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Eden Park memories still strong
Thursday, 07 December 2006

SCORES of us Aucklanders have been going to Eden Park since we were nippers.

Seeing Peter ‘Pole’ Whiting and Andy Haden lock the scrum, Lin Colling at scrumhalf and Beegee Williams at centre for Ponsonby - on the No 2 ground v Suburbs. Waitemata, with Harty at halfback against University, anchored by Mac Fatialofa the 3pm feature.

We remember the sun and wind blistered bleachers, cold pies and warm cokes and the action that kept us riveted and returning for years.

We’ve witnessed Eden Park’s evolvement.

My dad who still goes – he’s been a mainstream ticket holder since the 1970s – tells of playing a curtainraiser before the fourth 1950 All Blacks (11) test against the British and Irish Lions (8) for Manukau, while the same year attending the Empire Games to see a Kiwi bloke called Nelson win the five miles.

An uncle says they were up at day break, to go to Eden Park for the nation defining 11-5 victory over the Springboks in 1956, to hear Peter ‘Tiger’ Jones curse in person and over the wireless to jubilant, expectant listeners. The winning tryscorer was “buggered”.

As the minutes clocked down in the 1977 test against the Lions, with the black scrum reverting to a-never-to-be repeated three-man scrum (Billy Bush and the pack were a gutsy lot that day – Ian Kirkpatrick’s last international in a 10-year career), the ABs were down 9-6 with about six minutes left. Then Dr Lawrie Knight crashed over. A series won 3-1, a match snatched 10-9 and we sang Now Is The Hour (when we must say goodbye).

Everyone in my extended family has been to Eden Park at least once. Most keep returning.

They first sat on a grass bank. Many Auckland families recall similar experiences.

The park is comfortable and modern now, but what it’ll become for the 2011 Rugby World Cup will represent the 21st century.

A venue where the action will be closer and seen easily, with seats supporting posture and size, bars and food outlets and toilets that adequately service crowd numbers.

Chief designer on the Eden Park rebuild is Brisbane-based Alastair Richardson of HOK Sport Architecture. His CV projects include Wellington’s WestpacTrust Stadium and Melbourne’s TelstraDome.

“It’s three tiers. The idea is that the levels of the stadium are completely integrated internally.

“So once you come into one of the four corners, you’ll move around inside the ground, instead of outside the ground,” says Mr Richardson, of how the next generation Eden Park will work.

“The idea is to take as much of the movement off Reimers Ave, Cricket Ave and Walters Rd as possible.

You’ll be able to walk 360 degrees around the stadium to your seat and see the action on the field.”