By PHILIP CHANDLER
After 173 games for the Wakatipu Rugby Club, popular club captain Jeremy ‘Mushy’ Drake will hang up his boots after the Wanderers’ season finishes this Saturday.
His Southland first division side, who’ve yet to win this year, play Mossburn at his beloved Queenstown Recreation Ground.
Drake, 35, has played 15 seasons for the club, including 94 games for the Premiers side.
For the past four years he’s commuted from his Wanaka home, however, as a Veolia foreman, he’s based in Queenstown during the week, anyway.
‘‘It just gets to the stage where you get too old and you just can’t recover like you used to,’’ he says.
His two children are getting older, he adds, and the younger one, who’s four, will start playing rugby next year.
Drake says a highlight was the Prems winning the Central Otago and Countrywide titles in 2012 and holding on to the White Horse Cup throughout the following season.
Over 2013/’14, he also played three seasons on the trot — including one for the Cullompton club, out of Exeter in England, an area his wife hails from.
Mostly a hooker, this season he pushed out to prop to cover a player shortage.
He says the club lost about 15 players to the Covid-19 border closure, which badly affected the Wanderers — four players also moved up to the Prems.
Drake says they had a chance to beat Tokanui at home last Saturday, but after a player was yellow-carded about 15 minutes from the end, the score blew out and they lost 39-17.
Despite the losses, spirits have remained high.
‘‘It’s always a good bus trip home with the Wanderers, even if you do lose.’’
Saturday’s game starts at 1.45pm, followed by the Prems playing their last round-robin game against Cromwell Cavaliers, who are last-placed in the Central Otago competition, at 3.15pm.
The Prems suffered their second loss last Saturday, going down 32-15 to Upper Clutha, in Wanaka, after leading 10-3 at halftime.
The Arrowtown Prems, who travel to Omakau to play Matakanui Combined this Saturday, also dropped their second game this season, last Saturday, going down 21-14 to Maniototo in Ranfurly.
Heading into Saturday’s last round-robin games before the semis and finals, Cromwell’s ahead on 30 points, Upper Clutha’s second on 21, Arrowtown and Wakatipu follow with 19 and 18 points, respectively, Maniototo’s fifth on 17 and Matakanui Combined’s sixth on 11.