Trevor Manning was a classic example of "all good things come to
them that waits".
Manning was the back-up New Zealand team goalkeeper at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics and never played a match at either tournament. He'd been a member of the New Zealand side since 1967, but for most of his career was kept out of the top line-up by the talented Ross McPherson.
However, in Montreal in 1976 he was the No 1 goalie and played a full and vital part in the gold medal triumph.
By the time the New Zealanders got to Montreal, there was a vast reservoir of experience in the New Zealand team. Several players played for the University club, where they had been well-tutored by one of New Zealand hockey's best coaches, Cyril Walter. Of the team that went to Montreal, Paul Ackerley, Thur Borren, John Christensen and Tony Ineson, plus the Maister brothers, Barry and Selwyn, played for University.
Besides the core of Christchurch players, others in the team with previous Olympic experience were Alan McIntyre, Manning, Greg Dayman, Ramesh Patel, Jeff Archibald and Arthur Parkin.
The New Zealanders caused a shock at Montreal by beating Australia 1-0 to win the gold medal. It was not a triumph easily achieved - they won a thrilling play-off match against Spain 1-0 just 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.
The final, a torrid affair, tipped New Zealand's way when their captain, Ineson, smashed home a penalty corner shortly after halftime.
The bare facts don't reveal the drama that Manning was part of in the closing minutes of that exciting final.
With just 13 minutes remaining, the Wellingtonian stopped a powerful shot from Ian Cook, but had his kneecap smashed in the process, not that he knew it at the time.
After taking a few moments to recover from the blow, he did two full squats, which proved to the New Zealand team management that he was ready to resume playing. In hindsight, with the extent of his injury known, it was amazing that he could do such exercises - an example of what adrenalin can do. Manning, a courageous goalie, made another outstanding save near the end of the match.
He knew something was wrong soon after the final, when the knee began to swell alarmingly. His team-mates virtually hauled him on to the dais for the medal ceremony.
While the rest of the New Zealand players celebrated into the evening, Manning went back to the games village in agony. Doctors examined his knee the next morning and it was decided that he should return home before seeking further treatment.
Back in New Zealand Manning's knee became something of a cause celebre. He was off work for 13 weeks. It transpired that he was not covered by the hockey federation insurance scheme because he had been overseas when the injury occurred. And sports teams were not covered by ACC. The Government gave him $200 of lottery money and the Olympic association gave him $750, but even those gestures were fraught with controversy, because there were claims that by accepting the money Manning would be infringing his amateur status.
The knee took months to heal and though it eventually stopped troubling him, some wire was left in it permanently.
He never played in goal again, no so much because he'd become gun-shy, but because after a 12-year career that included three Olympic Games and had culminated in that gold medal, the challenge had gone.
Manning lost money because of the injury and the knee still pains him. But, he said, it was a small price to pay. "Yes, it has caused a lot of problems for me, but in the end I got the gold medal, and they can't take that away from me."
Manning, a waterside worker for many years, remained close to hockey, even though his career was virtually ended in that one moment during the 1976 Olympic final.
The 1976 Olympic hockey team was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.