Wednesday, March 29, 2017


My memories will be gone when the lights go out.

An open secret is accepted and Lancaster Park is to be committed, earth to earth,  ashes to ashes. Requeiscat in Pace.

A sports ground that has throughout my lifetime been a cathedral of spirit, commitment and holy beyond words has had its life support turned off.

Reconstructed beyond recognition from the admittedly basic oval that was converted to a garden growing spuds during WW2 after being left out of urban development in the early 20th century due to swamp like soil conditions in the heart of early Christchurch development, it had became the fortress of Canterbury Rugby and Cricket.
The Gasometer to the West long gone, old wooden stands on the eastern side  replaced with concrete structures during the mid 20th century with my dad in co-operation with other ordinary citizens buying 25 year seats in the funding that were good for any event that came to "the Park".  Compare that with the marketing gurus cavalier attitude in 2005, when my "season tickets" in number three stand were repossessed by the rugby gurus to satisfy the potential demand for the upcoming "Lions Tour". My suggestion to Steve Tew, then CEO of the Canterbury Crusaders franchise as to how interested would the Big Noters be in reinvesting in my five year commitment went un-answered. I departed and purchased  a big screen TV  and avoided the nearly 200 km round trip and a dinner at "Robbies" to secure a car park in close proximity in regular supporter activity
The "embankment" and "enclosures" that gained crowds of real salt of the earth fans, well in excess of the posers and pretenders who complain bitterly when their desire to be there for the "big finals" and other "must be seen to be there" events for snowflakes, come around. Men who needed a bicycle tube to transport the inevitable liquid biproduct of beer safely to ground zero.
The enthralling surges of crowds that miraculously avoided the tragedies of Hillsborough etal.

I was there in 1956 when the NZ rugby trials were continued, North Island, South Island and inter Island to find the warriors (real ones) to finally bury the Springbok curse, I was there when the Boks were beaten by Canterbury 9 - 6, with no replacements, fullback Kevin  Stewart left the field twice to have a dislocated shoulder reset in a career ending game, Buddy Henderson who married a lass two years ahead of me at Waiau Primary, kicked the winning penalty. Again when the All Blacks with D B 'Don' Clark in jersey  number 1, full back not prop, Kevin Lawrence Skinner did what Referees failed to do in  his suggestions to Chris Koch and Jaap Becker, to stop with the illegals and play rugby in the third test victory to send things to Eden Park where Peter Jones became immortal
Again I  was there when the mighty Cantabs defeated  the All Blacks in 1957, the mecurical French in 1960, standing under the iconic scoreboard in a crowd current promoters can only dream  about.
I was also a  regular for late autumn tests  with MCC teams doing  their duty to bring cricket to NZ, albeit rather too bloody late in the season after an "ashes" tour to Aus, Again when the Australians sent a second eleven under Skipper Ian Craig, and the gulf between us was exposed. Provincial rugby,  Ranfurley Shield, Plunket Shield, when crowds would gather in far greater numbers than super Rugby can generate, and players were just blokes one might work with or have in an immediate social circle, and none were paid.

Didn't see Peter Snell's Mile effort, nor did I get sucked in and expose myself to "Billy Graham", but I did watch my older brother play in a curtain raiser on the hallowed turf. Turf that I have included in my lawns in Paradise (don't ask how that happened it would be embarrassing).
It was sad that the "season pass funding" prevented the old icon from being the focus of the 1974 Commonwalth Games, and another even sadder fact that QE2 park complex opted for, albeit  with  a shorter life time, also fell victim to 2011 seismic events.

If there is any truth  in the rather extraordinary rumours around the extent of degradation of the subterranean  soil conditions that lie under the now declared deceased stadium, this latest decision is one that always  had an air of inevitability about it.

As with war cemeteries, disaster memorials, aniversaries of past glories and defeats, it is time to move on and leave the memories with those who care and we are less in number with each year that passes.

Recently spending time around Wellington Hospital it is dificult to find any reference to Athletic Park where many hair raising memories of the Millard Stand resonate, time has moved focus to the Cake Tin, and it is progress.

Jade Stadium, AMI, Hadlee Stand, Paul Kelly Stand, Deans Stand, didn't ever count they were just names adapted to record history it was always Lancaster Park and it is Lancaster Park that died and is remembered.

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