18 Aug

Any Old Park
by Don Christie
18 Aug 2000

“So what is happening to the Park?” It’s a question I get asked every now and again. I live in a house that had a view of the Millard Stand, the grand old dame of Athletic Park. Well, I can’t say I have kept up with events at ground level, the Stand disappeared from my horizons, if not my memories, a while ago.

On a sunny Saturday, a couple of weeks ago I took my 14 month old daughter for a walk down to the historic site to try and answer that question (ok, tell the truth, we were booted out of the house for a couple of hours). Across the pitches by Adelaide road (where the under 6 years teams were hammering each other to a pulp) we first visited the fence where the Millard stand used to be. A big brown mound is all that is left of that side of the ground, nothing much to see. So we wandered round passed Mel’s Diner, not even stopping for a mega-meal and a pint, passed the Satan’s Slaves HQ and on to the Rintoul street entrance.

Frankly I was amazed, the ground looks just like it does in some of those old turn of the 19th century photographs. A flat paddock, three sides bordered by mounds, and a green, bushy backdrop provided by the hill up to Vogeltown. There it is, back to its naked, original glory.

“Laalaa, laalaa”, my daughter interrupts my thoughts, pointing vigorously to the “Millard Mound”. Yes, that’s where I saw my first All Blacks game at the Park. June 1992, high up in the top tier. I missed most of the second half as some low cloud blocked out our view. Fortunately we had a bottle of Mekong Thai whisky to keep out the chill. Ireland lost 59 – 6. It was also there, on the very top row, that I saw my last game at the Park, a howling Southerly helped blast the French away. This time it was Royal Lochnagar that helped warm the cockles. If you’ve never sat at the top of the Millard Stand the best description I can give is that it was like being at the top of a high, steep cliff. Skiers liken it to a double black run. Thrilling.

“Daadaa, daadaa” accompanies an excited wave in the general direction of “Bernies Corner”. Oh sure, I remember that one, Lions tour of ’93. One of the Underwood boys scorching past the AB defence to touch down in that famous corner. The Lions won by 13 points, what a night we had after that one (sorry, I was on the opposition corner at that stage in my career).

Another loud exclamation turns my attention to the far touch. That’s the one Bill Cavubati, the “Fat Fijian”, scorched down, surely only metres away from scoring a winning try for Wellington against Otago. But wait, he slips a perfect pass to the Otago man behind him who scooted off in the opposite direction to touch down. Argh! Wellington.

Time is moving on, a small hand in my hand pulls me away. She’ll never see a game there but I’m sure I will be able to bore her to tears with Park tales for many a year to come.

So that’s the ex-Park not much to look at, but plenty still remaining in the mind’s eye.

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