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Through the Portal

The greatest of all time

It was quite sad to hear of Sid Going’s passing recently, at the age of 80. Sid was the nation’s top rugby halfback at the end of the sixties through to the late seventies, playing for the All Blacks over 10 years and Maori All Blacks over 12 years.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

He was “the man” to us young fellas at that time because of the way he played the game – innovative, strong and very quick to spot an opportunity. Was he our greatest half back of all time? Technically he would not be. Aaron Smith would probably take that crown, but he would be close and in terms of entertainment value, I think he would be top of the tree.

Musing on this one day, I gave myself a challenge of picking the greatest Maori All Black team from the era beginning in the late sixties when I started watching rugby at the higher levels. The reason I decided on Maori All Blacks rather than the full All Blacks was that I wanted to see if the other Going brothers would make it because the three of them together were often quite amazing to watch.

So, this week’s article is the first part of my team, the backs. Forwards will be covered in another article. I’m sure there will be those that disagree with some picks and that’s fine. This is not an exact science.

Fullback – I am picking from players who were playing since I started taking an interest in Rugby, hence players such as the great George Nepia miss out. This made the selection at full back quite easy. Christian Cullen (2003) was possibly the most potent running full back the world has ever seen and deserves this spot.

Wings – A number of options here but in the end I went for two consistent finishers who were also good defensively. Rico Gear (2002 to 2005) and Cory Jane (2006) took these spots.

Midfield – To me, the two midfield positions of Centre and Second Five go together, a team within a team. This means fine players such as Bill Osborne miss out because the midfield partnership they formed was not with another Maori player. The standout midfield combination in my eyes was Arthur Stone (1982 to 1983) at Centre and Steve Pokere (1981 to 1987) playing inside him.

First Five – Everybody will have an opinion for this position. The most popular one will be for Carlos Spencer although I also admired Eddie Dunn. Every team needs a reliable goal kicker however, so my pick is Frano Botica (1985 to 1989), great goal kicker, fine runner with the ball and good controller of a game. Perhaps not quite the same level of erratic genius Carlos offered, but with my Half Back pick, you needed a first five who could calmly tidy things up a bit.

Halfback – You knew I was going to pick Sid Going (1965 to 1977) so I will not let you down. Unfortunate to miss out would be Aaron Smith. Ken and Brian Going couldn’t make my team but Sid was entertaining without them. For young ones, get on You Tube and search for Going Brothers Rugby and you should be able to see a few of their moves.

Well, that’s the first part of my team. I am sure others will have their picks which is understandable. There are a lot of talented players to pick from. The career of these players as Maori All Blacks is shown by the numbers in the brackets. All of them also played for the full All Blacks at some stage in their career.