As an author of five books on hockey, and written hockey for the media since 1971, I enjoy keeping an eye on hockey developments across the world and in particular the clashes between New Zealand and Australia.
None more so than when New Zealand beat Australia in the traumatic 1-0 win in Montreal where the Kiwi's beat the Australians in the final to take Gold.
Few are aware of the story behind their win which was published in my book "World Hockey" in 1984 which features an article about the New Zealand men's hockey team and its remarkable Montreal 1976 Olympic 'Gold Medal' defeating Australia, 1-0.
Now, Three years ago, in 2009 another part of that story was revealed at the funeral service of the late Douglas White.
Mark Tronson and Mr Douglas Edward White, who died when 87, had been meeting regularly for lunch and for theological and philosophical discussions since I'd relocated to Tweed Heads at the end of 2005. Douglas White, a WW II veteran, had also earned a Masters of English.
On one occasion I had visiting theology students from Sydney's Baptist Theological College (Morling Lodge) join Douglas White for an hour's discussion.
In early 2006 I addressed the Tweed Heads Chamber of Commerce on my ministry and Mr Douglas White called me aside explaining that for many years in New Zealand, he served as a Master in University Colleges in Dunedin. He witnessed the stress that many of the brightest and best young men experienced, resulting in some taking their own lives.
As a result a deep friendship developed and I was invited by the family of the late Douglas White, to conduct the funeral, where he told this story of the theology students to the congregation: some saw Douglas White as Methuselah (because he was so old), Zechariah (because he looked and spoke like a prophet) and Catweasel (because he spoke in 12th century imagery).
Geoffrey White his son
Mr White's son, Geoffrey White, who came over from Dunedin, New Zealand, for his father's funeral, spoke of his father's astonishing ability to bring the best out of people, and this was most obvious when he coached sporting teams.
Geoffrey White said that he discovered the technique his father employed was intellectualising the problem area of the athlete. At that point he developed an idea for the athlete to employ with a simple redirection of play. In relation to wider strategy, the same applied. It was revolutionary. He commanded extremely high personal respect for his understanding of 'the inner athlete'.
The university teams that he coached won countless rugby and hockey championships within New Zealand, and he decorated his 'den' with framed photographs representing all these rewards.
After his son Geoffrey White spoke, Mark Tronson said he re-read the 10 page article he wrote in 'World Hockey' on that New Zealand 1976 Montreal Olympic Gold Medal, and realised that it spoke of the techniques that this New Zealand team had developed to counter the new European style of 'power hockey'.
The Dutch, West Germans, Spain, Great Britain and Belgium had reinvented hockey to put an end to the stranglehold the sub-continent nations (India and Pakistan) had on the sport.
Rather than competing with stick skills, the Europeans developed soccer tactics, by pushing the ball back to retain control. Goals came from penalty corner set plays with specialists corner strikers. West Germany won the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal, Holland the 1974 World Cup Gold Medal.
The New Zealand strategy that led to Gold
New Zealand for the 1976 Montreal Olympics came up with a strategy to counter this new European 'power hockey'. As a result, New Zealand drew with West Germany 1-1, beat Belgium 2-1, then Spain 1-0 and in the semi-final, defeated Holland 2-1, before putting paid to Australia 1-0 for the Gold Medal.
Until this international tournament New Zealand had never looked like making a semi-final. Thirty-three years later, Geoffrey White gave the secret away.
Six of the players, that is more than half the team, were from the Otago University hockey team that was coached by his father Douglas White. When they returned to Dunedin, it was revealed that the techniques Douglas White had suggested they employ to beat the European style of play, had been adopted in Montreal by coach Ross Gillespie.
In discussing this with Geoffrey White, the 'secret' Douglas White employed required the athlete to be super fit as it hinged on consistently pushing the play to the right side of the field, in effect boxing their opponents in, as they were used to confining themselves to their conventional positions.
It was a philosophical plan to upset the European's set play and gave just enough scope for the New Zealanders to snatch an occasional opportunity to score for themselves.
The Gold medal outcome was an undeniably a result of Douglas White's careful intellectual analysis on how the counter European set play patterns.