Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: The first Super champions - where are they now?

Zinzan Brooke lifts the 1996 Super 12 trophy for the Blues. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Zinzan Brooke lifts the 1996 Super 12 trophy for the Blues. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Twenty years ago the Super Rugby series began in Palmerston North.

Initially there were 12 teams and that has blown out to 18 this season in a conference-style series while the administrative Sanzaar group has added a vowel to its moniker to recognise Argentina's introduction.

It's tough enough remembering about 40 players in each New Zealand squad before coping with the way the series is supposed to function. It was easier in 1996 when the Hurricanes hosted the Blues at the Showgrounds in Palmerston North.

That March 1 night the Blues won and on May 25 they claimed the first title, beating the Sharks 45-21 at Eden Park.

Ever wondered what those foundation Blues players are doing now and how their staff have fared - a select six compared with the expanded group now.

Sadly, fullback Jarrod Cunningham died in 2007, five years after being diagnosed with a form of motor neuron disease. An All Black trialist, he played five years for London Irish before his illness was detected and he returned home to Hawkes Bay.

Last November Jonah Lomu died a day after returning with his family from ambassadorial duties at the World Cup.

1996 Blues backs

Adrian Cashmore runs a meat processing business in Dunedin after dabbling in real estate and supermarkets.

Eroni Clarke is involved in social work in Auckland and mentors many under-privileged people.

Greg Cooper has returned to Dunedin to sell real estate after seven years coaching with NEC in Japan.

James Kerr teaches at Te Rangi, a rural Bay of Plenty school with a roll of about 100.

John Ngauamo moved to the Gold Coast more than a decade ago and operates in the fitness industry.

Cameron Rackham had playing spells at Suntory and Benetton, now involved in primary produce in Auckland.

Michael Scott owns and operates New World supermarket in Clendon.

Waisake Sotutu is a regional development coach with the Auckland Rugby Union.

Carlos Spencer was with the Kings in South Africa, last seen in a goal-kicking competition at Eden Park during the NRL nines.

Lee Stensness works in sales for a catalogue sports equipment and uniform supplier in Auckland.

Ofisa Tonu'u is involved in a variety of community activities with the Mt Roskill Youth Hub.

Joeli Vidiri had a successful kidney transplant last year and is back on duty at Mitre 10 in Pukekohe.


John Akurangi suffered heart problems playing in a recent Dubai tournament before returning to coach club rugby in Italy.

Andrew Blowers is a player welfare manager for the Melbourne Storm..

Errol Brain runs a drug detection company based in the Bay of Plenty and is an adviser to the Super Rugby referees.

Robin Brooke is in semi-retirement playing golf after selling his Warkworth supermarket.

Zinzan Brooke is a TV pundit in Britain, went bankrupt, ran a bed and breakfast in Windsor with wife Ali, raised six children and went into other business.

Olo Brown uses his accountancy skills in a variety of businesses, plays a handy game of golf and runs marathons.

Jason Chandler is a director of a food production company in Auckland.

Craig Dowd developed the d3 sports strapping tape company and looking to expand into Australia.

Sean Fitzpatrick lives in London, recently had surgery on both knees, is founder of the Front Row group and involved on the corporate speaking circuit.

Richard Fromont works for a construction business in Auckland and hopes to become a building inspector.

Michael Jones is on a variety of boards and educational trusts, works for a shipping company and is president of the Waitemata rugby club.

Dylan Mika is chief executive of a Samoan company which distributes bottled water.

Kevin Nepia is an owner-operator of several long-haul big rigs at Mainfreight and still drives around Auckland.

Charles Riechelmann works for an Auckland company installing solar panels in Tonga.

Andrew Roose is a landlord who works for an engineering company in Pukekohe.

Chris Rose works as an operations manager for a civil engineering company in Takanini.


Rex Davy travelled to the World Cup last year and still takes a very keen interest in the Blues and the sports scene in Auckland.

Graham Henry is still in demand on the speaking and coaching circuits and divides his time between Auckland and Waiheke Island.

Mac McCallion has lived in Fiji for some time where he coached, had a logging business and now runs an alcohol outlet.

Graham Paterson is a partner in Unisports Medicine and involved with High Performance Sport New Zealand and medical adviser for several national teams.

Paul Wilson is a physiotherapist for Emirates Team New Zealand and for a number of other yachting campaigns.

Jim Blair the famed fitness coach has lived on the Gold Coast for a number of years.

- NZ Herald

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