This photo from 1985 shows Auckland stars Steve McDowell, centre, and fellow All Black forwards, Gary, right, and Alan Whetton. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Twelve All Blacks of the 1980s have been named in the Auckland starting XV to play Wairarapa-Bush in tomorrow’s 1985 virtual semifinal.

Auckland won the NPC First Division that year and went on to lift the Ranfurly Shield with a 28-23 victory over Canterbury in the “Game of the Century”.

On their way to championship glory, Auckland beat Wairarapa-Bush 16-6 in a controversial match played at Memorial Park in bitterly cold conditions at Memorial Park.

Wai-Bush finished fourth, their best finish in their six years in the NPC, but without semifinals they didn’t get a chance of revenge against Auckland.

Now Wai-Bush chief executive officer Tony Hargood wants to get closure on what he calls the ‘biggest travesty in Wairarapa-Bush and NZ rugby history’.

The virtual game between the 1985 Auckland side and the best Wai-Bush can muster from the 728 players who represented the union since amalgamation in 1971 is to be played at Eden Park at 2.30pm tomorrow and ‘screened’ live on the union’s Facebook page.

The Auckland team is to be led by All Black lock Andy Haden. He is joined by five other All Blacks in the forward pack – props Steve McDowell and John Drake, and flankers Alan Whetton and Mark Brooke-Cowden. Only hooker Iain Abercrombie and No 8 Glenn Rich in the forward pack didn’t go on to wear the black jersey.

World Cup-winning captain David Kirk is at the base of a talented backline, with the mercurial but unpredictable Stephen Pokere standing in for an injured Grant Fox at first-five.

Kurt Sherlock and Joe Stanley form a powerful midfield, while All Black legend Sir John Kirwan, the speedy Terry Wright, and the gifted fullback Lindsay Harris round off a brilliant team.

The substitute’s bench is still to be confirmed.

Each day this week, the Times-Age is displaying a short list of players from each position, and Hargood is encouraging Wai-Bush supporters to have a bit of fun and pick their own team to compare it with the “official” team.

Yesterday, the rest of the backline was the focus.

In the midfield, one player is required for each position, centre and second-five, and one to cover both positions. Some of the players played in both positions during their careers.

The back three also has fair amount of flexibility with some players capable of playing wing and fullback, and possibly covering first-five.

Two wings and one fullback are required, with possibly a player with utility value as a substitute.

Second-five: Doug Bracewell, Kevin Carter [also played first-five], Charlie Kaka, Marty Berry, Nathan Riwai-Couch.

Centre: Jimmy Cotter, Gary Cotter, Peter Bresaz, Simanu Simanu.

Wings: Neil Purvis, Greg Karaitiana, Mike Foster, Mike Cornford, Colin Sullivan, Zac Guildford, Soli Malatai.

Fullback: Neil Kjestrup, Mark Benton, Steve Hurley, Nick Olson, Inia Katia.