Hornby centre/five-eighth Mark Nixon was a key figure in Canterbury’s early-1990s golden era, while he played two Tests against Papua New Guinea in 1990 and toured Britain and France with the Kiwis three years later, captaining his country.
Nixon was a 19-year-old try-scorer as Hornby was edged 15-14 in the 1987 Grand Final by Halswell, before touring England with the Junior Kiwis. A provincial debut followed in 1988, scoring four tries in seven games for Canterbury. He spent a stint with Canberra Raiders in 1989 as part of the NZRL’s rookie scheme, before embarking on the first of back-to-back English off-seasons with Rochdale Hornets.
The experience in a professional environment helped lay the foundation for a glittering 1990 season for Nixon. After featuring in Canterbury’s historic win over Auckland, Nixon twice faced Great Britain – in the President’s XIII’s 23-22 loss and Canterbury’s 18-10 triumph – and earned a Kiwis call-up, sitting as an unused replacement in the first Test against the Lions.
Though left out of the squads for the remainder of the Great Britain series, Nixon was chosen in New Zealand’s contingent to tour Papua New Guinea and played in both Tests. He came off the bench to make his debut in the 36-4 series-opening win in Goroka, then partnered captain Gary Freeman in the halves as the Kiwis battled to an 18-10 victory in Port Moresby. Nixon capped the year by helping Hornby to premiership glory.
In 1991 Nixon captained New Zealand Colts to a 28-8 win over France, continued to be an automatic selection for Canterbury and again starred as the Panthers surged to Grand Final success, pairing in the halves with brother Justin at club and representative level.
While a Kiwis recall remained out of reach, Nixon skippered New Zealand Colts again in 1992 – this time in a loss to Papua New Guinea – and figured prominently for Canterbury, outplaying Test regular Tea Ropati in the iconic 36-12 drubbing of Auckland in the 1993 First Division final at Addington Show Grounds.
Nixon snared a place in the Kiwis’ 1993 touring squad and had the honour of captaining New Zealand in the first two midweek matches – losses to Bradford Northern and Castleford. He played in nine matches in Britain and France (no Tests).
Nixon turned out for Canterbury Country Cardinals in the 1994 and ’96 Lion Red Cup competitions, spent the 1994-95 English winter at Featherstone Rovers, featured in another Hornby premiership repeat in 1996-97 and extended his tally of appearances for Canterbury to 41 games in 1997.
NEW ZEALAND (1990, 1993)
2 Tests – 0 points
9 tour matches – 1 try (4 points)
-1990 Kiwis tour of Papua New Guinea
-1993 Kiwis tour of Britain and France