Pack the Park rugby game heating up

28 August 2020
Pack the Park rugby game heating up

Planning for Pack the Park, an epic rugby game to thank the community for their support of the Southland Charity Hospital, is full steam ahead – despite the election.

The Pack the Park rugby game

The Pack the Park rugby game, set to be played as the curtain-raiser to the Southland Stags v. Taranaki match at Rugby Park in Invercargill on October 17, is being held to thank the people of Southland and Otago for rallying behind the charity hospital’s cause.

The game is also a way to pay tribute to the one year anniversary of the death of Blair Vining. The Winton man’s battle to ensure better cancer care for all New Zealanders after he was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer captivated the country and was the catalyst for both the formation of a national cancer care agency as well as the Southland Charity Hospital.

A slight change in plans

Originally set to be played between the Blair Vining Invitational XV – with the team’s lineup still a secret – and the New Zealand Parliamentary Team, the change in the date of the New Zealand general election “threw a bit of a spanner in the works for a minute”, Southland Charity Hospital driving force and board member Melissa Vining says.

“I think everybody in the country has learned by now that COVID-19 has more than a few surprises in-store for us. When the new election date was originally announced our team did go into planning mode. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided our best bet was to soldier on – but, unfortunately, that does mean the New Zealand Parliamentary Team is no longer able to participate,” she says.

“We were so excited to have them on board and hope we get a chance to take them on at some point in the future. Being on the same date as the election does mean we have a few extra things to think about, mainly around ensuring that attendees at Pack the Park are still able to participate in voting, and we’re looking forward to an action-packed day.”

Team captains named

The lineup of names set to take to the paddock during the Pack the Park event at Rugby Park is a closely-guarded secret: but the duo set to lead out the players on 17 October has been announced.

New Zealander of the Year nominee and radio personality Bryce Casey from The Rock has been shoulder-tapped to lead the Blair Vining Invitational XV team.

Meanwhile, well-known TV fishing star Matt Watson – the host of The Fishing Show – will captain the opposing side (yet to be named).

“Blair would have loved that we’re putting this game on for the people of Southland and Otago. He especially would have loved hearing that Bryce and Matt have agreed to come on board. He thought Bryce was an absolute legend for his vocal support of the need for mental health awareness, and throughout his journey, Bryce was a huge support to Blair,” Melissa says.

“Blair and our daughter, Lilly, absolutely loved watching The Fishing Show. They were absolutely obsessed with it. It was their thing. That time together is a really special memory for Lilly, so for Matt to have agreed to take part as well is huge.

“I don’t know how much they know about rugby, but it’s great that they’re willing to give captaining the teams a crack for the Southland Charity Hospital cause.”

Keen to get involved for the cause

Watson says he followed Blair Vining’s story, and admired how the Central Southland man’s legacy had been carried on.

“He just seemed like such a salt-of-the-earth, good bugger. And then for Missy to carry that work on and do something that is going to make such a difference, how could I say no to being involved? What a great opportunity to be part of something so good,” he says.

“Given we’re playing a team in Blair Vining’s name, I almost feel like cheering for the other team – but that will change on game day once I strap the boots on.”

The Morning Rumble co-host Casey says he was keen to get involved because of his admiration for Blair Vining’s advocacy for his community.

“Although when I say involved, I thought more as in a ‘having a beer and talking about it, rather than playing’ capacity. That concept changed dramatically when I was named captain,” he says.

As for the players he hopes might make the line-up on the day?

“If I could have my dream pick, I’d want an enforcer to hide behind, like Andrew Hore. And someone to run the cutter like the great man Beaver (Stephen Donald).”

For further information, please contact Southland Charity Hospital communications manager Alana Dixon-Calder on 027 7428 817.

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