Counties Manukau Mt Rushmore: honouring those who missed out

Trying to chop a list of the greatest Counties Manukau rugby stars of all-time has proven rather difficult.

When we confirmed we would perform this exercise to find out what faces would appear on the Counties Manukau Rugby Mt Rushmore, we asked fans to nominate potential candidates by posting their thoughts across our various channels.

The plan was to create a shortlist of the 10 most popular names, which we’d then hand off to our panel of experts to rank in order and find our top four that would go on our Mt Rushmore.

The competition proved fierce and cutting a shortlist down to 10 proved to challenging and too hard to separate names. So we have made the top 15 the cut-off.

Those 15 names are currently with our panel of experts – current CMRFU patron and longest serving member Don Shuker, former player and coach as well as current board member Gary Millington, long serving former marketing and media manager and now Rugby Players Association communications manager Kylie Sousa, former Steelers coach and respected administrator Andrew Talaimanu, World Cup winning All Black and current All Black selector Grant Fox and long-serving CMRFU photographer Richard Spranger.

To recognise just how exceptional the shortlist is you need only to look through a list of those that didn’t quite make the cut.

There was no space for iconic modern-day superstars like Kieran Read, Sonny Bill Williams, Portia Woodman or Stephen Donald, who didn’t play enough in the red, white and black to feature on our shortlist.

All Blacks like Kevin Skinner, Bruce McLeod, Robert Kururangi, Nicky Allen and Mark Cooksley were not in the final 15.

Some favourite sons, through some of the golden eras of Counties Manukau Rugby also failed to win selection. From the great team of the 1970s that won the NPC in 1979, to the side that lifted the province out of division 2 and went to two NPC finals in the 1990s to the Ranfurly Shield-winning team of 2013 – there were many heroes that warrant consideration.

Ean McRobbie, Henk Harbraken, Peter Clotworthy, Warren McLean and Paul Tuoro of the 1970s and early 80s failed to make our shortlist. There was no room for warhorses of the early 1990s like Henry Maxwell, Lee Lidgard or Peter Fatialofa.

Match winners like Danny Love and Blair Feeney from the 1990s or more recent heroes from the Union’s only Ranfurly Shield era such as Tana Umaga, Fritz Lee, Tim Nanai-Williams or Irish international Bundee Aki also missed out.

So, who were the final 15 that our experts considered? Check back tomorrow when we run through the players ranked 15-11.