AS I SEE IT (15 April)

bronson ross aisi

By Terry O’Neill.

Rugby scrum front row activities can ensure many rugby props do not compare with an internet dating Adonis due to cauliflower ears and noses not centred. But one rugby prop who doesn’t fill these bills bolsters the front row for Ulster, that former local broth of a boy, Bronson Ross.

There’re those with perception who recall the former Irish Bar now known affectionately as Fat Sally’s. The original proprietors were Eugenia and Rob Ross. Eugenia is one of the McGeown clan headed by Anne and the late Jimmy who migrated to New Zealand from Belfast, Ireland, to settle in Oamaru where Bronson was born in 1985.

Bronson left St Kevin’s College and eventually made his way to Dunedin and played for the Dunedin Club, and aged 22 embarked on his OE to Europe. After two years with the Scottish Boroughmuir club, he represented the Spanish Guernica club, and joined the English Coventry club at the start of the 2012/13 season. Bronson’s form came to the notice of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe who attracted him to join the Irish club which included eminent players like Jared Payne, Ruan Peinaar and Franica van der Merwe in its ranks. He made his debut against the French club, Toulon, in January last year, and has currently played 26 games for them. Bronson, now 30, plays tight or loosehead, and is 1.83 metres and weighs 118 kilograms.

But Bronson’s rugby aspirations deviated slightly when online he met Belfast girl, Leanne Reilly. In March last year Bronson and Leanne, on a romantic getaway, stopped at Dundrum castle at Bronson’s insistence. At the top of the tower Bronson got down on one knee. Just tying up his shoelaces, thought Leanne! After their wedding the pair discovered an earlier family connection – their respective grandfathers, Jimmy McGeown and Bobby Reilly, both played for the local hurling club, Davitts GAA in Belfast.

Bronson relishes the opportunity to play top level rugby. “I have always wanted to play at this level and I’m delighted to be part of the best rugby operation in Europe. And my mother is from Belfast, so it’s almost like playing for my second home.

His first start for Ulster against the much vaunted French club, Toulon was significant.

They don’t come any more difficult than against Toulon. When you’re doing the hard yards in the pre-season and you are working your way up, they are the games you dream of playing in. The lads are great, there’s a good vibe, good banter, great facilities, a great place to improve my rugby . . . to earn those starts and to climb the pecking order by right rather than opportunism.

Props are often known for their longevity, uncompromising attitude to their code.

So Bronson, when Ulster has lost its attraction, there could be a place in the North Otago front row!


AS I SEE IT(18 March)





By Terry O’Neill.

Waitaki Boys High School First X1 and Valley will meet in tomorrow afternoon’s Borton Cup final,the major trophy for the North Otago Cricket Association which was formed in 1899. In the first season six teams,Oamaru A, Oamaru B, Tureka, Capulet, Waitaki Boys High School and a Ngapara-Maraewhewnua combined team.In the first season a series of home and away games were played to decide the initial champion. Because of a lack of grounds most games were played at Takaro Park and Tureka was the first champion.It wasn’t until the end of the second season that a trophy was presented to the winner of the senior competition. The North Otago Cricket Association however was in 1919and John Borton an Oamaru club member who donated a trophy. This trophy was referred to as,”The North Otago Cup” or “The Association Cup” but it was generally called the” NOCA Cup.”The advent of prohibition and the lack of adequate grounds saw cricket virtually defunct in 1909 and it was the opening of King George Park and the return of soldiers from World War 1 that saw senior club cricket restart.Waitaki Boys High School was the first winner of the relaunched competition and was presented with the old trophy at the end of the season.Waitaki Boys stored the Cup in the front block at the school but a major fire broke out and the trophy was lost. Frank Milner, the rector of the school presented a new cup to the association as a replacement ,the Borton Cup.

Waitaki Boys has won the senior trophy on four occasions, 1905/06, 1919/20, 1925/26(Colts), and 1967/68.

Mr Borton was a well known and successful farmer during the 1800’s.This Borton Cup was then used until 2011 before it was lost by the holders, Union.A replica of the Borton Cup now in use is engraved with the names of the winners of the senior competition since that very first season in 1899-90.

Waitaki Boys High School first won the trophy in the 1919/1920 season but it had to wait until the 1967/68 season to reclaim the trophy.If successful in the Borton Cup final tomorrow fternoon it will be only the third time that it has held the cup.

The Valley Cricket Club’s origins reach back into the early 1900s with the Waitaki Sub Association based in the Waitaki Valley which saw a population boom during the building of major dams at Waitaki, Benmore and Aviemore with clubs such as Kurow and Hydro(based in Otematata) taking part in a competition with at one stage the Kurow club taking part in Borton Cup competition in the 1930s.Such was the strength of “country” cricket that at one stage more than half of the North Otago Hawke Cup team were country members.

As the dam projects began to wind down cricket clubs began to struggle to find members.Eventually only three teams were left, Kurow, Otematata and Duntroon.These three teams decided to combine and form a new club to take part in the Oamaru competition.The team was called the Upper Waitaki Cricket Club but during the 1970s it changed its name to Country and up until the 1980s had managed to win the Borton Cup on five occasions.In 1991 it joined with the Weston Cricket Club to become part of the Valley Sports Organisation which involves other sports such as rugby and netball.

Since this amalgamation the Valley Club has won the Borton Cup on five occasions,1994/95, 1997/98, 2003/04, 2004/05, and 2006/07.



AS I SEE IT (11 March)

ancient mariner

By Terry O’Neill.

Hot arid conditions may push humans into out-of-character behaviour.

This is well-documented in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s graphic 18th century poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in which the albatross which guided the ship out of stormy waters was blamed for the it’s  becalming. The ancient mariner shot the albatross, his crew died all around him, and he paid the penalty by the albatross being hung around his neck. A situation, one would think is a long way from a dry and dusty Weston Park sports ground.

To the ancient mariner in the doldrums all he could see was “water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink”.

The Valley cricketers and rugby players would agree whole heartedly, although it’s not the potability of the water that’s worrying them, it is its availability. The extremes of dry weather created a playing surface almost resembling concrete. It is ironic to note that the main oval also has drainage difficulties and is about to have its drainage system restructured.

The problem facing the Valley Sports Club as it caters for a multitude of players in summer and winter, is its inability to irrigate the surfaces which have reached the stage of being unofficially classified as “dangerous”, especially for contact sport.

Apparently local illegal water users, recently identified, have contributed to the problem and now must use the water registers or measures to monitor the flow to their properties.

To some the Waitaki District Council has become the ogre because this sports ground is under its umbrella. The WDC has demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with sports groups. This was illustrated in practice, particularly in the recent Hawke Cup cricket challenge between North Otago and Hawkes Bay, when it came to the party prior to the game and poured an estimated 650,000 litres of water onto Milner Park, cricket’s temporary main ground while a new ground and block is being developed at Centennial Park.

Hopefully Weston Park, which will be out for the next three weeks, will be able to benefit from a satisfactory solution to its predicament.

The worst scenario for the club, or the WDC, would be for OSH to step in and close the grounds because of this condition.

Doses of aqua pura. That’s all.

Bic Runga, Tim Finn and Dave Dobbyn have the solution in their song, “YOU JUST ADD WATER”.

Another magnificent cause for celebration in North Otago! An amazing array of talented young sportspeople was on display as the sporting awards were announced on Monday   evening.New Zealand under 19 cricketer Nathan Smith took the major award,Supreme Sportsperson of the Year.At the other end of the age spectrum Bruce”Bruiser” Rowland was deservedly awarded the Denis Birtles Memorial Award for his forty years of rugby refereeing. A great night amidst a galaxy of talent.


AS I SEE IT (19 Feb)

Waitaki Aquatic Centre

By Terry O’Neill.


A Smorgasbord (Swedish) suggests sandwich and table, so we have a mixture today.

Regularly I am privileged to propel myself through the waters of the Waitaki Aquatic Centre, one of the district’s most used sporting facilities.

Waitaki Aquatic CentreAnd we are indebted to Adair and David Rush whose foresight and enthusiasm motivated the fund-raising for the complex. With the rise in drowning statistics and reduction in the number of school swimming pools, mainly due to lower funding, this pool is needed more than ever for basic life skills.

At the other end of the learn-to-swim focus it produces high class young swimmers including a number of qualifiers for the national junior age group championships in Auckland later this month.

Swimming demands discipline. Local competitive swimmers train usually from 6.00a.m to 7.30a.m with many from afar breakfasting at the pool before heading for a full school day, and back for a further training later with coach Narcis Gherca. It is interesting to note that North Otago will supply more swimmers to the coming national age group championships in Auckland than South Canterbury and Dunedin!

Is it time to look at establishing a sports complex to replace the Waitaki Recreation Centre in Orwell street? Its beginnings in the 1980s arose at a joint Oamaru Borough/Waitaki County meeting as an exciting compromise to meet community needs and the requirement for Waitaki Girls’ High School to replace its obsolete gymnasium. The Rec’s seen much better days.

Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College have gymnasia used also by community sports teams. The three schools are major contributors to North Otago’s economy and a new complex would certainly be an added attraction for pupils from outside the region as well as for locals. Maybe it will be thrown “into the too hard basket”, but we are the custodians of our future.

North Otago cricket won the Hawke Cup last weekend defeating Buller. Hearty congratualtions!

This trophy is competed for by the 22 minor cricket associations in New Zealand, and is divided into four zones. Each zone plays a round robin tournament and zone winners may challenge the current holder. North Otago first held the trophy in the 2009/2010 season appropriately 100 years after it was donated by Lord Hawke. Last weekend’s win means North Otago must prepare for its first challenge, from Hawkes Bay, in a week’s time.

Rugby League completes the smorgasbord. The competition begins on March 3rd with the Warriors playing West Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium at 9.30p.m. The “leaguies” also have new rules to interpret this season. There’ll be differential penalties for incorrect play of the balls. The old ploy of forming walls to prevent charge downs on field goal attempts will allow referees to penalise for such obstruction. The “shot clock” will be introduced with teams now having 30 seconds for scrums and 30 seconds for dropouts or the offending team has to concede a penalty.Now that’s something that rugby doesn’t have yet.



Onwards and upwards methinks.



By Terry O’Neill.

The local rugby season kicks off on 2nd April. Leading up to it local clubs will mirror other Heartland clubs and battle to e


nsure full premier squads, an increasingly difficult assignment.

Polynesian players are an integral part of the Heartland scene. Many unions made derogatory comments about North Otago’s inclusion of Pacific Island players but North Otago was simply the forerunner of today’s necessity. A couple of seasons ago former All Black and Mid Canterbury lock  Jock Ross told me that some Mid Canterbury clubs only survived in premier ranks because of inclusion of Pacific Island players. Similar to all other Heartland unions.

The all-important necessary visas for Pacific Island players are not easily obtained and often are only for a set time. In some cases Pacific Islanders arrive on student visas to attend school, and play rugby, and others can apply for work visas under a skills’ shortage category or there is the specific purpose or event category, a rugby visa, for one year that may be renewed.

The North Otago Rugby Union does not actively recruit Tongans who generally arrive because of family or friends here. NORFU CEO Colin Jackson said the Union tended to go to Europe, USA or Canada for recruitment and over the past eight years more than 70 players have been under this scheme in North Otago.

Putting aside claims from some white rugby supremacists, without Polynesians there would be no premier rugby locally because of our small population base. Polynesians’ natural talents see many promoted to the top of the North Otago rugby tree to fill the gap created by the lack of other skilled young local players.

But it’s not one way traffic. Over the last two northern seasons local players, Jeremiah Shields, Keegan Anderson, Kayne Middleton, Thomas Shields and Jared Whitburn, all spent a rugby season overseas. It’s not only a rugby experience they benefit from, it’s a life-enhancing experience too.

In addition local rugby clubs Athletic, Kurow, Excelsior, Maheno and Valley have made direct contact with overseas rugby unions and clubs and obtained players.

It’s a conundrum how Immigration NZ treats Pacific Islanders. For instance, French, Italian or Argentinian players may live here for a year or eighteen months without any problem while most Pacific Island players work visas entitle them to be here for only six months and they’ve got to head home if they have no other suitable employment skills to offer in New  Zealand.

Clubs and minor unions don’t seem to receive much support from the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. When will NZRU boffins realise that to ignore the deterioration of New Zealand’s rugby base will not augur well for those higher up the rugby food chain? And in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji  how long will they be able to retain their World Cup status?




By Terry O’Neill

Bowls North Otago successfully completed its women’s pentangular tournament last weekend involving Senior women and Development women from the five Centres south of Christchurch: South Canterbury, North Otago, Central Otago, South Otago and Southland.

Teams played singles, pairs, triples and fours on two greens in Oamaru in over 100 games superbly organised by Brian Papps and umpires, Bruce Kelly and Graham Thorn, and with cooperation from the other four centres. The senior womens section operated smoothly.

And the “But” . . . Unfortunately Southland and South Canterbury, neglected to provide essential details of their development womens teams, and listed names only with not an iota of information about team composition and skips. As the tournament began on the Saturday morning, umpires had the additional stress of seeking this information. Hopefully a robust message educated those centres on their basic responsibilities.

This scenario may be indicative of a sports administration trend in which even more is expected to be done by the responsible, declining few. It’s an unfettered malaise that has evolved over the four decades I have been associated with bowls and other sports .

Blame may rest at the feet of professionalism whereby the national bodies tend more to be concerned with promotion of those exclusives at the top of the food chain. In too many cases the roles of governance and management are clouded. Let’s hark back to the days of the late Arthur Familton who, as North Otago secretary, ran bowls with a very firm hand although some might agree his  “firm” might have been be a tad lenient. Governance is the aspect of the committee which decides policy, and management involves those appointed to apply that policy to their sport. The two have become integrated to the detriment of sport. Only time hopefully, and a change in attitudes will ensure a more favourable response to the tasks demanded of administrators.

Can you imagine dealing with a multitude of bowls results on scorecards attributed to Tom, Sandy, Jude, Margie, and the like? These do not identify the players to anyone outside the intimacy of the green so it would be appreciated if full names of skips and players are always recorded.

Meanwhile it’s time to celebrate local sport. The North Otago Sports Bodies annual Sportsperson of the Year function is early March at the Opera House. Once again over fifty individuals have been nominated by their respective sports over a wide range of codes ranging from equestrian horse cutting through to trap shooting, motorcross and downhill mountain biking. Coaches are acknowleged too with Narcis Gherca (swimming), Owen Gould (Rowing), Ray Boswell (trap shooting and hockey),and Hamish McMurdo (cricket/rugby refereeing).

The traditional award for Administrator of the Year may be now be  covered by the Services to Sport award. Sports administration is often a thankless task.

Let’s salute these behind-the-scenes sports people who make things happen. Without their fastidious care, knowledge, humour and leadership, sports could not function.


AS I SEE IT (27 Nov)


WBHS NO v WI 1955

Unfortunately over the years soil erosion has seen the backfield cricket ground slowly disappear, with cricket at the school now being played on Milner Park and Don Field. (c)

By Terry O’Neill.

Waitaki Boy’s High School’s back field was an early venue for North Otago representative cricket and groundsman, the late Stan Bremner, produced a playing surface renowned throughout New Zealand.

A 1924 North Otago adversary was the touring New South Wales side brimming with talent. It included players of the ilk of Arthur Mailey with his reputation from the 1921 Australian tour of England where he took 141 wickets, and against Gloucestershire, 10 for 66; and fine batsman Allan Kippax, who by the 1936 season, had scored 12,762 runs at an average of 50.

North Otago batting first made 216 with Percy Hargreaves (54) and Bill Uttley (48) the best of the batsmen while Mailey took six for 89. New South Wales with the bat replied with 493 for five for a first innings win; North Otago, in its second innings, made 111 for nine.Included in the North Otago side was a 17-year-old Waitakian Denis Blundell.

Nineteen twenty eight saw North Otago lined up against a full Australian side with players like Kippax, Bill Ponsford and Ron Oxenham. North Otago batting first made 118 and Australia replied with 448 with Oxenham (169) and Kippax (76). At stumps on the final day North Otago was 268 for six with Carl Zimmerman on 117 not out (including five sixes and fifteen fours), and he brought up his century against Australia in only 46 minutes. Zimmerman also played for Otago.

The 1956 North Otago team faced the touring West Indies with players like Garfield Sobers, John Goddard, Alf Valentine and Bruce Pairiaudeau. North Otago made 108 in its first innings with best batsmen Dave Malloch (36), John Reid (28) and Harold Balk (24) while Tom Dewdney took seven for 35. West Indies replied with 282 scored in 162 minutes with Ron Hannam, the pick of local bowlers, taking four for 57 including the wickets of Pairiaudeau, Anthony Atkins, “Collie” Smith and Sobers as well as running out one of the other batsmen. The West Indies team had nine test players, and in this series New Zealand registered its first win in a test match .West Indies obviously was softened up by North Otago!

In 1968 the touring Fijian side played North Otago. Fiji batting first made 311 with Tony Cartwright taking four for 32. North Otago in reply made 261 for nine declared with Brian Papps unbeaten on 136. Harry Apted led the way in Fiji’s second innings of 190 for seven with 96 not out, Russell Payne taking four for 67. North Otago in its second innings made 174 for five. Keith Murray top-scored with 38. One of the highlights of North Otago’s innings was Papps and Bob Mason scoring 68 runs in the 15 minutes before lunch.



NOCA nov 15

By Terry O’Neill.

North Otago’s first Hawke Cup qualifying game is against Otago Country in Alexandra next weekend after winning warmup matches against Mid Canterbury and South Canterbury on the home ground.

We proudly claim All Blacks Ian Hurst, Phil Gard and Ian (Spooky) Smith, yet over more than a century many North Otago cricketers represented Otago and New Zealand.

In 1886/87 Arthur Fisher (one of a long line-up of Waitakians), in his first year participated in the initial interschool match. This multi-talented sportsman was not only in the Waitaki 1st X1, but was also 1887 Athletic Champion, the 1903 Otago Golf Champion, in 1904 he won New Zealand Golf Open. Fisher played five matches for New Zealand cricket and was in the first New Zealand representative side to tour overseas, to Australia in 1899. His Otago first class bowling record, taking nine for 50 against Queensland in 1897, still stands.

In the 1950s New Zealand cricket captain John Reid came to Oamaru as an oil company representative and joined the Oamaru club. Besides bringing considerable prestige and encouragement to North Otago’s cricketing fraternity, Reid was a major influence in securing the 1956 match for North Otago against the touring West Indies.

New Zealand representative Zinzan Harris (1955/65) while in the Waitaki First X1 played once for North Otago, and his cricketing sons Chris (Canterbury, New Zealand) and Ben (Waitaki First XI, Canterbury, Otago).

Let’s digress. Zinzan: distinctive surname of immigrants to New Zealand from England, implying a link to the Brooke family. All Black Zinzan Brooke, originally Murray Zinzan Brooke, changed his name to Zinzan Valentine Brooke.

Christchurch’s loss was North Otago’s significant gain in David Sewell who graduated through age groups and Waitaki First XI to play for North Otago 1994 – 2015. After selection for Otago 1995-96, he toured Zimbabwe with the 1997 New Zealand side after a successful under 19 tournament. David retired from first class cricket after playing 67 matches and taking 218 wickets.

Other notables to represent North Otago (NO dates played in brackets): Dennis Blundell (1923-24) later Governor-General of New Zealand, Mike Hesson (1999) currently coach of the Black Caps, Fred Jones (1902/33) – generally one of the finest at the code. Also for Otago: Carl Zimmerman (1921-37), Arthur Berry (1948-70), Merv Sandri (1949-75), Ivan Geddes (1949-75), Tony Cartwright (1959-76), Norm McKenzie (1962-90), Bob Wilson (1968-87), Warren McSkimming (1997) and Craig Smith (2001-09). And from the 1874 records, L E Reade and a Mr Lynch.

A special mention of current North Otago player/selector Duncan Drew(1994-2015) who jousted with Brendan McCullum for the Otago wicket keeping berth.

And from the St Kevin’s First XI of the 1990s, Paula Flannery advanced with flair to play for women’s Otago, Canterbury, one test and 17 one day internationals over a decade, and played in the triumphant team for 2000 World Cup to achieve the White Ferns’s first title.