Morrison a loyal, bloody good bloke
Southland sport lost a beloved figure this week with the death of former Southland Times rugby writer John Morrison.
I worked with John - referred to in rugby circles, but always in the tenderest of terms, as "Shocker" - for four years until his retirement in 2004.
He was one of this province's truly good blokes.
John was easily identifiable by his broom of a moustache, a rumbling sort of laugh and a sense of humour so dry it could have carried a warning sign during the summer.
His knowledge of sport was encyclopaedic and it was a gift he was generous with.
Quiet, but never aloof, nothing was a problem with John, even when he had to endure life under an upstart young sports editor who still had the ink drying on his journalism diploma.
John worked at the Southland Times for 17 years after a stint of advertising and reporting for the Otago Daily Times in Alexandra.
One of his first assignments in Invercargill was covering the 1987 World Cup game between Wales and Canada and Rugby Park would become something of a second home.
Two years later he covered Southland's famous win over France and one of the highlights of his career was covering the Bluff hill stage of the Tour of Southland and a rugby game between Southland and Wellington on the same day.
John covered eight Tours of Southland, including the era dominated by Brian Fowler, and remembered fondly watching Invercargill's Glenn McLeay beat Gary Anderson in the individual pursuit at the national championships held at Kew Bowl.
Covering the Southland tour was his most demanding job, but also the one he gained great satisfaction from.
He covered three unsuccessful Ranfurly Shield challenges, was there for the early days of double All Black Jeff Wilson's career in both rugby and cricket, and watched during Southland's glorious dominance of minor association cricket during the 1990s.
John prowled the sidelines of rugby fields and cricket grounds around the province and some of his best moments were travelling with the Southland rugby team during their North Island tours - during a time when the separation between the media and the teams they followed was a little more relaxed.
As a cub reporter I remember the perilous gang-plank walk out over the roof of the old Rugby Park grandstand to a press box which offered the best view of any in the country.
John and his contemporary, Don Wright, would be perched in "the gods", often huddling over "Albie" the one-bar heater, with the occasional cigarette butt pitched out the front window and rolling down the roof and into the gutter.
Wright remembered John as a very loyal man who could be trusted with a confidence.
It was something that was respected by the players and coaches he dealt with, particularly Southland rugby coaches Keith Robertson and the late Roger Ramsay.
No-one I've spoken to who worked alongside John had a bad word to say about him. That's rare in a newsroom, let me tell you.
Wright recalled the obvious pleasure John displayed in 2009 when Stags manager Leicester Rutledge brought the Ranfurly Shield to Vickery Court. No-one could have been prouder to have their picture taken with the "log of wood".
Beyond all that he was a bloody good bloke, who loved his family, his sport and a quiet beer.
Rest in peace John.
- © Fairfax NZ News