Final salute to sportswriting trailblazer, rugby authority

Post date:



A real …

Who would you have on the Mount Rushmore of New Zealand sportswriting?

TP McLean, obviously. Don Cameron. So that’s two.

We will leave one spot open in the interests of diversity and give the likes of Suzanne McFadden, Margot Butcher or our own Kayla Hodge a spot in the future.

The final visage to be carved in the mountain?

There will be shouts for Alex Veysey, Dick Brittenden, Don Neely, Wynne Gray, David Leggat, Bob Howitt, Phil Gifford and Joseph Romanos. Many of us in these parts would vote immediately for Brent Edwards, a sportswriter of rare skill and versatility.

But it has to be Ron Palenski.

“Pole”, a former long-serving daily newspaper reporter and author of some 50 books, died in Dunedin on August 22.

If Keith Quinn was the voice of rugby, Ron was the authority on rugby, and his words and research formed a huge part of our national game’s legacy.

… Hall of Famer

I am a generation removed from Ron so knew him by reputation alone until a few dealings when he became chairman of Otago rugby.

He looked a bit like a librarian — and to be fair, the man spent an awful amount of time in libraries in his long hours researching various rugby and military topics — and radiated great depths of intelligence.

Later, when he was devoting so much of his energy to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, I enjoyed many dealings with Ron.

In my previous role, I edited the obituaries page for the ODT. And, while there was sadness whenever a Hall of Fame inductee died, there was satisfaction in knowing their life would be celebrated in a beautifully crafted obituary that would land in my inbox within days.

It was my great pleasure to attend the small private ceremony at the Palenski family home last year when Ron was deservedly inducted into the Hall of Fame, and an absolute thrill when he sent me a note the following day with words of praise for the story I wrote.

I will be sad when the hall leaves its Dunedin Railway Station base, and I hope the new venue in Cambridge is planning some appropriate recognition for the man who did so much to make it special.

Vale, Ron. You blazed a trail. (His obituary is on page 26 today).

Rugby rant I

It may be that The Last Word is getting older, or that he is nervously awaiting the outcome of today’s Heartland Championship game in Oamaru between the Old Golds and The Team That Shall Not Be Named.

There must be some reason for the grumpiness surrounding your columnist’s keyboard.

Why does it bother me so much that, while a formerly glorious domestic competition known as the NPC is dying a slow death, some unions seem almost allergic to doing anything more than the bare minimum to engage with one of the few newspapers left that gives a stuff?

Why are NPC teams being named just 24 hours before the game, thus removing an extra angle for discussion and debate during the week?

How can someone play for two different provinces in the same season?

Why is there still no promotion-relegation?

Is it just a bit of a concern that Otago and Southland have combined for one win in eight games, and that win only came because they played each other?

Rugby rant II

Must. Take. A. Breath.

Grumpy? Try absolutely outraged.

Could the person who either suggested or signed off on the Otago-Southland NPC game being promoted as the Blood Match please make yourself known.

There is one Blood Match. ONE. And it is, as anyone with a shred of knowledge of rugby south of the Waitaki knows, the First XV clash between two fine Oamaru schools that stops a town.

The NPC game might have been a fundraiser for the New Zealand Blood Service but it should never have stolen the name.

Otago rugby people need to just embrace the “Stag Day” label. Southland’s fans make this game special, and you can’t beat tribalism in sport.


People who know more than me about Formula One — yeah, yeah, that is 99% of the population — say the sport has often been labelled “boring” because of the dominance of one particular driver. But it really seems VERY boring now.

It all seemed so exciting when I watched Drive To Survive — yeah, yeah, I am one of those people — but now it is just a question of who will finish second behind Max Verstappen.


Women’s cricket remains a bit of a slow burn in this country.

But have a look at what happened in England at the weekend.

A crowd of nearly 20,000 for the women’s final of The 100 — a stupid format, but cricket has gone bonkers as we know — suggests the revolution in the summer game is gathering pace.

Power player

Most people believed the ODT sport power rankings (August 24) were absolutely spot on.

But two readers and one colleague highlighted someone who should probably have made the cut.

Jockey superstar James McDonald just keeps showing his class, and if we were to re-do the list today, JMac comes in and Shane van Gisbergen dips out.

Credit To Onwer