North Otago Rugby fans have voted for their greatest team of all-time.

As a “lockdown project”, the rugby union asked the public to vote through its Facebook page for their favourite North Otago players in each position.

Five players were shortlisted for each position, plus a wildcard option, and the public chose a “reaction” for their favourite player to make the final cut.

The chosen team – with Barry Matthews voted as coach – includes Robbie Smith, Meli Kolinisau, Ben Patston, Barry Fox and Ross Hay.

North Otago Rugby and Rugby in North Otago social media co-ordinator Kyle Beck put the competition together, searching for player photos and applicable positions. Selections for each position were referred to Heartland coach Jason Forrest to get another perspective, Beck said.

The competition had been very popular. Each post attracted more than 300 reactions, and the comment sections were filled with debates on the selections.

“Seeing some of the comments and seeing some of the past players actually engaging with some of the content has been … the most rewarding part,” Beck said.

“They were in the comments trying to get some votes, so they still cared about North Otago Rugby, which was cool.”

The competition brought the rugby community together through lockdown, and Beck was rapt with the response, despite some strong opinions on the final selection after former All Blacks Ian Hurst, Phil Gard, Jeff Matheson and Ian Smith failed to make the final cut.

“I was happy until the final selection and then some people were quite passionate about who didn’t get selected, which is good because it means people care.”

Beck loved exploring North Otago Rugby’s history and the opportunity to dive deeper into the backgrounds of the region’s best players.

“It was more about going back and appreciating the players that have gone before, because quite often we stay on the current team and don’t look too far back.”

In the future, Beck wanted to do more research on the region’s rugby history, especially women’s rugby.