Marist St Pats has been privileged to have had so many wonderful players over the years it was a tough job narrowing them down to one team, says Iain Potter, a member of the panel who selected the club's 50th anniversary team to be announced at the jubilee dinner this Friday.
"We could have easily picked a wonderful second fifteen," Iain says, with some positions such as lock and loose forward especially difficult. In the end, they've opted for 23 players - a playing XV and eight reserves.
Iain and the other selectors - life members Kevin Horan, Brian Coulter and John Duignan - have a decades-long playing and coaching involvement at MSP. Iain captained Jubilee Cup winning sides in '94 and '95 and was a Jubilee-Cup winning coach in 1997. He continued in various coaching roles in the club until 2004.
Over five meetings late in 2019, the panel debated the merits of hundreds of players. A starting point was to look at who had been chosen for higher honours, particularly the All Blacks. "If the best rugby brains in New Zealand decided that a Marist St Pats player at that time was at the pinnacle of New Zealand rugby, that's difficult to argue against," Iain says.
Then came the challenge of working across the amateur and professional eras. Before super rugby came along, the country's top level after the All Blacks was provincial. Wellington had some outstanding teams, particularly in the club's early years in the 70s and 80s.
Once professionalism came in, a player had to be very good to be picked for just one of five Super rugby teams. Similarly, a lot of rugby wisdom went into selection for overseas professional sides and for World Cup teams such as Samoa.
A final point worth noting, Iain says, is each player was selected on their individual merits. "With the forwards, for instance, we weren't trying to pick the most cohesive unit or players to complement one another or to play to a certain MSP style. We just went for the players we thought were the best."
Who those players are will be unveiled at Friday night's dinner, which will kick off a long weekend of celebrations at the clubrooms. It promises to be a great weekend, with some great debates!