Fleming Pays Tribute to "A Very Special Team"
Fleming Pays Tribute to “A Very Special Team that Achieved a Very Special Result”
Auckland, 20 August: When Mark Burgess led the NZ team to record this country’s first ever Test cricket victory over England at the Basin Reserve Wellington, in February 1978, Stephen Fleming was only five and cricket had still to register on his sporting radar.
However, New Zealand’s most capped Test cricketer has read accounts of the victory and heard plenty of stories over the years from the triumphant 12. “With each year some of those stories have developed greater momentum,” he says.
Fleming, 35, who played more Tests (111) and more One Day Internationals (279) scoring more runs in both versions of the game than any other New Zealander, is looking forward to paying a personal tribute to the 1978 trail blazing team at the Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting Luncheon at Sky City in Auckland this Friday (August 22). After retiring last year, Fleming set up the New Zealand office for Australian multi dimensional marketing and communication business, Insite.
“What we have to remember is that 30 years ago every Test match you got to play was very special, as they played so few. To score a Test win for the first time over a cricket super power was a fantastic achievement, something later teams made a point of saluting before major tests.”
“During my time in the Black Caps we made a point of remembering players who had helped shape the history of New Zealand cricket. And the 78 team were part of that. In fact we used that victory as a landmark to repeat on our 1999 tour of the UK.”
Under manager John Graham and Coach Steve Rixon the 1999 side, captained by Fleming, used the theme ‘Better Than Before’ as a motivating tool, went on to win the series 2-1 and do what no previous touring NZ side had done - score two Test wins against England in England.
“Those guys, the great players before them and what they achieved were what we aimed to live up to,” he says. “We thought back to Sir Richard Hadlee, John Wright, Geoff Howath and Mark Burgess. That was a real ‘David & Goliath’ result as England had some very experienced and outstanding players. It was a very special team that achieved a very special result. But you also had the great batsman, Bert Sutcliffe, who played 42 Tests for New Zealand and never experienced the satisfaction of winning a Test.”
Fleming admits that as a young player posters of Howarth and Hadlee took pride of place on his bedroom wall and that they, along with Wright, were a big influence on his career. He says he will be interested in swapping cricket anecdotes with the 1978 winning cricket team at the Westpac Halberg Luncheon in Auckland and checking whether their stories may have become even more coloured….
The Auckland luncheon is the first of 11 Westpac Celebrity Sporting Functions around the country planned by the Halberg Trust. Other centres hosting Celebrity Sporting Functions include Napier (September 5), New Plymouth (October 9), Nelson (October 15), Dunedin (October 22), Invercargill (October 23), Queenstown (October 24), Hamilton (November 12), Wellington (November 14), Tauranga (November 28) and Christchurch (December 5).
Fleming will donate one of the bats he used during his last Test series against England earlier this year for the charity auction on Friday. Tickets for the Auckland luncheon are available by contacting the Halberg Trust at email@example.com or on 579 9931.
All funds raised at the events will support the work of the Halberg Trust in linking young people with a disability to sport and active leisure.