We dropped the ball


A former Otago rugby boss believes Queenstown missed out on hosting a 2011 World Cup game because local interests dropped the ball.

Arrowtowner Russell Gray says the die was cast when Queenstown lost a Super 14 Highlanders game this year in favour of a “home” game in Palmerston North – of all places.

“I am sure everybody will deny that not having a Super 14 fixture had any impact on us being allocated a World Cup game,” Gray says.

He begs to differ.

“I think we shot ourselves in the foot when we didn’t work hard enough to get the Highlanders here for a Super 14 game.”

By “we” he includes Events Centre operator Lakes Leisure, Queenstown Lakes District Council and the business community, who needed to offer the Highlanders more of a carrot to come back.

“I just think all parties could have actually got together to make it happen – where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Having an overseas team make Queenstown its training base is fine, “but I think to actually have a fixture would have been the icing on the cake”.

Prominent local businessman John Davies, whose interests backed former Super 12 practice games and two Super 14 fixtures, says it’s “sad that we haven’t got a [World Cup] game but if one of the teams is training and living here, that will be some consolation”.

Former All Black and Highlanders coach, Queenstowner Laurie Mains, is surprised we missed out: “I believe we would have been a big drawcard.”

However local business heavyweight Eion Edgar says getting a game “was almost a long shot”, even if a new stand was built, “because [organisers] want seating for at least 20,000”.

Queenstown missing out “in some ways has enhanced our chances to get a team based here”, he says.

He believes there’s “a fair chance” England will be based here, “which means you then get 10,000 English supporters here for an average of about two weeks, and the multiplier of that to the community is 50 times what having a match is”.