West Coast product Brent Stuart broke into the New Zealand team after shifting to Canterbury, playing 14 Tests during a four-season stretch despite fierce competition for Kiwis front-row spots during the 1990s.
Reefton-born Stuart was a New Zealand age-group rep and first represented West Coast in 1984 as a teenaged second-rower. The Greymouth Marist tyro’s rapid progress continued in 1985, playing all four of South Island’s games and collecting man-of-the-match honours in a 12-all draw with Auckland.
Stuart’s projected rise to national honours did not immediately materialise, but he captained West Coast in 1988-89 – including in a memorable win over Canterbury in the latter season, during which he also featured in the Kiwi trial – before moving to Christchurch and joining Addington.
The 24-year-old scored two tries in the Magpies’ gallant loss to Hornby Panthers in the 1990 CRL Grand Final and earned a call-up to the Canterbury provincial team. He was a mainstay for his new province in 1991 and played in the Kiwi trial, while also winning the DV Syme Rosebowl as CRL Sportsman of the Year.
Another strong Kiwi trial performance garnered a Test debut (alongside another first-timer and fellow Canterbury-based Coaster, Quentin Pongia) for the one-off against Papua New Guinea in 1992, scoring a try in a 66-10 rout at Mt Smart Stadium. Stuart subsequently retained his starting prop spot for both matches of the gripping drawn series against Great Britain and spent the following off-season with English club Halifax.
Overlooked for the 1993 mid-season series against Australia, Stuart outplayed Test incumbent Se’e Solomona in Canterbury’s 36-12 triumph over Auckland in First Division final at Addington Show Grounds and was selected in the Kiwis’ squad to tour Britain and France.
Stuart played in all five Tests on tour against Wales, Great Britain and France, among a total of nine appearances.
From one flock of Magpies to another, Stuart joined Sydney club Western Suburbs in 1994 and cemented a front-row spot during the second half of the season. The rugged veteran toured Papua New Guinea with Kiwis at the end of the year and came off the bench in the second-Test win at Port Moresby.
Stuart played 20 top-grade games for Wests under the coaching of legendary former Australian halfback Tommy Raudonikis in 1995 and was a front-row starter in all five mid-season Tests against France and Australia. Named in Frank Endacott’s squad for the Centenary World Cup in England, Stuart did not feature in any of the Kiwis’ three games.
The 31-year-old left the Magpies at the end of 1996 and linked with Illawarra Steelers but was did not play first grade for the club. Returning to Christchurch, Stuart played for Canterbury in the 1998 National Provincial Competition.
Stuart turned his hand to coaching, serving at Phil Prescott’s assistant in the Canterbury Bulls set-up for five seasons before taking on the head coach role for the Bulls and South Island Scorpions for six years – a tenure highlighted by Canterbury’s 2009 Bartercard Premiership success.
At club level, Stuart steered Papanui Tigers to Grand Finals in 2008 and 2010 during a four-season stint, then took the reins at Hornby Panthers and won back-to-back CRL premierships in 2012-13.
NEW ZEALAND (1992-95)
14 Tests – 1 try (4 points)
6 tour matches – 2 tries (8 points)
-1993 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
-1994 Kiwis tour of Papua New Guinea
-1995 Kiwis World Cup squad