New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Outside Backs

Well, the Thirst XV is near an end, the All Blacks are World Champions for only the second ever time, making for a most happy of nations and without further hesitation, it’s time to name my selections for those speedy, jinky, try-scoring machines that hang out at the back of the field and on the sidelines, chatting up the crowd and sipping at pints hidden behind those weird little barrier things that players always have to jump over.

Number 11 – Left Wing

As someone who played in the outside backs for 21 years, there’s a huge amount of players that I tried to emulate and as a youngster, it was the Terry ‘Greyhound” Wrights and John Kirwans that took pride of place i my minds eye for their remarkable turns of pace and their ability to make their way over the try line when the odds were against them. Wright showed that you didn’t need to be of Lomu-esque stature to score tries and the Kiwi brewer who would be certain to emulate his try-scoring prowess is none other than Steam Brewing Company‘s Shane Morley. One of the few Institute of Brewing and Distilling Brewmasters in NZ’s craft brewing arena, Morley has pace to burn, a goose-step that would outgander David Campese and an unerring ability to dot the ball down over the line. It’s Morley’s slinkiness that makes him the ultimate left wing. Coming in from the blind-side, it would seem entirely unlikely that he would be able to make it through a defensive line up of a scrum-half, fly-half and openside flanker, but it is exactly this point where Morley’s nickname, “Weasel” becomes apparent. Duck, slipping, turning his body. It’s another try to the Thirst XV. Morley. Outstanding.

The Slinky Dinkster himself. Thought of by rugby journos and international beer judges alike as one of the best...

Number 14 – Right Wing

You can never have too much pace out wide and having a good noggin on a player is always a bonus. With a Brewmaster on one wing, it seems a good idea to put a former Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science university lecturer on the other. Balance is important, both on a rugby field and in a good brew. Dr. Paul Croucher of Croucher Brewing fits the bill perfectly. A savvy brewer, a brain for bubbles (similar shape to a rugby ball) and a turn of pace akin to winger Morley, Croucher would be the ideal man to have out wide. Whilst The Weasel has the ability to find gaps that don’t even exist, The Doc is more about turning his low centre of gravity into a huge advantage. Not the largest of wingers, he has one of the highest power to weight ratios on the pitch, hours of lifting kegs has paid off and if you ever see him, ask to see his guns. He’ll show them to you. In fact, it’s impossible not to notice them. It’s The Doc’s guns that transform him into the tackling powerhouse that he is. He once tackled a player so hard, that both of his legs were instantly amputated. Luckily The Doc put those hours of lecturing medical students to good use, the man’s legs were saved.

Watch out for the Guns...

Number 15 – Fullback

A position very close to the Thirst XV selector’s heart, the Fullback is a key position in both powerful counter attack (John Gallagher springs to mind) and huge, field-covering defense. The ability to field the high ball, to shrug of defenders with intense determination, to tackle low and hard and to run through contenders at will puts only one NZ brewer in the mix for this sought after position. Now, I know you all think that Kelly Ryan would be the ideal candidate, but it is Stu “Scottish” McKinlay that gets the nod. With a playing style akin to Scottish rugby legend, Gavin Hastings, a penchant for peat and a love of kilts, it’s difficult to see where his nickname comes from. I’m sure one day, someone will figure it out though.

McKinlay’s main attacking attribute is his powerful, tree-trunk legs. He also has his very own trademark, in that he is the only player to not wear shorts on the field. Known for his beer and trouser colour matching prowess, Scottish McKinlay always plays in brightly coloured trousers, often dyed yellow or orange with the flowers of Heather (in true Scottish tradition). Some rugby journos worry that the bright colours act like flames to moths, attracting opposing players and increasing the likelihood of Scottish being tackled, but the intense musculature of his legs make it ridiculously difficult for this to happen. The Scottish Bomb is known worldwide for it’s ability to put fear into the hearts of the opposition. This midfield kick gains such altitude and comes down with such speed, that opposing players grimace when trying to catch it.

How many dudes that you know can hold a rugby ball with the power of their beard? I told you he was good...(Photo courtesy of the awesome http://www.thebeerproject.com by Jed Soane)

Coming soon… The Thirst XV reserves…

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New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Centres

Sometimes thinkers, sometimes raw power, the inside and outside centre work as one of the great partnerships on the rugby field. Always communicating, deft at moving the ball with the skill of David Bowie from the Labyrinth (you must remember all the cool things he used to do with those little glass spheres) and having the ability to destroy the opposition with superb textbook tackling, it is this combination that can be key to the backline in both attack and defence.

Think of those great combinations throughout the years – Walter Little and Frank Bunce, Tim Horan and Jason Little, Phillipe Sela and Thierry Lacroix, Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll, there has been some brilliant rugby played by these lads, but they’d have nothing on the ultimate brewer combination…

Number 12 – Inside Centre/Second Five Eighth

Someone with smarts, a sidestep larger than the ones you’d need to climb the Pyramids and the tendency to sneak through the opponents defensive wall, there can be only one Kiwi brewer that would make the grade. Stephen “The Plough” Plowman of Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant is so named for two reasons: 1) The obvious one – his ability to plough through the opposition’s defence. 2) His unerring skill of devouring an entire Ploughman’s lunch by himself. When the lunch was intended for the whole team.

Although slight in stature, The Plough has a physiological condition that means his bones and muscles are twice as dense as the average human. He may look 70 kg, but due to his anomaly, he actually weighs in at 140 kg, making him one of the most powerful men on the team (second only to the mighty Dave Kurth of West Coast Brewery). Due to this, his need for cheese and ham and other protein-rich foods is incredible. In fact, the NZ Brewing Dream Team has two catering companies assigned to it. One for The Plough and one for the rest of the squad. His other nickname… Stuntman, refers to his immunity to fear, he smashes his opponents left, right and centre and his ability to offload the ball to players around him borders on the divine.

Where's my lunch?!

Number 13 – Outside Centre

With such a communicative and powerful inside centre, the outside centre has to be about size and skill. We need someone built like a lighthouse, able to take a thrashing from the opposition yet be sturdy and safe as houses under the high ball. They would need the smarts to spot a gap and set up their team mates for the perfect pass as well as having arms like tree-trunks and the ability to phagocytose members of the other team. Who better than the mighty Dick “The Gentleman” Tout of Lighthouse Brewery in Nelson to take on the mantle of the mighty centre!

This man is all about the team. He keeps the squad together with his brilliant anecdotes and yarns, his jokes ensuring the NZ Brewing Dream Team works its abdominal muscles to their full potential. He is sound, he is solid and he is 100% dependable. One of the more experienced members of the backline, Tout is the Tana Umaga to pair perfectly with The Plough’s Smokin’ Joe Stanley toughness. I’d pay top dollar to watch the pair smash any other centre pairing in world rugby.

Dick "The Gentleman" Tout showing off his awesome skills by balancing a rugby ball on his foot whilst tackling two innocent bystanders

Coming soon… the Outside Backs!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Halves

The pretty fellas. The ones that always have a tube of moisturiser in their after-match bag and often tend to have some sort of aftershave spray that they insist they put on in the changing rooms so that the forwards can get together and punch them.

While the forwards are the guys that do the hard yards up front, it is the responsibility of the backs to pass, catch and kick the ball in the hope of scoring loads of fabulous points so that their team comes out victorious. While there are 8 forwards, there are only 7 backs, most probably because the forwards always want to win if they have to ever fight the backs…

I digress…

Number 9 – Half Back

The most raucous member of the team is usually the link player between forwards and backs. The ability to ferret in, throw forwards out of the way, snaffle the ball, question every decision the ref makes, show disgust at the dodgy calls and scream adulation when the team does well are all attributes well sorted to the feisty scrum half. I’ll be honest, this decision was a tough one for the Thirst XV selectors, and the other candidate will be named in the reserves (as a super-sub of course) but the player likely to be wearing the mighty Number 9 jersey on the pitch is none other than Luke Nicholas, Mr. Epic Beer himself. Never afraid to stick his head out of the gopher-hole and with the knack to make an underhopped lager blush with shame, Nicholas would bring a great set of skills to the team. Antagonising opposition players and fragmenting the refs calls would be his strong points and I imagine post-game, Nicholas would lather himself with pure lupulin glands instead of the standard “soap-on-a-rope” option. Great players that spring to mind? A cross between Graeme Bachop and George Gregan…

 

"Product placement? I don't know what you're talking about..."

Number 10 – Fly Half/1st Five Eighth

The playmaker and clinical to a tee, this position is one of the most important on the field. The ability to make or break a game with a deft chip kick, ninja-like offload of the ball or a low, hard tackle mean there is no room for error. None other than Tracy Banner, Sprig and Fern Brewer extraordinaire could fit into this role. Originally from football territory in the north of England, a cool demeanour and a scientific eye would make Banner an unstoppable tactician on the field. With her brewing prowess encompassing a range of 18 or so beers and ciders as well as a handful of pubs, the ability to analyse play on the field would be a walk in the park. Those early days surrounded by Everton and Liverpool supporters would also pay off with Banner’s boot being one of the more formidable in the game. Kicking goals from anywhere on the field would be a breeze for her and her skills at reading play on the field would mean that hardly a player would get past her text-book tackles. Carter and Wilkinson… beware!

Super skills - The ability to pour 8 pints of beer whilst showing how to execute the perfect spin pass is a walk in the park for Banner

 

Coming soon – The formidable Centres!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Loose Forwards

Loosies, the speedy ball-hungry virtuosos of the forward packs. The players that love to tackle and to win the ball whenever and however they can. Hunger in their eyes. Determination. Success is in their hands.

The tight five have been revealed already with Tuatara’s Carl Vasta, Emerson’s Chris O’Leary and Liberty’s Joseph Wood in the front and a locking combination of Cryermalt’s Dave Cryer and Three Boys’ Ralph Bungard. Bring on the loose forwards!

Number 6 – Blindside Flanker

With a mane of hair that is only rivalled by Captain Cryer, the blindside position would have to be filled by none other than New Zealand Hops‘ very own Doug Donelan. An import from across the other side of the ditch, the former Malt Shovel Brewery‘s Head Brewer would be the perfect blindside flanker. His Australian pedigree means the hunger for success and victory would result in him putting his body on the line. Snaffling up the loose ball, putting in the big hits and giving the odd facial to any opposition players at the bottom of a ruck. Not just any facial, mind you… Donelan’s trademark would likely be a pocketful of NZ Super Alpha hops, ready to be rubbed in the noses of anyone on the end of his merciless tackles.

His uncanny ability to offload the ball anywhere on the field being demonstrated at The Malthouse

Number 7 – Openside Flanker

Openside flankers have to be as hard as nails. They would probably need an upbringing on the Waikato, with it’s impressive rugby pedigree, would need to have worked on some great breweries around the world, Sharp’s in Cornwall springs to mind (where another hard as nails rugby player and UK Brewer of the Year, Stuart Howe, would have been his boss) and  would be able to wear real proper Craft Beer sweatshirts like this…

Craft! Bear! Get it?!?

Yep, we’re talking West Coast Brewery‘s very own Dave Kurth. A utility forward with the ability to smash people in the front row as well as sprint around the field like a brewing version of Richie McCaw, eating opposition players for breakfast and using their shredded rugby jersey’s as toilet paper, Kurth would bring the thing that all team’s need. Hardness with a little sprinkling of mongrel. I imagine his ability to cut down even the biggest people in their tracks would give him legendary status. The type of fella that doesn’t speak much, but when he does, you better listen, otherwise you may find yourself on the bottom of the mash tun at 6am in the morning, wondering why there is 75 degree celsius foundation water and milled barley malt raining upon you from above.

For training, The Hardman tackles those vessels behind him tho the ground. Then picks them up again. By himself.

Number 8 – The Number Eight

Brutish size, hands like dinner plates and forearms like Popeye as well as a blistering turn of pace are attributes needed for this position at the back of the scrum. The ability to tackle players so hard that an archaeological excavation crew are needed to pull the poor sod from the Earth’s outer core are also a benefit. Who in New Zealand brewing could we liken to the legendary Wayne “Buck” Shelford? It would have to be Invercargill Brewery‘s Steve Nally. This tough Southern Man is used to getting results and success is his middle name. With beer’s like Pitch Black, it’s evident that there is one thought going through Nally’s mind as he jogs on to the field. He tackles to knock the opponent’s lights out. Not only would his ability around the pitch be awe-inspiring, it’s likely that he would be able to lift the entire front row in the line out. Now, that would guarantee a win of the ball!

Nally wrestling the ball from his strength training coach, Murray Cleghorn (former holder of The World's Strongest Hand title)

Up next? The pretty boys of the Dream Team… you guessed it… the Backs!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The 1st/Thirst XV – The Tight Five

The front row named in my previous post saw Carl Vasta (Tuatara), Chris O’Leary (Emersons) and Joseph Wood (Liberty) as the three hard men of the Kiwi brewing scene. But behind every front row lies the tall timber of the pack… the locks!

Hulks of men with legs like Kauri trees, hands like baseball mitts, size 13 rugby boots and the ball skills to rival an NBA player, the lock’s role is dual purpose. They have the bulk and brute force of the front row, have hands that act like magnets for rugby balls and their height is their asset for those towering line out jumps.

Number 4 – Lock

Who else to put in this position than the man of malt himself, David Cryer. Without him, New Zealand and Australian craft brewers would be lost. His malt empire brings in grains from across the globe and as past President of the New Zealand Brewer’s Guild, his leadership abilities see him crowned as team captain. Cryer always leads from the front and his hair has an almost John Eales-like quality, staying perfectly groomed and coifed… the Captain’s Crown. With height on his side, the big man would be brilliant at stealing lineout ball from the opposition and his great mane of hair is bound to invoke fear in the hearts of his opponents.

The Mighty Captain getting ready for a stirring press conference. Note the full sized tree to the right. Told you he was tall...

Number 5 – Lock

There is only one man who could match Cryer in terms of height and lineout prowess and that is the Wiry Doctor himself, Ralph Bungard of the brilliant Three Boys Brewery of Christchurch. Dr. Bungard would be the thinking man’s forward… using his scientific mind to hunt out and take advantage of the opponents weaknesses. With a diet of Oyster Stout, the big man would be surprisingly more powerful than he looks, but with that light frame, he would devastate in the lineouts. Vasta and Cryer would be able to hoist him to the heavens to secure the ever important rugby ball. Light on his feet with the ability to sidestep the defending players, Dr. Bungard could easily fit into a flanker role. Diversity and smarts. Perfect.

Bungard practicing his lineout catching against some cylindroconical fermenters. He wins the ball again!

Stay tuned for the announcement you’ve all been waiting for… The Loose Forwards!

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