It is 10 years since one of the great North Otago rugby teams won the Meads Cup for the first time. Glenn Dickson starred as a loan player in that team before going on to play for Otago and in England. He shares his memories of a golden season with Hayden Meikle
We were blessed with many things … as an organisation, not just a team. I thought Colin Jackson was very good; he treated the team very well, was very supportive, attending all of our matches, and made the loan players very welcome. We had outstanding management and a lot of them who would have done anything for any of the boys. That’s a huge thing they got right – they had the best people from the area involved. Gerry [McCarthy], Allister [Murdoch] and Muzz [Pearson] were like fathers to us.
The coaching was a great mix … Shane Carter was brilliant for the culture of the team and was very approachable. He was a guy you were desperate to play for, and that for me is the hallmark of a great coach. Mike Mullins was very similar and put a lot of trust in the players to go out and perform. I loved his approach. It was always very calm and he filled you with a lot of belief.
Like many North Otago teams of late … we had a huge Polynesian influence, which was somewhat unfamiliar for me as it created a different dynamic to what I had been used to. But this was the heart of our team. We were blessed with skill, athleticism and raw power which most sides couldn’t handle, and watching those island boys get going was exciting. It wasn’t just their rugby ability but their humble and caring nature that was special. That, mixed in with blokes like Pig [Nathan Cunningham], [Mike] Mavor, [Jason] Forrest, [Jeremy] Te Huia and Bones [Ross Hay], was what I believe made our culture so strong. It really was an awesome environment.
We were above other teams in terms of ability … and we knew that. We were complacent twice, once against the Bush away and once against Mid Canterbury at home. You never want to lose but those poorer performances kept us grounded.
We had an outstanding 8, 9 and 10 … with Joe Mamea, Kilifi Fangupo and Jeremy Te Huia, so we were in a good position from the start and those boys performed well when it counted the most.
Apart from the kava sessions . . . which I loved being a part of, I would have to say one of the best days for me in my career was our semifinal against the Bush, specifically our preparation and focus before the game. We always prepared at Summit headquarters, and before we got on the bus to go to the ground, Joe Mamea addressed us all. Joe doesn’t say a lot but when he does, you listen. The respect he had among the island boys and the rest of the team was just immense. I can’t remember the specifics of what he said but it was the first and perhaps only time I’ve ever been 100% confident of winning a game. It was a very calming and excited feeling. The boys were that focused, we had very little trouble that day.
For the final … we followed the same process and, thankfully, we did enough to create our own piece of history for a very special province. Once an Old Gold, always an Old Gold.