Book review: 2017 Rugby Almanack

By Campbell Burnes

2017 Rugby Almanack
Eds. Clive Akers, Geoff Miller, Adrian Hill
Mower/Upstart Press
RRP: $55.00 (on sale March 9)

Did you know that veteran Buller prop Phil Beveridge has played 147 games for his union over an astonishing 24 seasons?

Or that Takapuna five-eighths Jon Elrick, son of an All White, has now scored 2089 points for his club in premier play?

These and many other gems are scattered through the trusty 2017 Rugby Almanack, which has run since 1935. If you are a serious rugby fan, or indeed a serious rugby journalist, and you do not have the Almanack at your elbow, then you are missing out. For much of what is contained within the 450 pages (down slightly from 466 on 2016) cannot be found on the internet and is easier to head straight to rather than labour through Google or allblacks.com.

Messrs Clive Akers, who has been one of the editors since the dawn of the professional age (1995), stats man Geoff Miller (1999) and Adrian Hill (2014) have again done the hard yards, chronicling all the numbers, players and teams that matter in New Zealand rugby from the All Blacks to schools and clubs, the lifeblood of our game.

Their Almanack New Zealand XV tends to follow the All Blacks selectors, though they have named Highlanders' Malakai Fekitoa and Waisake Naholo in jersey Nos 22 and 23. There is no place for, say, Aaron Cruden.

An interesting addition is their New Zealand Mitre 10 Cup XV, which should be instructive to those who switch off the provincial game from August to October due to the All Blacks' Rugby Championship campaign or even rugby burnout. Of note in this XV is the fact that three of the players did not win Super Rugby contracts - Counties Manukau bookend Kalolo Tuiloma, Bay of Plenty No 8 Joe Tupe and North Harbour second Michael Little, though the latter did train with the Highlanders in the summer.

There are 60 pages dedicated to the growing women's game, led off by a season review by Mel Robinson.

The obits section is always fascinating for those who love their rugby history. Eight former All Blacks died in the 2016 calendar year, from wing Wally Argus, who had been the oldest surviving national rep, to 'Snow' White, whose record of 196 games for Auckland will never be beaten. Esteemed members of the fourth estate, Don Cameron, Brent Edwards and Peter Sellers, are duly acknowledged.

Turn to page 251. Ninth on the all-time list of tryscorers in New Zealand first-class rugby is Ron Jarden, All Blacks great of the 1950s. He scored 145 tries. No surprises there, one might think. But he scored them in just 134 games, averaging more than one a game in a decade in which the open rugby of today was often eschewed, certainly at international level. Jarden is the only man on the list of those who have scored more than 100 tries with that ratio, better than Kirwan, Wright, Cullen, Howlett and Lomu. Find that on the net.

- NZ Herald

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