THE massive contribution made to rugby and the Wairarapa community in general by Sir Brian Lochore will be marked in two ceremonies at Memorial Park in Masterton tonight.
The naming of the grandstand in Sir Brian’s honour by Masterton District Council will be the centre of attention at 6.55pm. It will be followed by Sir Brian cutting the ribbon, signalling the official opening of the new artificial turf and lights which have been installed at the park’s No 1 ground at a cost of about $2.1 million.
The rugby CV of Sir Brian is impressive. He played at representative level for Wairarapa and, after earning All Blacks selection, was elevated to the captaincy of the national side for the Lions tour in 1966. He had 46 games, including 18 tests, as skipper.
On the coaching front, Sir Brian was in charge of Wairarapa-Bush when they achieved promotion to national first status in 1981 and, after becoming an All Blacks selector in 1983, he became their coach in 1985. A successful three-season stint there culminated in the All Blacks winning the first World Cup in 1987.
In 1970, Sir Brian was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services to rugby and, in 1999, he was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to sport and the community. Also in 1999, Sir Brian was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame and then, in 2007, he was inducted into the Order of New Zealand as an additional member, that being the highest honour which can be achieved in this country.
Away from rugby, Sir Brian has taken leading roles in the fields of education and farming and chaired the Queen Elizabeth Trust.
It will not be all talk and no play at Memorial Park tonight though with a series of junior rugby and football matches preceding the opening and the first professional rugby match played on artificial turf in this country following it.
Doing battle will be the Hurricanes and Chiefs development squads, which are the “feed-in” teams to their Super 15 sides which just happen to be at the top of the New Zealand conference in that competition.
The composition of the two squads for tonight’s game had not been finalised when these notes were penned but there seemed every chance a number of players who have appeared for the Hurricanes in Super 15 matches will be part of their line-up, including front rower Ben May, halfback Frae Wilson and utility back Matt Procter.
It will be interesting to see how players of this calibre react to the artificial surface. From what was seen from a couple of club matches played at Memorial Park last weekend, the pace of the game is quicker than what would normally be expected on grass and the more even nature of the turf means the bounce of the ball is truer.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age