North Otago, Buller battled at the bottom

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STIRRING IT UP

There are many great trophies or symbols of sporting excellence around the world.

Think of football’s FA Cup (ol’ jug ears) and World Cup, ice hockey’s Stanley Cup, the NFL’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, yachting’s America’s Cup, cricket’s Ashes, and great rugby trophies such as the Ranfurly Shield and the Citizens Shield.

Add to that list “The Stirrer”.

It has been dusted off by the North Otago Rugby Football Union and might come back into play during the Heartland Championship.

Back in the day, you see, North Otago and Buller were the smallest two rugby unions in New Zealand – and pretty much the worst two teams in the old national provincial championship.

A lark suggested that, as the two teams were essentially scrapping over the wooden spoon for many years, an ACTUAL wooden spoon would be a pleasingly ironic way to recognise the battle to the bottom.

Times sure have changed. North Otago has been a powerhouse of Heartland rugby for 20 years, having won a third division title, two Meads Cups and two Lochore Cups, and Buller has been on a major upswing in recent years.

I like the idea of the two teams having a laugh by bringing back the spoon. But it’s fair to say I hope at least one of them will be much closer to the top of the table than the bottom this season.

THE NAME GAME

For years, sports teams did not get particularly imaginative with their nicknames.

You tended to see clubs opting for simple colours (Athies Gold, Excelsior Blue and so on) or even just adding a number (Phoenix 1, Weston 3 and the like).

So, a long-overdue “bravo” to the Meadowbank bowlers for their exceptional team names: Lavender, Poppy, Sweetpea and Orchids. Just brilliant.

Excelsior junior rugby teams – Vipers, Tigers, Rams, Rhinos and Wolverines – deserve a mention for their originality.

I also like the Waitaki Girls’ High School senior netball team names – Lightning Strike and Wildfire – though a great mystery is why the former appears to be officially called Lightening (sic) Strike with a rogue E.

THE RENAME GAME

Temporarily renaming a sports ground seems to be the trendy new way to recognise a long-serving player.

Christchurch’s half-empty ground became Wyatt Crockett Stadium for a day to honour the ageless prop, and Stadium Southland turned into Wendy Frew Stadium to reflect the extraordinary commitment of the Southern Steel netballer.

We have a fairly strong contender for similar treatment here.

Ralph Darling Stadium has a certain ring to it, and the effervescent front-rower is on 91 caps for the union. So, if he plays every game in the regular season, his 100th game could (fingers crossed) be a home Meads Cup semifinal.

Fellow Old Boys great Lemi Masoe is on 94 caps but will sadly not be in a gold jersey this season.

THE GUESSING GAME

Delighted to report I marched to victory in the Otago Daily Times Super Rugby tipping competition.

Obviously, my ability to accurately predict sports results has improved greatly over the years, so I shall now go ahead and tip the winner of the English Premier League this season.

It will be .. Liverpool.

ST KEVIN’S FLYING

The St Kevin’s College First XV is in the final of the Championship section of the Otago premier schools competition.

It will play the Otago Boys’ High School Second XV – no chance of stacking the team as the Otago Boys’ First XV is in the Premiership final – in Dunedin.

St Kevin’s qualified for the final with a superb 20-5 win over South Otago High School in Balclutha.

You have to feel for St Kevin’s this season. It was robbed blind of a place in the top six by a disgraceful default, and it has shown it is potentially good enough to be in the top four.

CRICKET SELECTION

Congratulations to St Kevin’s College pupil Amber Cunningham for her selection in the Otago under-21 cricket team.

She is joined by Molly Loe, who came through the ranks in North Otago before heading to secondary school in Dunedin.

hayden.meikle@oamarumail.co.nz