Lifting of Shield utter relief after generations of pain

Time has flown. It is 10 years today since Otago broke a painful 56-year drought and won the Ranfurly Shield. Sports editor Hayden Meikle revisits that magic time and the players who made history.


Such a simple but effective way to capture the utter relief — and good dollops of joy — of Otago finally getting their hands back on the Ranfurly Shield.

Modern rugby fans can be forgiven, when they look at how the national championship has been so reduced in status and the dear old Log become almost an afterthought, for not fully appreciating what it meant when Otago captain Paul Grant roared with delight as he hoisted the coveted prize aloft at Waikato Stadium on this day in 2013.

For generations, the province had known only pain when it came to Ranfurly Shield rugby.

Twenty-two unsuccessful challenges. Close calls and thumpings. And 56 years between drinks.

The cover of the Otago Daily Times sports tabloid on August 22, 2013, read simply: DARE TO DREAM.

It felt like a case of “here we go again” as an Otago team coached by Tony Brown and Phil Young headed north to challenge Waikato for the Shield.

Expectations were moderate but spirits soared when Otago took an early lead. Waikato came back and that familiar sense of gloom descended. But when blockbusting loose forward TJ Ioane scored the crucial try with 17 minutes left on the clock, Otago fans were indeed daring to dream.

Steve Hepburn, then our rugby writer, was in Hamilton to witness the occasion as Otago relied on remarkably committed defence and 21 points from first five Hayden Parker to make the dream reality.

While Hepburn wrote of the 56 years of wounds being healed, our staff back in Dunedin searched for an appropriate headline and photo to make the next day’s ODT front page memorable.

Most of us wanted something along the lines of FINALLY or OH, THE RELIEF or even something stolen from a football song like NO MORE YEARS OF HURT.

Those ideas did not wash with the editor at the time, Murray Kirkness, who said it was time to celebrate and not focus on the misery of previous failures.

He chose the striking image of Grant, and decided YES! was the only headline we needed. As always, Kirkness was right.

It also meant a lot to us to have a column from the doyen of Otago sports journalism, the late Brent Edwards, who could write a story about a failed Shield challenge with his eyes closed but finally got to coin some (lovely as usual) words about a success at last.

What followed was a truly magical week for the whole Otago province — not just rugby fans wanting to celebrate.

The buzz in the community was extraordinary as the shield and the players headed around the region to share in one big party.

It was so much fun that people were almost — ALMOST — not too deflated when Hawke’s Bay swanned into town and removed the Shield after eight days of celebration.

Otago has won the Ranfurly Shield twice more since 2013, but that successful challenge stands alone.

These were the 15 men who brought the Log home.

15. Tony Ensor

The wiry South Otago fullback was a sight to watch when he glided into space. He played 34 games for Otago before heading to France, where he just helped the Oyonnax club win promotion to the Top 14.

14. Kieran Moffat

The St Kevin’s College old boy did not have a long Otago career before joining the Stags. He headed to England for a spell and is now a builder in Christchurch.

13. Michael Collins

An under-rated player who has forged an outstanding professional career. He played 65 games for Otago and made a combined 50 Super Rugby appearances for the Highlanders and the Blues. Collins then shone in Welsh rugby, for Scarlets and most recently Ospreys. Off to Japan now.

12. Peter Breen

A versatile player for Otago then Northland before discovering his calling as a bit of a kicking guru. “Pistol” Breen founded the Rugby Bricks coaching website and has worked with top players and teams in both rugby codes. Had a stint as attack coach with the Australian women’s team and is now back in Dunedin.

11. Fa’asiu Fuatai

A transplanted Aucklander who was a solid option at wing or midfield for University and Otago. Later played in France and for Bay of Plenty before starring for New York in Major League Rugby.

10. Hayden Parker

“Quasi” was one of the world’s best goal-kickers at his peak. A reliable performer for both Otago and the Highlanders before having a long career in Japan. Came home to the family farm before helping his beloved Kurow club win back-to-back Citizens Shields.

9. Fumiaki Tanaka

An immensely popular character whose smile lit up the Highlanders and Otago. Tanaka, now 38, earned 75 caps for Japan, memorably guiding the Brave Blossoms to victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

8. Paul Grant

The pride of South Otago will forever be known as the man who finally lifted the Ranfurly Shield for Otago after 56 years. Should have been given a crack at Super Rugby but had a solid career in England. Working in Dunedin as a builder. Coached the forwards at Kaikorai this season and came off the bench twice.

7. Lee Allan

A typically no-nonsense country forward who played 34 games for Otago and a couple for the Highlanders before retiring early due to concussion issues. Later did some coaching, and is now back in South Otago working for an electricity network management company.

6. Gareth Evans

The Hawke’s Bay product was a committed loose for Otago and, especially, the Highlanders, where he was part of the great 2015 team. Headed home to the Magpies before a brief reunion with the Highlanders then retirement.

5. Tom Franklin

Had a fine career for both Otago and the Highlanders — and played for the Maori All Blacks — before heading to Japan. Last seen in Major League Rugby.

4. Tom Donnelly

“Sass” was a class act in the second row for Otago and the Highlanders, and earned 15 caps for the All Blacks, before heading to France. He has been the Otago head coach for three years and also joined the Highlanders this season as forwards coach.

3. Scott Manson

Manson was a solid prop but he found his calling as a coach. Recently finished a long and successful stint with the Otago Spirit, and is now the Otago Development assistant coach. Teaches at Otago Boys’ High School.

2. Liam Coltman

You will never forget that beard. Coltman was a cult hero during his time in the South, playing 82 games for Otago and 138 for the Highlanders before heading to France, where he plays for Lyon.

1. Craig Millar

An interesting character who was an accountant and one of the last Otago representatives to come from the Pirates club before its premier team folded. Millar played 44 games for Otago and had stints with the Highlanders and Sunwolves before becoming a regular in the Japanese league. Made his test debut for Japan in 2021 and is still with the Saitama Wild Knights.

Jayden Spence, Willis Scott, TJ Ioane, Charlie O’Connell, Tama Tuirirangi and Sam Anderson-Heather came off the bench.

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