26 Jul 2016

1976: David vs Goliath

3:12 pm on 26 July 2016

Golden Moments - New Zealanders were spellbound by runners John Walker and Dick Quax at the Montreal Olympics but no one thought the hockey team had a chance. In fact, they almost didn't make it to the Games at all.

It was the ultimate underdog story: New Zealand versus Australia in the final of the men's hockey at the 1976 Olympics.

A rare photo of the entire 1976 Olympic men's hockey team

A rare photo of the entire 1976 Olympic men's hockey team. Photo: supplied

New Zealand had not beaten Australia in the last 13 times the two teams met.

The team only made it to Montreal by the skin of its teeth. An 18 man quad was considered almost too costly to send.

It was not an easy journey - they won a thrilling play-off match against Spain 1-0 to squeeze into the semi-finals.

There they caused an upset by beating the impressive Netherlands side 2-1 in the third period of extra time, with captain Tony Ineson providing a crucial goal from a penalty corner.

The final, a torrid affair, tipped New Zealand's way when Ineson smashed home a penalty corner shortly after half-time.

He scored the winning goal from a move perfected at practice in Hagley Park with Canterbury team-mates John Christensen and Barry Maister.

Drama with 11 minutes to go when a shot on goal from Australian forward Jim Irvine was bravely stopped by New Zealand's goal keeper, Trevor Manning.

The puck struck Manning square on the knee and he went down, but despite the pain Manning played on and made more crucial saves.

After the game Manning discovered his knee cap had been shattered.

They held on 1-0 to win the final and New Zealand's first and only hockey gold.

Suzanne McFadden, the author of Striking Gold, said it was the first Olympics New Zealand got live Television coverage.

"TVNZ had to make a decision very early before the games about what satellite coverage they needed to book ... hockey hadn't even featured in their thought process."

It was a special Olympic games on the track and New Zealanders were enthralled by John Walker's gold medal win in the 1500m.

John Walker running the 1500m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

John Walker running the 1500m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Photo: Photosport

Fortuitously, the men's hockey final was played straight after the 5000m final, in which Dick Quax won silver, which allowed the broadcaster to extend the satellite and televise most of the game.

Athletics commentator Brendon Telfer, who had limited knowledge of hockey, was suddenly asked to commentate the final.

"He had a day to go down to the shops in downtown Montreal and find a book about the rules of hockey so he could brush up on it," said McFadden.

"It was a Saturday morning in New Zealand and a lot of hockey was cancelled or delayed so that families could stay home and watch it on television."

The 1976 Olympic hockey team was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

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