As the Lions roll into Hamilton to play the Chiefs, the coach will no doubt be regaling anyone who’ll listen with the story of the time he played for Waikato against the tourists in 1993.
Most people with a brief knowledge of Lions coach Warren Gatland know that the first encounter he had with the famous touring side was scoring the easiest try of his career against them in 1993.
It came late in Waikato’s thumping 38-10 victory at Rugby Park. By that stage, Mooloo fans were already throwing back the watery local draught in celebration of another famous day in a golden period for the union. The Ranfurly Shield holders had knocked off the Lions, helped by a couple of tries to cult hero Duane Monkley.
Then came Gats, sneaking around the blindside after a nice little movement down the touchline. He shows he’s obviously played his whole life in the front row with a flop, rather than a dive, after an untouched run in.
It’s been 24 years since Gatland put the icing on the cake of that victory, and the hairs on his head are definitely greyer – probably from having to coach Wales for as long as he has. But the haircut he sported when he across the tryline that day has remained, remarkably, exactly the same for that entire time.
Gatland’s military style buzz-cut seems to have been a part of his life forever. It’s the sort of dependable look that was the basis of this classic Simpsons joke from back when the show hadn’t had ten too many seasons.
Short back and sides. He obviously thinks you can’t go wrong with that look, even if the top of his noggin looks like it’s been sanded down due to the way scrums were back in the day. You can tell that the old ‘swinging drawbridge’ style of scrum engagement definitely caused some erosion to the dome of his scalp.
So why has Gats stuck with the whole J Jonah Jameson look for all these years? I did a bit of research and it seems like most notable front rowers have too, although their styles aren’t always quite as severe.
Sean Fitzpatrick stuck with his more or less the same style from his days as legendary captain to Northern Hemisphere apologist. Richard Loe lost his intimidating moustache, but never ventured far from a simple look on top. Keith Wood had no choice, he was clearly an inductee into the bald brotherhood from an early age. The only thing Brian Moore has changed is taking the tape off his head.
While the hard men of the front row have never thought it appropriate to ask the advice of a barber about the changes in men’s contemporary fashion, thankfully some of the backs have. After all, it would be quite ridiculous to see Andrew Mehrtens rocking the same bowl cut he had back in the 90’s now – mainly because it was ridiculous back then anyway.
But back to Gatland. Right now getting a new hairstyle and remembering his heroics back in ’93 are probably the furthest things from his mind. There’s less than a week to go until D-Day against the All Blacks, and he’s already facing a hostile reception to the Welsh no-names he’s rung in to the Lions squad. The pressure is firmly on, and since Eden Park is hosting the first and third tests, Auckland could be the city where his legacy is defined.
Maybe if he wins he can go to a barber and get something done about updating his lid.