Bucket list rugby match a winner

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    Photos: Dave Loudon Photography

    THE Blair Vining Bucket List Rugby Game has been declared a huge success, after close to 4000 people attended the game and more than $100,000 was raised for the Blair Vining Sports Foundation.

    The game, which was held at Midlands Rugby Club grounds in Winton on Saturday, was in honour of Winton local and Midlands Rugby Club games record holder Blair Vining, who last year was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer, which spread to his liver and lungs.

    The funds raised from the game and the post-match black tie event are going towards the Blair Vining Sports Foundation, which aims to support athletes at Central Southland College and give them the same opportunities for further sporting endeavours as they would find in schools in larger population centres.

    Mr Vining first came up with the idea of holding a rugby game to help raise funds to send the Central Southland College first XV, a team which he coaches, to a tournament in Australia in April.

    The idea soon flourished and turned into the biggest rugby game seen in Winton in years with former All Blacks Jimmy Cowan and Mils Muliaina suiting up alongside other local stars and Mr Vining playing in the game.

    The match was also attended by All Blacks Anton Lienert-Brown and Sam Cane, who both relished the opportunity to be there to support Mr Vining.

    “I met Blair a couple of times and he is a great man and I think just what he is doing and for what he has been through is amazing,” Mr Lienert-Brown said.

    And despite being given medical advice not to play in the game, Mr Vining still took the pitch to the delight of the crowd and even managed to convert several field goals.

    Mr Vining’s wife and event organiser Melissa was overwhelmed with the turnout to the game.

    “I’m definitely sitting here just taking it all in and looking at the park and how packed it is. I’m just thrilled for Blair that all these people have turned out to support us today.”

    A post-match black tie event raised $100,000 from an auction, with further money raised from bar takings and donations received at the ground.

    An emotional Mr Vining was also made a life member of the Midlands Rugby Club during the evening.

    Mrs Vining said a positive scan from doctors on Monday had given her husband an opportunity to look at other avenues to help others.

    “Blair was told by the oncologist not to have any plans post the end of January because he had such an aggressive form of cancer. On Monday we came to Dunedin for a CT scan to see how things are going and he’s been given an additional three months, which takes us through to the end of April… so he’s heading up to Wellington on the 31st of January to present at the cancer conference about his journey in the hope that the government will create a cancer plan to make sure that other New Zealanders don’t go through what we’ve gone through.”

    Mrs Vining said her husband would now also hope to join the Central Southland College first XV on their tour to Australia.

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