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In the 1970's Southland Sub Union rugby was dominated by Central and they had won the competition four times out of the previous five years. Eastern had always had the dominance over the Sports Trust Cup and since the Rugby Union had changed the format from a challenge system to a round-robin system it has injected life into the comp.
Central had only lost one game in 1976 and that was to town, but this did not count as town was not in the competition. The weak link that year was Western, which was probably the start of the delcine in rural towns.
Central that year changed their style of play and started engaging in a more open type of game and they had come into the modern era of rugby.
The likes of Leicester Rutledge, Cliff Cochran, John Kincaid, John Patterson, John Ellis, Graham Spittle, Ross Mangles, Dave Saunders and of course their most respected and best choice captain, Hec Mitchell.
The return of Murray Mitchell, the Southland representative helped the cause, but he did have a few injuries during the season so did not play for a lot of games.
The key of the 1976 Central team was more about the eveness of the players and there not being one player that they relied on to win them a game.
Terry Boyle was a young player who had a lot to learn and contributed in the tight, Colin McDonald, the tall lock was a winner in the lineouts. The Central team had two good hookers, with neither one being better than the other in Kincaid and Fairbairn.
The inside backs of Patterson and Ellis were a good combination, and Malcolm Walker, the new kid on the block, came through the season creditably, he has good ball skills and pace which when he found the gap was hard to stop.
Ross Mangles at full-back more often than not put sting into the back line and he was safe as the last line of defence.
Other sub-union teams, although having strong players did not have the overall balance of Central. The Northern team consisted of Ashley McGregor, Andy Dickson and Ken Patterson and Ken Stewart, when he was not on All Black duty.
Western had the likes of Stewart Heath, Murray Heath, Geoff Valli, Brian Thompson, Alistair Murray and Phillip Young.
Reference: Nicholson K., The Southland Times August 1986 "Sports Trust Cup still in Central"
Article courtesy of The Southland Times August 1986.
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