Magpies fan gearing up for the challenge

By Doug Laing

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Long-time Magpies fan Graham Garner can't get to the Ranfurly Shield game this week, but he does his bit by getting the gear ready. Photo / Paul Taylor
Long-time Magpies fan Graham Garner can't get to the Ranfurly Shield game this week, but he does his bit by getting the gear ready. Photo / Paul Taylor

It's not the same as being there, but self-confessed "rugby nutter" and Hawke's Bay Magpies fan Graham Garner is at least able to do his bit by getting the gear ready for the team's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Counties Manukau in Pukekohe on Saturday.

One of the last men standing from the days of the Hawkeye Guys Hawke's Bay Rugby Supporters Club, rugby union gear custodian Mr Garner confessed as he counted the jerseys shorts and socks yesterday that he won't be going, but, like so many others, he hopes to watch on TV.

"The days of hopping on a supporters bus and going to the game are long gone," he said.

Which doesn't mean he wouldn't if he could, but the now 58-year-old veteran of half-a-century yelling "C'mon the Bay" a couple of obligations stand in the way, like an aunt's 70th birthday, and helping make sure five other Hawke's Bay teams have got their gear so that they can also play their games on Saturday.

Mr Garner harks back to the schoolboy days filling autograph books with players signatures and collecting rosettes and pennants as teams came, saw and were conquered in the Hawke's Bay Ranfurly Shield era of 1966-69, and many a trip on the bus thereafter, whether in search of the Shield or just any other game going at the time.

But the last Hawke's Bay challenge in that category was probably 15 years ago when the Magpies, in their first big match after the collapse of the two-year Central Vikings Hawke's Bay-Manawatu merger, ventured to Rugby Park in Hamilton, for what was also the last time the Magpies challenged for the Shield in the once regular Shield-match time-slot of mid-afternoon Saturday.

"We took the bus-up, probably a 30-seater, and stayed the night," he recalled.

"It was pretty well the last end of the supporters club trips."

He didn't make the trip last year when the Magpies won the Shield with a 20-19 win over Otago in Dunedin, only to lose it to Counties Manukau six days later.

Mr Garner says some of the appeal may have been lost through the regularity of what were once rare Ranfurly Shield opportunities.

Saturday's challenge will be Hawke's Bay's fifth in three years and two days in August 2011 - as many as in the previous 22 years.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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