I motor up the ‘race’ where the cows head for milking – thinking this is the correct drive way (first mistake) to Sid Going’s Marlow Rd farm in Maromaku, Northland.
I park my rental car in front of the vat (second mistake). As I tip-toe across the yard in my pristine city shoes, there is no mistaking one of the greatest rugby players the world has seen, Sid Going.
He is wearing blue overalls, gumboots and hat, but it’s definitely Sid. He has a welcoming smile and his face lights up. He says they laughed when they saw the only person ever to drive up a race for the cows.
Sid still has a passion for rugby and has more knowledge about the game than anyone in Northland. He should be the official advisor to Northland rugby but he has moved on. He prefers time with his family – seven grand-children - and farm life these days. His cowshed is just 20 minutes to the Bay of Islands so it’s the best of both worlds for someone just a farm-boy at heart.
But we chat about the upcoming All Blacks tour. Sid says it will be tough – six tests in six weeks.
``I don’t think we are overly strong in any position and we need to develop combinations so we can play with more confidence. We don’t seem to have the confidence in our backs as the forwards prefer to try and muscle over rather than run and go wide. We may look at playing a more open game on this tour.’’
Sid and I walk over to where his sons Jared and Logan are building a small hot-house. We sit back on deck chairs like a couple of old kaumatua watching the new generation build their future. This is the farm where Sid and his wife Colleen milked cows and ran dry stock during his All Black years. His Dad Cyril moved to the area 100 years ago. Sid recently passed the family farm on to Jared and his wife Lijana. There are 15 families who have the Going name or who are Percy Going (Sid’s grandfather) descendents on Marlow Rd.
Up the road is the local Mormon Church which has over 100 in the congregation every Sunday and they always welcome visitors.
We return to the farm and look over the 54-balecomputerised rotary that Jared had built this year. This is the fourth cowshed to be built on site. Sid’s dad used to say he was glad when milking machines were introduced Sid has also tried to keep up, building wintering barns, feed pads etc.
``The farming industry will always be an important part of NZ’s economy. People throughout the world will always need food – dairy and beef and NZ farmers have always been at the forefront of technology. Jared is looking into organic farming as we need to take good care of the land we have been given and to leave for the future generations.’’
It’s not long before the conversation drifts back to rugby. We head into the house for lunch; Colleen has baked a wonderful batch of scones. We go to wash our hands and Sid shows me all his old playing jerseys mounted in the hall. We look at one jersey which just says MAORIS. Now days language experts tell as nouns usually keep the same form in singular and plural. The irony is not lost on us as we wash our hands that the NZRU did not want any NZ Maori team to appear this year.
``And they also want to cut four teams out of the Air NZ Cup Championship. How does the NZRU think that NZ rugby is going to get stronger by cutting the number of teams from 14 down to 10 and reducing the number of players playing at a higher level? But on the other hand they want to increase the number of teams in the Super 14 to satisfy and build the strength of other competing countries.
``It really doesn’t make sense. It is very clear that the interest and commitment to the current competition is working very well and is building strength and providing quality and experience to players. This is vital so NZ can return to the top in world rugby.
``So why cut it down? Just look at the teams that they are looking to cut who have been able to beat the major franchise-unions. The hierarchy needs to look at where they can cut costs in other areas instead of the provinces.’’
Around a lovely lunch we talk about the upcoming World Cup. Sid says the All Blacks are travelling well but wonders if they have a predilection for their game becoming to staid. He says the game and other teams have become too combatively predictable and would prefer to see the All Blacks bring some flair and excitement back into their game.
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