1998

Coaches

Graham Henry, Mac McCallion

Manager

Rex Davy

Captain

Michael Jones

Player of the Year

Eroni Clarke


Blues structure changes 

In 1998, major changes were made to the geographical make-up of both the Blues and the Chiefs. Counties Manukau became part of the Waikato-based club, while North Harbour and Northland (previously under the Waikato Chiefs umbrella) headed north to join Auckland, which created the Blues club we have today. 

Blues on track for three-peat 

Despite a couple of away losses to Natal (then known as the Coastal Sharks) and to the Reds in Brisbane, the Blues topped the 1998 qualifying round-robin and looked poised to win the Super 12 for a third consecutive year. There were a couple of wobbles during the competition, with no one foreseeing the Crusaders’ upset. 

Injuries rock the Blues 

One setback to the season was the loss of the great Sean Fitzpatrick who succumbed to injury and retired earlier in the year. For the final, the Blues suffered a couple of key injuries, the first being a jet ski accident, which ruled out Fitzpatrick’s hooker replacement, Paul Mitchell and the second being Jones who struggled with injury through much of his career.  

Crusaders snatch victory 

But it was still a shock when on the Saturday afternoon final a late try by wing James Kerr, a draft player from Auckland, gave the Crusaders a 20-13 win. In many ways the Crusaders outsmarted the Blues, particularly with the contrasting use of substitutes. 

Crusaders coach Wayne Smith made shrewd use of his bench in what was still something of an innovation in the game. Henry, on the other hand held his replacements back, calculating that with the score 13-all for much of the second spell, extra time might be needed. 

Still, the Blues might have won the final and many a Blues supporter remained convinced that a series of attacking scrums in the second spell should have resulted in a penalty try from referee Paddy O’Brien. 

Season stats

  • Played: 11
  • Win: 9
  • Loss: 2
  • PF: 388
  • PA: 298
  • Diff: +90
  • BP 7
  • Points: 43
  • Place: 2nd