Lindsay Horrocks doesn't have much time for idle chat. While on the phone with the Whanganui halfback, he devotes one ear to addressing my questions and the other to ushering disobedient sheepdogs on his beef and sheep farm.
Navigating large and stroppy groups isn't foreign territory for the 94-game Heartland veteran. Horricks drives the Butcher Boys forwards and dictates much of their backline flow, and he does it extremely well.
Since his debut in 2013, he's been part of three Meads Cup championship-winning teams and has represented the New Zealand Heartland XV multiple times.
On Saturday at Victoria Square in Westport, Horricks had to be at his demanding and cunning best to help Whanganui foil Buller in the second round of the Heartland Championship. In bitter wind and driving rain, the visitors prevailed 13-5 to accomplish their first victory of the season.
"The conditions were unbelievable. We were huddling together in the showers at halftime to keep warm," Horrocks laughed.
"The weather was a great leveller, but they've got some battlers in there."
Ironically Horricks' cousin Doug, returned from an accounting stint in Scotland, scored both Whanganui tries, his first supporting No.8 Samu Kubunavanua off the back of a 5m scrum, and then nearing the end of the first half, when he slipped a tackle and splashed over in the corner after concerted attack.
"It was a forward-orientated game. In those conditions nothing else was possible," Horrocks said.
"We're trying to join the dots at the moment. It's a bit of a struggle but there's a long way to go. The Thames Valley game in the first round could have gone either way.
"We've got some old dogs in there and some youngsters coming through like Konradd Newland* at prop who understands the game well and Alekesio (Vakarorogo) on the wing.”
Samu Kubunavanua celebrated his 50th match against Buller, first five Dane Whale his 70th. Doug Horricks played nine games back in 2013.
Building momentum throughout a season is a specialty of Horrocks. Between 2015 and 2017 he was instrumental in a 21-game winning streak by Whanganui. Last year he started every game as Whanganui conquered every opponent except South Canterbury who are on a record 23-game Heartland Championship winning streak.
“They’ve got good players right areas and a good coach, (Nigel) Walshy. I really rate him. I spent two years in the Heartland team with him and he’s a top fella. He builds a good culture and really understands his players,” Horrocks said.
Border has been the dominant club in Whanganui club rugby. They’ve won an unprecedented four championships in succession. In the last two finals, they’ve beaten Taihape 16-15 (2022) and 24-23 (2023). **
“We’re both quality sides who don’t like losing. I think the victory in 2022 was a highlight. They beat us twice by plenty in the round-robin, but we won the final and I kicked a drop goal,” Horrocks said.
“There are five teams in our competition which is a bit of a struggle. These days a lot of guys want to play B’s and social. Everywhere you go, you hear club rugby’s doing it tough. We’ve got to do more to strengthen the grassroots.”
In 2008 Horrocks showed incredible strength to recover from a smashed pelvis in a motorcycle incident. He’s only half a dozen appearances short of cracking a century of games for Whanganui.
“One hundred is just a number. Winning championships is properly the highlight, but they come and go. Meeting good people and making close friends is what rugby is all about,” Horrocks said.
This Saturday Whanganui hosts West Coast at Cooks Garden at 2:30 pm. West Coast has beat Mid Canterbury 19-8 and Horowhenua Kapiti 48-28 in their opening two games.
*Konradd is the son of Clint Newland a 134kg prop who played 106 times for Hawke’s Bay and was a Māori All Black. In 2007 he infamously knocked out the heaviest All Blacks prop of all time to that point Neemia Tialata with a square punch to the jaw in the Magpies' 8-6 upset win over Wellington at McLean Park, Napier.
**Border has won 37 out of 44 games in their four-peat of Whanganui senior club titles Ōhakune-Karioi achieved three wins in a row from 1984-86 with a 40-4 record and Rātana won three on the trot from 2001-03 with 51 wins in 53 games.
100 Games for Whanganui
Trevor Olney (146 games, 1973-1990)
Graeme Coleman (144, 1973-1983)
Bob Barrell (139, 1963-1977)
Adrian Bull (134, 1985-1999)
Peter Rowe (120*, 2003-2017)
Bruce Middleton (119, 1974-1984)
Andrew Donald (118, 1976-1984)
Jerome Nahona (111, 1989-2000)
Guy Lennox (110, 1990-1998)
Kerry Whale (100, 1985-1998)
Brent Dallison (100, 1975-1983)
Jason Hamlin (100, 1992-2001)
Source: Jared White, Whanganui Chronicle