By Trevor Ammundsen.
Time for a New Era?
There was good news and bad news on Sunday; good news in that Hawkes Bay had won the Ranfurly Shield from Wellington. I spent my younger years in Hawkes Bay and attended my first top tier Rugby game at McLean Park. It was a Ranfurly Shield defence against Southland, a region that was so far away to this young lad it might as well have been Iceland. Apparently, it hasn’t changed much but I digress. This was the sixties, and the Hawkes Bay team were giants; names like Kel Tremain, Bill Davis, Ian McCrae, Blair Furlong, Hepa Paewai and the indomitable Kaaran Crawford, the list goes on and on. We were standing behind one of the goal posts, the ground was packed such was the attraction of the shield in that era. Hard for a young fellow to see much but every time the adults yelled so too, we kids. We won of course, thrashed them.
The bad news on Sunday was that having won the Ranfurly Shield the Hawkes Bay Team then dropped it on concrete and it is now in two pieces. It was a mistake apparently, not due to any celebratory games but it doesn’t matter; busted is busted. So, what happens now?
Well, what will probably happen is a handyman in Hawkes Bay will glue it back together, insert a couple of screws and polish it up a bit. But is that enough? Maybe this is a signal from the gods, and it is time for a change and if we are to have a change of course I have an idea or two.
The Ranfurly Shield is an iconic trophy that is deeply entwined in New Zealand Rugby folk lore. First played for in 1904 it is a challenge trophy and until the NPC commenced in 1976 it was the major trophy in New Zealand, definitely the only national trophy that every union was part of. Since the NPC began in 1976 its dominance has lessened and with the introduction of professional rugby its lustre has dimmed further. Now not many people take much notice, other than perhaps the unions that are playing for it on any given weekend. I was in the stands at Albany when our team, the Thames Valley Swamp Foxes, last challenged for the Ranfurly Shield and we won quite easily, but the “we” I refer to is the North Harbour Team I then called mine. I mention this because I wonder how many readers were there that day; if you were you are a wee part of the history that has developed around the Ranfurly Shield.
The Challenge Trophy concept is no longer “fit for purpose” and I suggest the current two halves of the Shield be given to Hawkes Bay and Wellington Unions to signify their contribution to the last Ranfurly Shield Challenge. The shield could then be replaced by another trophy that would be competed for every year, much like the Chatham Cup in Soccer. Every Union would take part in a knockout competition leading up to a grand final at a pre-determined venue. There would be some details to work out, but this is quite doable and if the lesser ranked team always had the home advantage it would potentially be a great money earner for smaller unions, and if you have a great year how far could you go.
For those who are negative about change this would not be hard, only five weeks are needed, and it could be played alongside other competitions. If you can’t imagine how I will explain over future weeks. And who wouldn’t want to travel to Dunedin to watch the Swamp Foxes take on Wellington in a Grand Final. We could make a week of it.