Fan’s paradise . . . Ian Hurst stands by some of the rugby regalia he and his son Ben collected during their representative rugby careers. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Waitaki Boys’ High School has a proud sporting history and 14 of the school’s top sportsmen will be inducted into a new Sports Hall of Fame next month. Former pupils Ian Hurst, Scott Anderson, Gerald Keddell, Dylan Kennett, Emmett Gradwell, Parke Harris, Gary Robertson, Russell (Rusty) Robertson, William (Bill) Smedley, George Paterson, Keith Heselwood, Winston Stephens, Athol Hudson, John (Jack) Sutherland will be officially inducted at a black-tie event at the Loan and Merc on July 6, hosted by veteran broadcaster and former pupil Peter Williams.

Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson finds out more about Ian Hurst.

Whether it is in business or sport, Ian Hurst is the epitome of a high achiever.

Hurst, one of the 14 former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupils to be inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame next month, was head boy of the school in 1969, before making the All Blacks three years later.

Born and bred in Papakaio, Hurst attended primary school there and met his wife Gloria, nee McHardy, in Primer 1 (year one). They now live at Willow Park – the property that once belonged to Hurst’s grandparents.

Life at Waitaki Boys’ for Hurst began in 1965.

“Being a ‘thirdy’, that was your station in life – you didn’t necessarily get treated with dignity, but with each year grew with maturity and respect,” Hurst said.

He always enjoyed sport, especially athletics, tennis and rugby. Waitaki Boys’ had a particularly strong crop of rugby players during Hurst’s years – the first XV went unbeaten in its interschool games during 1968, Bruce Hunter went on to play for the All Blacks and playwright Greg McGee played for the Junior All Blacks.

“We had a very good coach – Malcolm Kissel – and it was a free flowing style of rugby for those days,” Hurst said.

A midfield back, Hurst made his debut for North Otago as a schoolboy in 1969.

He had a relatively meteoric rise to the All Blacks, after playing for Lincoln University and then Canterbury, which included a Ranfurly Shield win against Auckland.

He was selected for an All Blacks trial in 1972, and at the end of two trial games he was named for the All Blacks’ tour of the United Kingdom and France.

”Not in my wildest dreams was I expecting my name to be read out.

“I was playing alongside heroes I had worshipped as a kid. It was foreign territory for me.”

These days support staff outnumber players, but the 1972-3 tour had just a coach, a manager and a baggage handler.

“It was very simplistic. We got a pound a day spending money which would buy you two pints.

“For a lot of the players it was a huge financial burden.”

It was Hurst’s first overseas trip, and he believes the experience helped him in business in later years.

“I saw and was inspired by a number of the businesspeople we met, as a result of being in that elevated and fortunate environment.

“It was surreal. I was rooming with Brian Williams, who was studying for his law degree, and I was a new kid on the block so they realised I wouldn’t be causing him too much trouble.”

He played for the All Blacks for the next few years, although they did not play as many games.

Hurst broke his leg playing for North Otago in 1975 which effectively ended his international career.

“I got another All Black trial in 1978, but it was never the same.

“Sports medicine was an unknown science at that stage. If you had a problem, you put ice on it, and if it was a really bad problem, you shot a heap of hydrocortisone into it.

“If that didn’t fix it, you were buggered.”

He continued to play for North Otago and said there was a great camaraderie within the team.

It is impossible to compare rugby from 50 years ago with the game today, he said.

“But the biggest change is the ball, when old leather ball got wet, and it was often wet – you couldn’t pass it halfway across the field like they do now.”

First XV rugby was, and still is the place to foster the future growth of the game, and Hurst believes the passion is as strong today as it was when he played.

“You can’t perform at the level these guys are without true commitment and passion, for the game, and for your team and your teammates.”

Hurst returned to the family farm in his 20s, to farm in partnership with his brother Doug.

They remain in partnership today, although the business has been significantly diversified.

During the 1980s, when farming was struggling, Hurst took his family to work on a project in Hawaii for three years and, upon returning, had an opportunity to invest in the aged care sector.

He co-founded Hurst Lifecare, an aged-care business with facilities in the North and South Islands.

He described his wife Gloria as enormously resilient, given the amount of time he spent away doing “boys things”.

“That is the way it was back then – at Lincoln our girlfriends weren’t even allowed to watch [games].”

Hurst is still heavily involved with his investment businesses today.

He said the same things that help people excel in sport also transferred to business.

“Being committed, focused, goal-setting and engaging people.

“There is a lot of cross pollination between businesses and sport and I am enjoying both journeys.”

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