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Legends of the NPC Named by Experts

Media experts name Jim Coe as the greatest player, late 1980s Auckland the greatest team, Canterbury v Auckland 1985 the greatest game.

Former Counties-Manukau lock Jim Coe has been named as the greatest Legend of Air New Zealand NPC by a panel of media experts.

The selection was made to mark the start of the 25th Anniversary Air New Zealand NPC season by over 50 members of the national rugby media attending Tuesday’s media launch in Wellington. The 2000 season kicks off on Friday night with a match between Wellington and Canterbury at Wellington’s WestpacTrust Stadium.

Criteria for Legends of the Air New Zealand NPC was that players should not have played more than five tests for the All Blacks.

“This award is a celebration of the great provincial players who have helped make the Air New Zealand NPC the world’s greatest national rugby competition,” said selection panel convenor, John McBeth.

“It’s these guys, so often the unsung heroes of New Zealand rugby, who constitute the strength and depth of New Zealand provincial rugby,” he said.

Jim Coe – Iron Man
Steel worker Jim Coe was an iron man of the Counties-Manukau pack. He played 182 games for Counties-Manukau and over 230 first class games between 1986 and 1999. A New Zealand Colt in 1985, a New Zealand Barbarian in 1996 and an All Black reserve in 1992, Coe was a regular member of the New Zealand Maori from 1992 until his retirement. He retired from all rugby at the end of last season.

Among the other Air New Zealand NPC players who received votes from the panel were John Leslie (Otago), Duane Monkley (Waikato), Greg Rowlands (Bay of Plenty) Dale Atkins, Don Hayes (Canterbury), Neil Sorensen (Wellington), David Latta, Richard Knight (Otago) Rob Penny (Canterbury and Marlborough) and Thomas Stuart (Buller). Thomas Stuart, nominated for his remarkable record of 145 consecutive appearances for Buller, was the only purely Third Division player on the list.

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Auckland in the late 80s the Greatest Team
The same selection panel voted the Auckland side of the late 1980s the greatest Air New Zealand NPC team of the past 25 years. During the period 1987 to 1990, Auckland won four consecutive NPC First Division titles and held the Ranfurly Shield. The star-studded team became a breeding ground for All Blacks and contained such legendary names as Grant Fox, John Kirwan, Zinzan Brooke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Jones and Joe Stanley.

Auckland v Canterbury 1985 the Greatest Game
The panel also named the classic 1985 NPC and Ranfurly Shield encounter between Canterbury and Auckland at Lancaster Park as the greatest game of the NPC’s history. That day 52,000 people watched as the John Hart coached Auckland side jumped out to a 24-nil half time lead. Canterbury coach Alex Wylie galvanised his team with a legendary half time team talk that sparked a dramatic second half comeback. The game finished 28-23 to Auckland with Canterbury hot on attack.


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