CRL Grand Final specialist Blair Harding received a late call-up to tour Britain and France with the 1993 Kiwis.
The centre/winger made his first-grade debut with Hornby and represented Junior Kiwis in 1989, before featuring in the Panthers’ 1990-91 back-to-back Grand Final successes. Harding won a third straight premiership after joining Papanui in 1992.
A belated Canterbury debut arrived in 1993; Harding predominantly represented off the bench but he scored two tries in the famous 36-12 defeat of Auckland at a packed Addington Show Grounds in the First Division Grand Final. That big-match performance helped Harding snare a place as a last-minute replacement for injured centre superstar Jarrod McCracken in the Kiwis’ squad.
Harding earned his New Zealand stripes in a loss to Bradford Northern and played eight matches in Britain and France (no Tests), scoring a try in the win over Great Britain Under-21s.
The New Zealand Māori regular turned out for Canterbury Country Cardinals in the inaugural Lion Red Cup in 1994, while his late try clinched Papanui’s Grand Final win over Halswell.
Harding played for Christchurch City Shiners in the 1995 Lion Red Cup before returning to the Cardinals as captain in ’96. He also scored two tries in Canterbury’s gutsy Rugby League Cup challenge loss to Auckland in 1996.
He wasn’t finished picking up Grand Final winner’s medals, however, scoring a try in the Tigers’ 1998 victory over the Hornets and returning to the Panthers to celebrate in the club’s 2001 triumph.
Harding tragically passed in January 2004, aged just 32.
NEW ZEALAND (1993)
8 tour matches – 1 try (4 points)
-1993 Kiwis tour of Britain and France