By The Spotter
Winter 1983. The country was doing it tough in the middle of a wage-price freeze amid cries of ‘Rob Muldoon before he robs you’ and just a year out from the alcohol-soaked announcement of a snap election that saw Muldoon ousted after nine years of economic bombast and pitched battles with the media.
And the Lions were in town on their last genuinely long tour of the amateur era. And there was day-time Test Rugby. Play that broken old record I know, but come on- we’re all dying to have daytime big Rugby back, not withstanding it is merely a pipedream nowadays (and will the mercenary-driven NZRU raise this anomaly at the re-signing of any future broadcasting deals? Yes…if you still believe in Father Christmas).
There’s always a different feel inside to the first match of a big series like this one or for cricket’s Ashes, for example. Feelings of nostalgia and anticipation at what lies ahead are bookended by ongoing work and pub discussions around the test team selection.
1983 was a biggie for such debates. It was the beginning of a brilliant Ranfurly Shield reign for Canterbury, but there was one fly in that ointment as far as almost all Red and Black supporters were concerned. That being Wellington’s Allan Hewson being chosen as All Black fullback over their prolific young ace, Robbie Deans.
First test day arrived and there came the very strange situation of Hewson, who had broken the record for most points scored in a test match just nine months previously, being roundly booed as he took up his position. Perhaps the beginning of the modern-day, long running feud between Wellington and Canterbury in Rugby? Well, that and later on ramped up by Steve Walsh in 2001 etc.
Into the final few minutes and the Lions were somewhat unexpectedly in with a real shot at victory at only 12-13 down, when you guessed it, ‘Hewie’ fielded the ball a mile out from the sticks and banged over a drop goal that was struck even sweeter than Mitch Hunt’s recent effort for the Crusaders in stealing a win off the Highlanders. The kick was a steepler from around 42 metres out, it rose and rose before drifting down in a beautiful tangent just over the crossbar. The crowd didn’t know whether to laugh, cheer or cry. But Hewie had mostly won them over, at least for the evening anyway.
To the Lions starting team for this 2017 DHL series. Here it is on sportsfreak first:
Halfpenny (if fit); Watson, Davies, Te’o, North (has been generally hopeless so far, but expect much better); Farrell, Murray; Faletau, O’Brien, O’Mahony (no Warburton); Itoje, Wyn-Jones/Kruis; Furlong, George, Vunipola.
We know what the All Blacks’ first XV will be, though it could be Dagg or Naholo for the right wing berth and a choice between Leinert-Brown or Crotty at centre.