To play 50 games of representative rugby is no mean feat, but to achieve this accomplishment as a loan player with over 30,000 kilometres in his Nissan Nivara is simply astonishing.
Darfield lad Blair McIlroy has become a mainstay in the Buller number 6 jersey since his debut against Wairarapa Bush in 2010. He has formulated a special loose forward combination with his good mate Luke Brownlee who will play his 182nd game for Buller this weekend when McIlroy will lead out the Buller side against table topping Wanganui at Victoria Square in Westport on Saturday.
Buller currently sit in third place in the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship, which is also no mean feat in itself being the country’s smallest union, and this weekend’s clash will be pivotal to the outcome of the final standings.
McIlroy has relished every moment pulling on the cardinal and blue of Buller. He quickly impressed with his destructive tackling ability and perhaps his abnormal caffeine and smoking intake on match days. He very quickly ensconced himself in the Buller way of life and his hard-working and never say die attitude are just two of his many qualities that stand tall. Despite the pre-game rituals, McIlroy has perhaps one of the best work-rates you will likely come across in the competition. His ability to make countless big tackles, known as the “McIlroy handshake”, is quite phenomenal given his diminutive size.
McIlroy, a builder by trade now owns and manages his own business specialising in foundations in the Canterbury area, has had to sacrifice plenty to make this
milestone come to fruition. He has an extremely supportive family, wife Kelly and son Jack (1) have made many trips over the Alps to support Blair and have also enjoyed the Buller way of life. Twin brother Scott ‘scones’ McIlroy has joined Blair for 15 of those games for Buller and has also made many trips in support. Perhaps someone who has managed more kilometres than Blair during this 50 game career has been his father Grant McIlroy. Grant has barely missed a game that his boys have played for Buller including many trips to the North Island. He and wife Betty have been very supportive of the Buller environment and you can be rest assured they will be here to celebrate this wonderful achievement this weekend.
With already well over 100 games for his own Darfield club side as well as a season in the UK, it may come as no surprise that two shoulder reconstructions have come his way. Many, if not all, may see this as a chance to perhaps step back a little. Not McIlroy, no. He sees it as an opportunity to continue playing the game he loves and joining team-mates for a common cause, to enjoy success and a cold drink or two after the game.
Later this week, McIlroy will put the tools down for the week, step in his Nissan Nivara and make that all too familiar trip over the Arthurs Pass. At 2-00pm this Saturday, whether he likes it or not, the Buller community will rise as one to appreciate a great man and thank him for his contribution to Buller Rugby.