Footy stars Sims, Monk among those missing
The West Coast sporting community was reeling yesterday with the news two of its best sports people were among those trapped in the Pike River mine disaster.
West Coast rugby league player of the year Blair Sims and West Coast rugby union hooker Michael Monk were among the miners caught in Friday's explosion.
Both were unaccounted for at the time of going to press.
Sims is a multi-talented sportsman who has represented his province in both union and league. He made his debut for the South Island league side earlier this year.
Monk, 23, is from a well-known West Coast sporting family. The young hooker, from the Blaketown club, was a squad member of the West Coast Heartland Championship side in 2009 and 2010.
He attended top rugby school St Bede's College in Christchurch as a boarder before he returned home to work in the mine.
His older brother Alan was in the same representative team and his father Bernie Monk has occupied several top posts in West Coast sport.
The plight of both miners and their colleagues filtered through to the All Blacks yesterday.
New Zealand Rugby Union president John Sturgeon, who spent 38 years working in the West Coast mining industry, conveyed some details to the team as they completed preparations for this morning's test against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Sturgeon, who managed the All Blacks between 1988 and 1991, said: "In a small community everybody knows everybody, and it is one of those things that blows the guts clean out of it really.
"They are all guys who lived around me.
"I know them all, actually.
"I had a chat to [my family] and they were living in hope that the explosion was on the return side and if that was the case there is a possibility we could save some of the guys."
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said the team shared the nation's concern about the latest distressing incident to impact on the South Island.
"It's not good when you hear things like that happen back home," he said.
"We will have to wait and see what happens, hopefully the people are OK."
It was a sentiment shared by West Coast Rugby union chief executive Mike Connors.
Connors said Monk "is a lovely kid. He's the type of guy who always has a smile on his face.
"We're all hoping for some good news soon.
"We have not given up hope."
Sims' club and representative coach, Phil Campbell, summed up the feeling in the tight-knit sporting community in Greymouth when he said, "We're reeling.
"We will probably get together [last night] and wait for news."
Sims, 28, is married with two young daughters.
"We're all hopeful he will be back with him family soon," said Campbell. "He's a solid member of the community – works hard and plays his sport hard, and just fits in here.
"He had a really good year this year, so we've just got the fingers crossed for some good news."
Sunday Star Times