Melville Griffins off to the Masters

Player-coach-manager Neil Mouncher has named an experienced Melville Griffins team to contest the New Zealand Masters Games (Over 45s Men) in Whanganui next year.

“We’ll be hard to beat,” Mouncher said in announcing his selection for a tournament which runs from Friday February 8 until Sunday February 10, 2019.

“As my son Thomas might say, this is a team that looks like it has just walked out of a retirement village, and there is certainly a weatherbeaten feel to it.

“But it’s also a very well balanced team – most of these players have got a chip on both shoulders.”

The squad features three sets of brothers in Stu and Bruce Timings, Phil and Steve Wheatley, and the Bouma twins, Wytse and Merv.

Another interesting inclusion is team sponsor, “Local” Darby McDonald, principal of Research Motors.

As a specialist No 9 batsman, McDonald usually devotes himself exclusively to lower grade club cricket prior to Easter.

“But when I heard Tony van Govorko was down to be one of the squad’s minibus drivers I thought it was rather important that I was also in the travelling party,” McDonald said.

More controversially still, Mouncher has pulled in a couple of guest players in Wanderers’ women’s team coach Steve Cox, and Claudelands Rovers assistant northern league coach Shane Comber.

“It always improves the quality of the banter when you’ve got a token player from Wanderers,” explained Mouncher, who last month won Troll of the Year at Melville prizegiving.

“And with Shane, well he just floats around anywhere from season to season, doesn’t he? So he could well be back at Melville next year anyway for all we know.”

Former Melville striker Marc Who will also travel with the team as waterboy, thanks to the inclusion of his step-father, Kris Allen, who is coming out of retirement. Marc is only 37, but because he looks 46, hopes to sneak a run or two, probably under Darrien Jamieson’s name.

Meanwhile Mouncher, 62, was happy to contextualise the decision to adapt the name of Melville Griffins for the Masters Games.

“The Melville AGM spoke loudly last year in giving the horns down to the Unicorns nickname,” he said. “There was some pretty clear disambiguation at work there. Nobody wants to play leap-frog with a unicorn.

“The subliminal message to rank and file club members was that once the only nickname that really made sense for the club in terms of its own history had been rejected, it was up to us to come up with a more inventive alternative.

“In animal mythology the griffin combines the king of beasts – the lion – with the king of birds – the eagle.

“So it’s offering pretty powerful symbolism when you consider the traits of courage, boldness, strength and leadership.

“It would be a fantastic long-term fit for the club if we were to turn a blind eye to history and change our traditional club crest from Unicorns to Griffins.

“Essentially Whanganui will be a test-drive for the Griffins.”

Mouncher said his own preference would be to adopt the classical Greek spelling, as favoured by Aristeas of Proconnessus, and call the team the “Melville Gryphons”.

“That would avoid confusion not only with biscuit brands, but also with aberrant Melville matchday bloggers.

“But on the other hand, can you imagine the spelling issues we would have if we were asking Big Phil or Marc Who to do the team cards for the Gryphons?”

Mouncher said he had circulated minimum fitness expectations to all squad members.

“It’s very pleasing to hear Phil Wheatley is now walking over 10km every day in an orderly fashion.”

For his part, Mouncher said he had been working extra hard in the gym on getting his neck veins to bulge as they did when he was really angry back in his heyday in the late 1970s.

“This tournament represents an Indian summer for most of our squad members,” he said. “For many of the lads, they will be making one last trip to the well, and we want them to go out on a high note.

“In the lost works of Aeschylus and Herodotus, gryphons were said to lay eggs consisting of golden nuggets. And at Whanganui the Melville Griffins will certainly be looking to lay claim to gold.”

Melville Griffins: Neil Mouncher (manager-coach) Stu Timings, Bruce Timings, Shane Comber, Kris Allen, Gary Monaghan, Phil Wheatley, Steve Wheatley, Darby McDonald, Darrien Jamieson; Merv Williams, Wytse Bouma, Lance Bauerfiend, Tony van Govorko, Julian Ford, Todd Nasmith, Steve Cox, Shawn Rogers, Simon Leadley. Sponge boy: Marc Who.

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