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Sunday, May 30, 2010

End of an Era: The Guinness Premiership Finals

For the last ten years or so, I have witnessed many of my favourite athletes ended their career in different fashion. Basketball legend Michael Jordan ended his career in 1998 with a buzzer beater but decided to make another run early in 2001 and then retired once again in not so spectacular fashion in 2003. Filipino basketball legend Allan Caidic ended his playing career simply because he can't see himself playing for his new team and would rather commit himself to coaching his old team. And so he did. Then there was New England Patriots' Tedy Bruschi, one of American Football's defensive machines, who decided to end his career a year after an almost-perfect season (his team won every single game in 2008 but ended up losing in the finals). Another one of my favourite was football's Zinedine Zidane, who ended his career with a red card in the 2006 FIFA World Cup thanks to a racist idiot name Marco Materazzi. Other favourites that retired recently are rugby league's Kiwi legends Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki. Of course, some are approaching the end of their careers too, such as Cleveland Cavaliers' Shaquille O'Neal, Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez, and Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham.

Justin Marshall
Early this morning (New Zealand Time), hours after the start of the Super 14 final and more than half of New Zealand were still asleep, one of my favourite players in rugby played his last 15 minutes of his professional career. Former All Black scrumhalf Justin Marshall, New Zealand's most capped halfback, closed down the curtain of his illustrious career in one of rugby's greatest stadiums, the Twickenham. Marshall played for his team Saracens in the finals of the Guinness Premiership (English Rugby Premiership).

I have followed his rivalry with another great halfback, George Gregan in the good ol' Super 12 (now known as the Super 14) and Tri-Nations rugby. Both are great rivals and great friends. Marshall probably best remembered as the other half of Canterbury, Crusaders, and New Zealand’s greatest inside back pairing of all time. The other half, of course, was kicking genius Andrew Mehrtens. While in New Zealand, he won five Super 12 titles, four National Provincial Championship titles, four Bledisloe Cup titles, and five Tri-Nations titles. He also played in two Rugby World Cups, in the series wins over South Africa (in their own turf) and the British and Irish Lions, and in the successful challenges and defences of the Ranfurly Shield. In Europe, he won one Magners League title and an Anglo-Welsh Cup title.

This morning's Guinness Premiership final was epic but play-off experience always counts and Leicester Tigers won that epic battle, 33-27.  In the final whistle of that game, Marshall closed down a career of almost 20 years of first-grade rugby.


Justin Marshall (Team Honours):

Club Rugby
  • 1994 New Zealand National Provincial Championship (NPC) Division II Champions 
  • 1995-1996 Ranfurly Shield Holders 
  • 1997 NPC Division I Champions 
  • 1998 Super 12 Rugby Champions 
  • 1998 NPC Division I Finalists
  • 1999 Super 12 Rugby Champions 
  • 2000 Super 12 Rugby Champions 
  • 2000 NPC Division I Finalists 
  • 2000-2003 Ranfurly Shield Holders 
  • 2001 NPC Division I Champions 
  • 2002 Super 12 Rugby Champions (unbeaten)
  • 2003 Super 12 Rugby Finalists 
  • 2004 Super 12 Rugby Finalists 
  • 2004 Ranfurly Shield Holders 
  • 2004 NPC Division I Champions 
  • 2005 Super 12 Rugby Champions 
  • 2006-2007 EDF Energy Anglo-Welsh Cup finalists
  • 2006-2007 Magners Celtic League champions
  • 2007-2008 European Rugby Cup quarterfinalists
  • 2007-2008 EDF Energy Anglo-Welsh Cup champions
  • 2009-2010 Guinness English Premiership finalists

International Rugby
  • 1996 Bledisloe Cup Champions
  • 1996 Tri-Nations Champions
  • 1996 New Zealand Tour of South Africa Series Winner
  • 1997 Bledisloe Cup Champions
  • 1997 Tri-Nations Champions
  • 1997 New Zealand-England Series Winner
  • 1999 Tri-Nations Champions
  • 1999 Rugby World Cup, Fourth Place
  • 2002 New Zealand-Ireland Series Winner
  • 2002 Tri-Nations Champions
  • 2003 Bledisloe Cup Champions
  • 2003 Tri-Nations Champions
  • 2003 Rugby World Cup, Third Place (bronze)
  • 2004 New Zealand-England Series Winner
  • 2004 Bledisloe Cup Champions
  • 2005 British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand Series Winner

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