Tasman Makos challenge Nelson retirees to a mobility scooter race
The Tasman Makos fielded a star-studded team for a mid-week hit out against residents at a Nelson retirement village.
While the age advantage was firmly with the rugby players, the residents at Summerset in the Sun in Stoke had experience on their side.
Nine Makos players, including Joe Wheeler, Liam Squire and Jimmy Cowan, turned out for the challenge on Thursday afternoon ahead of their ITM Cup match against Counties Manukau in Pukekohe on Saturday.
First up was lawn bowls and table tennis. The experience of the residents, who hold regular competitions in both sports, was too much for the Makos.
Retirees, two - Makos, nil.
However, the grand finale was a race. Surely the bigger, stronger, faster Makos would have the edge when it came to speed.
But there was a catch. This race was on mobility scooters.
Halfback Jimmy Cowan was up first in the time trial, held in front of an audience in the village car park.
"One, two three, go!" the timekeeper said.
Cowan floored the accelerator and the maroon four-wheeled machine rolled at a leisurely pace around the course marked by cones and chalk.
"Go, Jimmy," one his teammates hollered. "I'm going full throttle," Cowan said. The players yelled, cheered and laughed watching their teammates.
"I don't know who's enjoying it most," a woman resident said in passing. "Probably the young men."
Several residents also took part in the race, including 82-year-old Ted Jorgensen who dressed up for the occasion. He had made a special trip to Richmond on Thursday morning to buy a straw hat and red clown wig.
"Just for fun, that's all it is," he said. "I knew this was coming so I deliberately dressed up to make a fool of myself, which I usually do anyway."
Jorgensen said he'd had a lot of fun playing with the Makos. "It's very nice of them to come."
Makos lock Liam Squire was the fastest man around the course with a time of 39 seconds.
Joe Wheeler, also a lock, said the day had been "hugely entertaining" for the players and residents.
"We got busted up on the bowls green ... but I think around the track we definitely had them there. A little bit more fearless and we took that attitude out there that we didn't want to lose, sort of got in a few of their heads. It was all good fun and I think they enjoyed the competitive nature of the day."
Tasman Rugby professional development manager Patrick Smith said a member of the Stoke community had approached the union about getting the Makos to visit the village.
The day was about connecting the Makos to all parts of the community, he said.
"It's good that we can cross all generations.
"Many of the residents there are fans of the Makos and we appreciate that once many of them were really good sportspeople and love rugby."