Thu, May 30, 2024 9:14 AM

Lash minute call in


Jack Malcolm

Joining a new team isn’t easy at the best of times.

But the cards were stacked against James Lash over the weekend as he travelled North to stand in as starting first five-eighth for Suburbs RFC in Auckland’s premier league.

Add to the mix was that the game was a grudge match against Waitemata dubbed the Battle of the West, James also met his new teammates just hours before kickoff and had to tape his wrists to write down the team’s plays so he could remember them.

With just 30 minutes of game time under his belt in the last two seasons, as a stand-in for Waimea Old Boys the weekend before, James says he also hadn’t practised his goal kicking in over two years.

But that didn’t stop him from slotting the game-winning conversion through the uprights after the full-time hooter had sounded to secure a one-point win for his new team.

Not only that, but it sealed a monumental comeback after being down 0-26 with 20 minutes to play, to win 27-26.

“It’s awesome and what footy is about,” he says.

“I haven’t played since 2022, where I played one game for Buller and a few games for Waimea [OB] in the B grade.”

It had all started as a joke between friends but quickly snowballed into an experience James will never forget.

What was initially a throwaway comment on a group chat soon morphed into a post on his friend’s Instagram page, The Legend of Marty Banks, to almost 30,000 followers.

“Need a first-five for a weekend?” it read.

The post also featured highlights from James’ days in Buller, where he won Heartland Player of the Year in 2014, as well as clips from his most recent game, which showed that he still had the goods.

And it was convincing enough for Suburbs to get in touch and he was on a flight to Auckland less than 72 hours after the post was made.

Ahead of the game, he says the nerves were more about running the ship with crew mates he’d only just met, rather than the prospect of playing.

“Most crazy plays are a pass from 10, so you have to know who to pass to.

“It was all a random bit of a laugh, and now it’s come to reality it feels like a bit of a dream.

“Once the kids get old enough to understand and I can tell them, it’ll be a good story.”

James is unsure if standing in will be a one-off, saying it’s difficult to manage working five days a week and family life on top of going away for a weekend.

But, it’s not off the cards if the right opportunity presents itself, with James still neck deep in the rugby space as he’s set to be part of Buller’s coaching staff for their Heartland Championship chase this season.

“I’m enjoying this stage of my life and career,” he says.

“Ideally, teams should use their own players if they can, but anywhere I can grow the game I will.”

Nelson App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.