Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 16. September 8th 1971
The 1971 test series with the EEC has come and gone and already the prophets of gloom have begun their feverish ravings. Disregard them. Far from humiliating. New Zealand has emerged from the tough series with much honour. After all, the EEC team were probably the finest New Zealand has faced in the past 20 years.
Some argue that in the final test, which New Zealand desperately needed to win, too many opportunities were frittered away. However, in the final analysis, it was the EEC which dictated the terms and all credit to them.
We must now salvage the country's tarnished reputation in the struggles to come. The National Selection Trials next year will be a vital step in regaining this lost prestige. It is even being speculated that the whole team could be dropped and replaced by 15 completely new players, with a fresh, more imaginative approach to the game.
For all I know they could be right, but in making predictions myself I would play it safe and say that most of the present team would be re-employed. It won't be an easy task for the selectors, but I think the new team will appeal to the majority of the public.
In trying to forecast a 1972 version of the National team, how many players in the present side will retain their positions?
The big question intriguing everybody is whether captain-player-coach Keith Holyoake will retire before the selection trials next year. After the final test Keith told reporters that he had "no announcement" to make regarding his future. Rumours are bound to persist until he does decide. The incomparable Holyoake has no peer in this country, and the tremendous influence he exerts over the stability of the team will be sorely missed.
A player to emerge from the series with his reputation considerably enhanced was vice-captain and first five-eighth Jack Marshall. Marshall has long been a sound steady player and he showed his true mettle when the pressure was on him. He has developed into a very astute general, with an eye for the break and a good tactical kick. Mark him down as a definite possibility for captain when Holyoake retires.
Another candidate for captaincy would be the half-back Rob Muldoon, if it wasn't for his bad habit of getting off-side. He has certainly run the gamut of criticism this season and many would prefer to see him dropped from the team. However, impetuous though he may be, it is hard to see him being displaced. He is dynamic on form, with superb reflexes and is always a thorn in the defence, especially with his darting runs on the blindside.
Second five-eighth, Dan Riddiford, is often hamstrung with Hamlet indecisiveness and he could lose his place this season. He has been around the playing fields for a long time and is probably past his best.
Peter Gordon should hold his position at centre, a department where New Zealand lacks players of real international calibre. Gordon can be a most purposeful runner and tenacious tackier.
Ebullient left-wing Lance Adam-Schneider had the misfortune to miss the third test through leg injury but was back to his best in the final test. Good off either foot, with swift acceleration, he has bagged a lot of points this season and has found his true position.
Don McKay on the right-wing is the second player of that name to make the National team in that position. However it is doubtful whether McKay II is as good as his predecessor, relying too much on orthodox moves.
Fullback Carter's main fault is that he doesn't come to the line often enough. He lacks the versatility so necessary in his position to be able to handle unpredictable situations; very likely to be dropped.
The forward pack has a solid core of seasoned campaigners and it is possible that some of them will be considered too long in the tooth. David Seath at hooker is one who could well be released from national duty. Lethargic displays have marked his game in the past few seasons and it is surprising that he has held his position for this long. In such a key position, New Zealand needs a man who can use his head to his team's advantage. A long tenure of the tight-head prop's position by Percy Allen could similarly come to an end next season. He has had a lot of trouble with injuries in the past few years and this could account for his form reversal of late.
Never conspicuous in much constructive play outside the tight skirmishes Norm Shelton as loose-head prop is another who could go by the board. He is always dependable but that does not compensate for his slowness on the ball. Tall rugged Brian Talboys is now firmly established as Keith Holyoake's locking partner and is very diligent and methodical in everything he does. A fine lineout forward his clean two-handed take gives half-back Muldoon a wealth of possession for setting up attacking moves. Flanker David Thompson caused a furore early in the tour when he challanged the right of a visiting group of journalists to p int what they liked. He was subsequently cautioned by the team management but held his test place. A very stout defender and devastating spoiler of moves by the opposition's inside backs.
Debonair Duncan MacIntyre is a flanker in the true New Zealand sense. He plays with a calm assurance that belies his relative youth and could well be destined for higher honours. He has very definite ideas about apartheid. Handicapped by a lack of real pace Rob Walker at No. 8 nevertheless gets through a ton of work. He is a resolute tackier and great at tidying up loose ends. Of this season's reserves George Gair looks most likely to force his way into calculations. He is a fine opportunist with plenty of stamina. Allan McCready and John Rae were dropped for the EEC series but could reassert themselves in next year's trials. Allan Dick and Herbert Pickering are two more contenders, although lacking real enterprise.
There it is. It is obvious from the test series where our weaknesses lie and hopefully we can find players to counter them. We especially need good attacking midfield backs with an appetite for hard work and a major reshuffling of the pack seems likely.
New Zealand certainly needs a shot in the arm and a radical switch may be the answer. Who knows? We will just have to wait until next year's Selection Trials.