The 1981 series between New Zealand and South Africa will be remembered for a long time, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. The presence of the Springboks on New Zealand soil caused outrage amongst certain sections of the population and the tour was marred from start to finish by protests. In the final test at Auckland, a Cessna light aircraft made repeated sorties over the stadium, strafing the pitch with flower bombs, one of which scored a direct hit on Gary Knight. The Wellington born prop was temporarily stunned and the referee offered both captains the option of stopping the game. However, play continued, with New Zealand eventually running out narrow 25-22 victors in what was a nailbiting contest. After earlier scoring the only try of his international career, and a crucial one at that, Gary must have felt a little hard done by. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the last official series between the two nations for more than ten years.
By 1983 Gary and his fellow front rowers Ashworth and Dalton had become an institution, and their title of "the Geriatrics" was based on their longevity in the side rather than any doubts about their athleticism! New Zealand's back play in this era was below previous standards and many of their victories were by the narrowest of margins. Therefore, the importance of the All Black's forward power cannot be overestimated. The Geriatrics contributed to several series wins during this era, including convincing triumphs over the British Lions, Australia and England. Gary would also duel again with the Lions in a special one off match against the Rest of the World in 1986 (see photo above). Unfortunately, time caught up with the respected front row trio and none of them would participate in the 1987 World Cup. Ashworth played his last test in 1985, whilst Gary's career ended a year later. Meanwhile, the last survivor of the three, Andy Dalton, would have played if not denied by injury. Gary, or "Axle" as he became known, played 36 tests in total for New Zealand, with his final appearance coming against Australia in Auckland. Outside of rugby he was a farmer by trade and a Commonwealth Games standard wrestler. (Jon Collins)