Michael Jones bows out of top level rugby at the NPC final
October 22, 1999

One of New Zealand's greatest rugby stars, one-time All Black flanker Michael Jones, will Saturday say goodbye to top level rugby when he takes to Eden Park in Auckland colours to battle Wellington in the finals of the National Provincial Championships.
While the players will be engaged in serious struggle, the teams' mascots have been ordered into the stands and off the pitch after a fight last week in the semi-finals involving Auckland's representative.

Auckland are being tipped as favourites to win with the All Black-less side keen to honour "Iceman" Jones, the enormously admired scarred veteran now leaving rugby.

Long tipped as one of the best flankers ever in the game, Jones became celebrated for refusing to play rugby on a Sunday.

Jones, 34, played more than 50 games for the All Blacks between 1987 and 1998 and in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups scored the first tries.

Known for his humble attitude he has also survived and come back from a series of horrendous injuries.

Wellingtons mascot, Leo the Lion, will not be allowed on the side-lines because Aucklands mascot, Seagull, got into a fight last week with semi-finalist North Harbours mascot, Harbour Master.

Auckland Rugby Union chief executive Geoff Hipkins said there was a safety aspect to keeping mascots off the sidelines during the game.

"We bowed to extreme pressure to let the Harbour Master run around and damage was done after an altercation," he said.

Accounts of what happened vary enormously but appear to relate to Harbour Masters telescope and what Seagull did, in an allegedly crude manner, with it.

Losing All Blacks has proven to be no burden for Auckland with a number of rising stars showing up, particularly former Manu Samoa youngster Orene Aii.

Also in their line up are Eroni Clarke and Ofisa Tonuu.

Wellington, coached by former All Black Graham Mourie, have unexpectedly made it to the finals after years of choking before their loyal but usually disappointed fans.

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