Flashback … Red Star’s Alister O’Neill [No 10] tackling Masterton’s Mike Bradnock in a match in 1978. PHOTOS/WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE
Rare feat to be celebrated
How hard is it to win three championships in a row?
Very difficult I would suggest.
With two rounds of matches to play, followed by a semifinal and a potential final, Gladstone are on track to become only the fifth premier club team to achieve the feat since the formation of the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union in 1971.
The last example was Eketahuna from 2003-05.
Before that, Marist scored the three-peat from 1997-99, although the 1998 title was shared with Pioneer, when the final ended in a draw. By the way, a shared trophy can no longer be an outcome, with extra time played in a final.
Before that, it was Red Star from 1976-78 and Masterton from 1971-73.
There are plenty of instances of teams winning two consecutive championships but failed to push on and win the third.
This decade alone, as well as Gladstone in 2017-18, Greytown won two straight titles in 2012-13 and 2015-16. Otherwise Pioneer, 1993-94, Masterton in 1986-87 and 1983-84, and Martinborough 1981-82, performed the double, proving that this alone is a significant achievement.
This phenomenon is not unique to Wairarapa rugby and there are endless examples of teams and individuals falling short of their dream.
The star-studded Golden State Warriors, who have played in the past five NBA final series, tripped up going for their three-peat.
Only the Chicago Bulls, led by the mercurial Michael Jordan, with three-peats in 1991-93 and 1996-98, and the LA Lakers from 2000-2, have completed NBA hat-tricks in the past 50 years.
Even in tennis, with some of the greats dominating the professional era, they have found it remarkably difficult to win three times in a row on Wimbledon’s perfectly-manicured grass courts.
Serena Williams, regarded by many as the greatest tennis player of all time, has never done it. Steffi Graf, 1991-93, was the last. Martina Navratilova, 1982-87, is the only other women in the open era.
Among the men, New Zealander Anthony Wilding won his fourth straight Wimbledon title in 1913 by beating American Maurice McLoughlin 8-6 6-3 10-8.
Roger Federer, 2003-07, Pete Sampras, twice 1993-95 and 1997-2000, and Bjorn Borg, 1976-80, are the three others to bag a hat-trick.
Manchester United, despite winning 13 of the 27 English Premier League titles, have won three-in-a-row twice, 1998-2001, and 2006-9.
Only two other clubs have won successive titles, Chelsea and current champions Manchester City, who will be looking to emulate their Manchester rivals in the 2019-20 season.
In the history of English Football Leagues, before the EPL, only the great Liverpool team of the 1980s, Huddersfield Town in the 1920s, and Arsenal in the 1930s did the three-peat.
Three-peats have never eventuated at the World Cups of football or rugby – although the All Blacks get their chance in Japan this year.
In cricket, Australia are the only three-peat winners.
Closer to home, Valerie Adams, a hot favourite at Rio in 2016 to win her third consecutive Olympic gold medal, didn’t bank on American Michelle Carter putting a once-in-a-lifetime throw to pip her.
The Blues, Crusaders, Bulls, and Chiefs have all won two straight Super Rugby titles, but only the Crusaders, 1998-2000, have succeeded in making it three-in-a-row.
Can the Red and Blacks repeat the feat on Saturday, or will the sporting gods spin a different story?
So, what is the psyche that makes lifting a championship for a third straight time so difficult?
The players get older, but are more experienced, the opposition are better prepared and lift for the occasion – it could be several many factors.
Or do they just simply fold under the pressure or choke on the expectation?
Whichever way you look at it, a hat-trick, three-peat, three-in-a-row, is bloody hard to achieve and should be celebrated.