James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Ball from 'flour-bomb test' up for auction

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

A piece of New Zealand history that has been gathering dust in a wardrobe for nearly 30 years will go to the highest bidder tonight.

A leather rugby ball with the signatures of the 1981 All Black and Springbok teams that played in the infamous flour bomb test at Eden Park is being auctioned on the Trade Me website.

Last night, bidding had reached $11,000.

The ball was given to Leamington Rugby Club member Dave Findlay by a friend who had no idea of its historical significance or financial worth.

The friend won the ball in a raffle after the tour and put it in a cupboard, forgetting it for nearly three decades before rediscovering it last year.

"He's not a rugby man and he said to me one day, 'I won this in a raffle and it's been sitting in my cupboard since 1981. Do you think it's worth anything?' I said, 'I think I can sell it'."

Mr Findlay said the signatures on the ball were well preserved but he had it encased in a glass box and with an inscription that mistakenly reads, "The Flower Bomb Test".

Despite the spelling mistake, he said the ball was an unusual collector's item because both the visiting and host teams had signed it.

"It's a pity it has to go but we would have had to nail it down to keep it at the club ... It could have pretty easily gone walking."

Mr Findlay's own memories of the game include walking down Sandringham Rd to Eden Park past helmeted protesters.

He had already seen the Waikato match against the Springboks ended by protesters invading the field.

He hid his 8-year-old son under his seat as enraged rugby fans started hurling missiles at the demonstrators.

"In those days I was quite a lot younger and quite ready for a fight ... but [the test] will never happen again, what with the protesters and the plane flying overhead dropping flour bombs - it was a significant part of our
history."

The third test was the last match of the controversial 1981 tour that divided New Zealand.

The match is best remembered for a low-flying Cessna plane that dropped flour bombs on the field - with one hitting All Black prop Gary Knight in the head - and fullback Allan Hewson's dramatic late penalty to win the match 25-22.

Leamington Rugby Club chairman Richard Myers said the 114-year-old club had two senior teams and an under-21 side but, like other rugby clubs, was struggling financially.

"We would welcome any funds really. It's not easy running rugby clubs these days."

The auction closes at 9.30pm and Mr Findlay said proceeds from the sale would be used to refurbish the club's kitchen.

- NZ Herald

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