Wellingtonian Interview: Trevor Manning
Former New Zealand hockey goalie Trevor Manning talks about winning an Olympic gold medal, playing with a broken kneecap and summer holidays in the Coromandel.
You were the goalkeeper for the gold medal-winning hockey team at the 1976 Olympics. What was the lead- up like?
Between 1968 and 1976 we'd beaten every team in the competition, so we knew we could beat them again. We played a few warmup matches in Toronto, and in the Olympics had the Germans first up. That was a win or draw situation, because the teams were so close that we needed a good start. In tournaments like that you can expect upsets and that's sort of what happened when we won.
How was the atmosphere before the gold medal match?
When we were on the bus going there the boys were so quiet. Usually when we went along we'd be singing a few songs, stuff like that. We knew we were going to get a medal, but everyone was thinking about beating Australia and getting the gold.
With 14 minutes to go the ball smashed into your knee and broke your kneecap. Did you consider being subbed?
It was a penalty corner and I had to stay there for that. I just did a couple of squats to let the Aussies know there was nothing wrong with me and I stopped a couple more shots after that. I couldn't put pressure through it. I just went out as far as I could to block the shot and hoped nothing ended up in the back of the net. Also, it's really hard to put on a new goalie in that situation. The reserve hadn't played in the whole tournament and with all the adrenalin flying around I didn't feel anything. It wasn't until my body started to cool down that I began to be a bit sore.
Were you able to get on to the podium to receive your medal?
They had to pull me up on to the dais. It was a special moment. The first time the New Zealand anthem was played was in 1972 for the rowers. So to be the second was special.
You look back over the years at all the sacrifices you've made to get there. I'd gone to three Olympics and sat on the bench for two, and we were there at the top. It was good.
What were the celebrations like?
The Aussies had champagne on ice in their changing rooms. They'd thought they were going to win. So after the game they brought it to our rooms and gave it to us. Also there was a bar a kilometre or two down the road from the Olympic village where we used to meet up with people. We went there after we got back and had a bit of a celebration. I didn't last very long, only about an hour and a half before the pain was too much. Then I hobbled back to my room and just lay there until the team doctor found me in the morning and I went to the hospital.
Did you continue to play after the Olympics?
I played for Karori for a year or two, but not in goal. I didn't play goalie after that final. You've got to go out when you've reached the top. I had a young family and wanted to spend more time with them and my wife. You can't just keep on going.
Why did you decide to be a goalie in the first place?
When I first played hockey my team didn't have a goalkeeper, so they looked at me. You have to be a bit fearless, I suppose. If I asked any of the other guys to stand in the net and I'll hit the ball to you, they'd be like, "Oh no".
Is hockey the same as when you played?
Things have changed so much. The turf, the style they play, the sticks and pads, everything. You can't compare 1976 to today. It would be like comparing the 1904 All Blacks to the team today. The basics are still there. The trapping, passing and ball skills, they haven't changed, but the rules have changed.
What did you do after hockey?
I spent 48 years working on the Wellington waterfront. Also we have gone up to the Coromandel in the caravan for the last 25 years. Before that we used to take a tent. We'd put the kids in the car and pack everything in the trailer and head up. That came after I left hockey, because I was able to use my holidays. Before that all my holidays were taken up with going to tournaments. It was good for the kids to get a big family holiday. They still enjoy it. This year my son came up from Christchurch and drove up there.
In 2008 you were named a Legend of Wellington Sport. It must have been nice to be remembered all those years later?
I didn't even realise they had it and when I did I never thought I would be one. I was very pleased to get the award. It was special, a real honour.