Not all pirates wear patches
For me it started on the flat spot between the river and the hills.
The field of dreams which was the Athol rugby ground was the place where I first started running around in a scraggy old Country Pirates jersey and, a little later, a pair of my Dad’s square-toed boots.
We used a leather ball, the frosts were horrendous and the end of season function involved cartoons on a projector, Thomson’s fizzy and pies from the warmer.
While I was at high school, Country Pirates amalgamated with Mossburn, half an hour or so down the road.
Today, the field sits behind a set of solid wooden gates, pestered by the constant flow of holiday traffic travelling to and from Central Otago.
The corrugated iron sheds look exactly the way I remember them, even though the Country Pirates club has long since been consigned to history.
A team photo from the year my Dad played in the Bedford-Compton winning team adorned our farm home through the years. I’ve enjoyed my chats with Ack Soper, the club’s only All Black, through the years.
I played my first game on the wing and my next at prop. The signs were not promising and the signs were bang on. But sport has provided me with a million memories, many friendships and a career.
If, like me, you were lucky enough to discover a love of sport early, you can and should count your blessings.
Whether it was a place, or a person, there is probably something which made being active come alive for you.
And hopefully that spark has remained alive and is something that you can pass on to another generation.
We can’t afford to be complacent about that.
While Southland, from the sea to the hills, is a vast and abundant playground for young and old, there are a range of factors which can affect how we access those opportunities and experiences.
Knowledge, skills, understanding the value and confidence all play a role in our ability to access the physical and mental benefits of being active.
During the summer our family swam in the river in Central, walked the dog through Queens Park, practised shots on the new basketball hoop in the backyard, learnt to ride a bike in the driveway and played in the surf at Riverton.
Those were all experiences which brought our little tribe closer together, and the power of sport extends out to whole communities.
We saw that last week where a game of rugby was the platform for bringing Winton and Southland together around the courageous Vining family.
What other medium has the ability to bring us together on a daily basis in that way sport does?