Baden Whale refereeing a game between Rathkeale College v Wairarapa College, at age 75 in 2012. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

A World Cup winning coach, a former mayor, and the first woman to referee a Ranfurly Shield match are in line to take part in Sunday’s historic virtual rugby clash between Wairarapa-Bush and Auckland.

The match to be ‘played’ at Eden Park will feature the champion 1985 NPC first division Auckland team against the best that Wai-Bush can muster from the 728 players who have represented the combined union since amalgamation in 1971.

Playoffs in the NPC weren’t introduced until 1992 so fourth-placed Wai-Bush weren’t given the chance to play a semifinal against Auckland.

Now Wai-Bush chief executive officer Tony Hargood wants to “finally get closure on our biggest travesty in Wairarapa-Bush and New Zealand rugby history”.

Hargood wants Wai-Bush supporters to have a bit of fun and see how their 23 players match up against the “official” team.

Each day this week, the Times-Age will display a shortlist of players from each position.

The final selections will be announced shortly before kick-off at 2.30pm Sunday. The game will be “screened” live on the Wai-Bush Facebook page.

Before the game can go ahead, the coaching staff and officials need to be confirmed.

The coaching shortlist has been narrowed down to three – Sir Brian [BJ] Lochore, Lane Penn, and Peter Russell.

BJ’s selection would cause somewhat of a conundrum as it would exclude him from playing, although he made only one appearance in 1971.

But his exploits in leading Wai-Bush to the first division in 1981, and going on to coach the All Blacks may supersede his playing career.

Penn coached Wai-Bush for four seasons, including that fourth placing in 1985, and went on to be an All Black selector and assistant coach to Alex Wyllie.

Russell coached the green and reds for three years, winning the last Third Division championship and the first Meads Cup.

The referees are also come down to three options – Baden Whale, Bob Francis, and Rebecca Mahoney.

Whale was a first class referee, who can count among his achievements officiating in a Lions tour match.

During the 1980s, Francis was the number one referee in the world. He controlled 10 tests and among his most noteworthy games was the “game of the century”, when Auckland lifted the Ranfurly Shield with a 28-23 victory over Canterbury.

Mahoney, a two-time World Cup winning Black Fern, took up the whistle on retirement and has refereed at international level. She was the first woman to referee a Ranfurly Shield challenge [Otago v North Otago] in 2019.

The assistant referees and TMO will be chosen from Chris Jefferies, Alastair Payne, John Francis, Goff Moorcock, Steve Hannam, and Graeme Reisima.

The shortlisted locks:

Craig Sims, Ian Turley, Brent Anderson, Andy Earl, Mike McCool, John Hutchins, Gary Patrick, Andrew McLean, Brian Higginson, and Mike Robinson

Two required plus one who can play blindside flanker.