By PHILIP CHANDLER
Arrowtown rugby stalwart Aidan Winter couldn’t have picked a better occasion to mark his 200th Bulls game than this Saturday’s clash with Cromwell.
Not only is it a repeat of last year’s Central Otago final, which Arrowtown edged 24-21, but it’s also a match-up between unbeaten sides after two rounds Cromwell showing ominous form in dispatching Wakatipu 60-33 last Saturday.
Appropriately, the game – kicking off 2.30pm – is at Winter’s home ground, Jack Reid Park, where he’s achieved legendary status since first pulling on the Bulls strip in 2005.
Former club president Simon Spark, who lured Wyndham-raised Winter from Invercargill’s Star club by organising him a building apprenticeship, says he’s “fiercely competitive, hates losing, but loves the social side, too”.
“He loves contact, he loves carrying the ball – he’s a great man over the ball.”
A second-five when he arrived in Arrowtown, Winter then became a flanker, but admits he’s played in almost every position on the field except lock.
He says his highlight was captaining Arrowtown to Central Otago and Otago Countrywide titles in 2008, “considering they didn’t give us a chance, really”.
“It was pretty good last year, as well, winning the comp, considering no one gave us a chance about three weeks out.”
Apart from a record-setting 200 games for Arrowtown, he’s played 51 games for Dunedin’s Zingari Richmond and about 50 during a two-year stint in Germany.
He also brought up 50 games for Otago Country in 2017.
Though he turns 38 next week Winter – who’s also stood out fort sporting various hairstyles, like a mullet – says he has no plans to pull the pin “at this stage”, despite the toll on his body.
Spark admires his durability – how he never misses training and has barely ever missed a game – and the way he’s stepped up to co-coach the side.
Fellow co-coach Dan ‘Pup’ Eyles says of Saturday’s game, “I don’t think you could ask for a bigger occasion when the old boy’s playing 200, so I think the boys can get up for that one”.
“Goonie’s … just a great player and a great man, so I congratulate him on his two hundy.”
Meantime, Wakatipu play Alexandra at the Queenstown Events Centre at 2.30pm.
Wakatipu Wanderers have had to default against Albion Excelsior, in Gore, due to a lack of players