Politicians will put their bodies on the line in Queenstown today for a special rugby match.
The Parliamentary Rugby Team, at the initiative of local MP Hamish Walker, will play the Blair Vining Invitational Side, kicking off 2.30pm at the Recreation Ground.
The game’s a fundraiser – entry’s by gold coin donation – for a foundation set up by Winton rugby legend Blair Vining, who has terminal cancer, and Garston School.
The Blair Vining Sports Foundation will provide financial support to young Central Southland sportspeople.
Vining, 38, who played 284 games over 19 years for Winton’s Midlands club, says about 200 people are coming from his hometown for Saturday’s game, including two bus-loads.
A big crowd attended his invitational side’s first game early this year, which attracted several high-profile players.
Rugby commentator Scotty ‘Sumo’ Stevenson, who called that game, will again call Saturday’s game.
Vining says his side may include former All Black Jimmy Cowan and ex-Highlander Tim Boys – “I’m hoping the oyster boats will give them the day off”.
The MPs’ team will include Cabinet Minister Peeni Henare, ex-Ministers Michael Woodhouse, Paul Goldsmith and Mark Mitchell, Walker himself and MP Kieran McNulty.
Walker says he and Woodhouse, who’ve both been referees, will swap between playing the game and whistling it.
The MPs are keen for the game as a warm-up for the Parliamentary World Cup later this year.
“It’s the first time the Parliamentary team has played in Queenstown so I’m excited to see the community come out and support the game,” Walker says.
Vining says his treatment’s “working well so it’s buying more time, which is all we’re after”.
He’ll spend some game time at first-five– “it’s the only place I can keep out of trouble”.
“I won’t play for as long as last time – I got a bit carried away.”
Following the game – comprising 30-minute halves – there’ll be an auction and function at the Wakatipu Rugby Clubrooms.