 Meads’ Cup, and Wairarapa United’s winning promotion to Central League football are
notable achievements.

2010s

Some interesting contenders here.

Black Stick Dane Lett, international cricketer Seth Rance, professional golfer Ben Campbell, tennis pro Marcus Daniell, and the Wairarapa United team who won the 2011 Chatham Cup all have strong credentials.

One could also argue a case for Black Cap Ross Taylor, but seeing as he hasn’t lived here for the past 18-19 years his achievements have been made while he’s not resident here. I will leave it up to you to decide.

 

 

 

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