All for the Cause

15 October 2020
All for the Cause

They’ll arrive this weekend in various states of disrepair. Some will be a bit thicker around the midriff, others will be hobbling. A few may have a grey hair or seven, or the odd piece of plastic where a joint used to be. They’ll disembark from cars and planes and roll into Invercargill like a great migratory herd, kicking up dust and working up a thirst. On Saturday, they’ll tape up, offer a small, silent prayer for survival and jog onto Rugby Park not to reclaim their former glory, but to say this: we care. 

When Missy Vining asked me to write a few words for this esteemed publication she told me it was to be a story about the kindness of the rugby community, but I’m not sure any of the players and personalities heading south this weekend believe for a second this event is about them. Not Sir Graham Henry, not Joseph Parker, not Carlos Spencer, or Andy Ellis, or Wyatt Crockett, or Andrew Hore, Tony Brown, Matt Watson, Bryce Casey, Brendon Laney…

Sure, it has been an extraordinary undertaking to secure so many recognisable names for the Pack the Park celebration, but if there is a common theme at all, it can be distilled from the fact rugby is a sport that rewards selflessness, and anyone who has been around the sport long enough can recognise selflessness in others. That is why every player this weekend is here: because they appreciate the selflessness of Missy Vining and her remarkable family. Just as importantly, they also recognise the immeasurable benefit to the folk of this great province of the Charity Hospital project. 

Much of the organisation of these teams has been the work of Corey Flynn. Why? Because he is connected to this place and to its people, and because this is a game that means so much to Missy, Della-May, Lilly and many others. Those wonderful locals strapping on the boots this weekend are all here because they know no other way but to make good things happen. Those from out of town are here because it was a small chance to show gratitude for everything the Vinings have done and what this province can achieve when it gets together for the benefit of all. 

When Sir Graham was asked to coach the Blair Vining XV, he simply said, “Of course. Blair was an extraordinary man. I would be delighted.” When Chiefs legend Dwayne Sweeney heard about the game, he said, “How can I get involved?” When Paddy O’Brien heard about the game, he organised the only referee in the world capable of dealing with Troy Flavell, Paul Miller, Kelvin Middleton and Ali Williams in the same ruck. If Craig Joubert thinks a Rugby World Cup final was high pressure…

There will be laughs aplenty on Saturday, reminiscences of provincial glories and the rehashing of old rivalries. There will be the bonhomie of a brotherhood and the kinds of bruises that take weeks to fade. All the guys in the middle want in return is to see Rugby Park bursting at the seams, a community united behind a family that continues to give, a year since losing their beloved Blair. All of us in attendance want to see the Southland Charity Hospital open its doors. 

So, yes, maybe this is a story about the kindness of the rugby family, but only in part. You see, it’s not hard to join forces with a force of nature like Missy Vining. And it is the continuing kindness of her and of all those involved with the day, and the Charity Hospital, that should be the star of the show. 

Well, that and Cabbage Rutledge on the blindside. 

Article written by: Scotty Stevenson

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