Blair Furlong

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Blair Furlong
Date of birth (1945-03-10) 10 March 1945 (age 70)
Place of birth Dannevirke
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 89 kg (196 lb)
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position First five-eighth, Halfback
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1970  New Zealand 11 (32)

Blair Donald Marie Furlong (born 10 March 1945 in Dannevirke)[1] is a former New Zealand cricketer and rugby player.

Career[edit]

At just 18, one year out of Dannevirke High School, Furlong played for Hawke's Bay in their midweek match against the touring 1963 England side. It was an immensely strong Bay side at the time and the game against England was comfortably won.

In the next three seasons Furlong, who at 1.83m and nearly 90 kg was a big man for a first five eighths at that time, was not always a first choice for the Bay. Some questioned whether he had quite the agility for an inside back and just as often he was used as a fullback.

After briefly playing for Wellington B in 1966 and Bay of Plenty early in 1967 Furlong midway through the 1967 season began what was the most effective period of his rugby career. This was as the first five in the Bay's golden Ranfurly Shield era which lasted until 1969.

Furlong became one of the Bay's mainstays in retaining the shield when Wellington strongly challenged at the end of the 1967 season. Furlong, who in 1963 had missed a late dropped goal against Auckland which would have meant an historic win, this time dropped the goal which gave the Bay a 12-all draw.

Although he never actually played for a national Maori side, Furlong had a trace of Maori ancestry. And this plus his solid form for the Bay in 1967–69 made him a contender for the All Black side to tour South Africa in 1970.

Some have suggested that the need to have a number of Maori players in the side, after they had been excluded for all previous tours, was a factor in Furlong's eventual selection over another inside back candidate, Auckland's Alan Watkins.

But Furlong played well in his two trials, one at first five eighths and the other at fullback, and his record for the Bay made him a worthy selection. On the hard grounds of South Africa Furlong sometimes struggled but he played in 11 of the tour matches, nine at first five and two at fullback, and gained his cap in the fourth test of the series. A competent kicker, he contributed 32 points from 10 conversions, three penalties and a dropped goal.

He had another trial in 1971 but was not considered for that year's series against the Lions. His tactical nous was recognised, though, with his appointment as the Bay captain in 1971. He played 12 matches for the Bay in what was his farewell season, including that against the Lions, to bring his total for the union to 77.

Furlong later coached and administered at Hawke's Bay union level. But his other sporting passion took over in his later years and he was a long term chief executive of the Central Districts association.

Furlong played at first class level for some seasons with the Central Districts Stags and as an off spin bowler in 1965 achieved a hat-trick for a New Zealand under 23 selection against Canterbury. He is the father of cricketer Campbell Furlong.

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