Assistant Coach Says Taking Part ‘the Least We Can Do’
Team captain turned head coach turned assistant, Chris Cairns, has spoken out about his role in the Pack the Park rugby game.
Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham ‘Ted’ Henry, heavyweight boxing champ Joseph Parker, and former All Black backfielder Israel Dagg have all agreed to be part of the event in support of the Southland Charity Hospital. Dagg and Parker will coach the ITM Invitational XV, while Henry will be joined by assistant coach Chris Cairns in helming the AB Lime Blair Vining XV.
Not to be confused with the former Black Cap who shares his namesake, Cairns is a great friend of the late cancer care advocate. Cairns promises he’s not feeling too wounded after being dropped from the top job following the announcement Henry was keen to take part.
“I keep getting asked how I feel about being demoted to assistant coach. I think it’s interesting that is the assumption. Graham has an impressive record, no doubt, but six out of eight seasons undefeated as the Drummond Limehills Star junior coach has to count for something,” Cairns says.
Cairns served as captain during Blair Vining’s bucket list game of footy, played to a packed crowd at Midlands Rugby Club in January 2019. Radio personality Bryce Casey will serve in the role this time around.
“I do have some concerns for the skipper of our team this year. Bryce has taken over my old job and I know firsthand that the guys playing in this game play hard. They suddenly think they’re 23 again. They can still hit hard. Bryce needs to lead from the front – Graham and I will need to work out some way of motivating him to perform as Blair would have wanted his skipper to.”
Pack the Park 2020 is being held as a thank you to the people of Otago and Southland for their support of the recently-formed charity hospital. It will also commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Blair Vining, whose epic battle for more equitable cancer care throughout New Zealand following his diagnosis of terminal bowel cancer captured the hearts of the nation.
Cairns says he thinks his mate would be amazed to see how many people have agreed to take part in the event. The squad named yesterday includes huge names including former All Blacks Stephen Donald, Mils Muliaina, Andy Ellis, Corey Flynn and more.
“What I do know is that Blair would be so excited to have all these top-class players, coaches, athletes and celebrities involved. They are selfless people, just as he was. What Missy (Vining’s wife, Melissa Vining) and the team down here are doing is an amazing thing for the southern community,” Cairns says. “I feel privileged to be part of it and I hope everyone will get behind it in any way they can.
“Blair might have still been with us now if we as a country were properly funded in the health sector. It’s a small thing to ask of people, to get behind the Southland Charity Hospital and its mission. One day, it will save lives – and it could be your mate next time. Blair gave up so much for us as a country in his last days. It drained him, but he did it anyway.
“Pack the Park – it’s literally the least we can do.”
The Pack the Park game at Rugby Park on October 17 will be followed by gala dinner The Aftermatch at the spectacular Bill Richardson Transport World. Hosted by TW Events & Incentives, the gala dinner will see master of ceremonies, television personality Scotty ‘Sumo’ Stevenson, preside over a sold-out crowd of almost 700 people. The event sold-out mere hours after tickets went on sale.
To find out more about the Pack the Park event – and to keep up-to-date with player announcements – follow the Southland Charity Hospital on Facebook.
Pack the Park will be the curtain-raiser to the Mitre 10 Cup fixture that will see the Southland Stags take on Taranaki. General admission to the terraces is free. GA and grandstand tickets are now available at ILT Stadium Southland, Ticketek.co.nz or at the game.