OBITUARIES

DANIEL HENRY "GUS" DUNN

Gatekeeper at Gate A, the main entrance to Eden Park. Born Opononi, April 12, 1947. Died Auckland, April 8, 1996, aged 49.

Daniel Dunn was one of the characters at Eden Park. During the football season, through rain, shine and the occasional hail, he would man Gate A in Reimers Ave, cheerfully waving through thousands of fans.

Unlike many who act like Horatio on the bridge or worse once they’ve donned a white coat, "Gus" was a benevolent custodian. He would acknowledge friends and strangers with a cheery wave. To some who had forgotten their pass, or were known to Dan, he would cast an expert eye over the main carpark and with a "Park her there; I’ll keep an eye on it", let them through.

Dan was known to the superstars and the premier grade reserves alike. As the former All Black star centre Joe Stanley put it: "Dan was a reminder that members of the squads come and go, but he was always on the gate."

The Auckland skipper of the record-breaking ‘80s and ‘90s Shield team, another All Black, Gary Whetton, said: "While the corporate heavies had all the flash car parks, the players' wives were low on the priority list.

"But Dan always managed to squeeze them in when they arrived right on kick-off after dispensing with the kids for the afternoon."

Current All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick said the Auckland team, during its run at Canterbury’s record tenure of the Ranfurly Shield, used Dan as a good luck charm, always entering through his gate before each challenge.

"The team used his presence as part of their ritual for major defences. The build-up was as it should be when Dan was on the gate," said Sean.

Dan was a rugby fan from his youth. In his playing days he played club rugby in Thames and on moving to Auckland he was a staunch Ponsonby man. His sons both play for Suburbs.

In 1985, Dan was on hand when Auckland played Canterbury at Lancaster Park in the historic challenge that saw the Log of Wood return north.

The players in that team would allow him into their exclusive club of friends invited into the dressing shed after a game at Eden Park for a post-match beer or three.

Dan was also a familiar sight to thousands of Auckland rail commuters during his career on City-Rail where he was a conductor-guard. As at Eden Park, his friendly smile often made the journey more pleasurable. Later, he worked at the Caltex Beach Rd service station, pumping gas on the night shift.

When the Auckland Rugby Union heard of Dan’s death, from a heart attack, two members of the staff were entrusted to deliver the Ranfurly Shield to Te Piringatahi o te Maungaarongo marae (it means “The uniting or bringing together of all people in peace”) at West Harbour. There they placed the most prized possession in New Zealand rugby at the foot of Dan’s coffin. It stayed there for two days as family and friends called to pay their last respects.

Dan was a big man and had much mana, and big men deserve more than one funeral service. At the first, at West Harbour, former Manu Samoa captain Peter Fatialofa, and one-time cornerstone of the All Black scrum Steve McDowell delivered eulogies on behalf of the Auckland rugby fraternity. Representing the current crop of players were Eroni Clarke and team manager Rex Davy.

For his last trip home to Thames, Dan was dressed in his Auckland Rugby Supporters’ Club blazer, tie and scarf. In the coffin with him was a sod from his beloved Eden Park turf, a bottle of his favourite wine, a bag of Oddfellows, a packet of his favourite fags, and a Super 12 blanket.

Another indication of what Auckland rugby felt about Dan were the two jerseys placed in his coffin – one from the Auckland union, the other, bearing the number 13, from Joe Stanley’s personal collection. After Dan was placed in the hearse, the Ranfurly Shield was laid beside him. The trip to Thames involved a detour to Eden Park. There, the shield was delivered back to its cabinet. Then Dan was taken home, out through Gate A in Reimers Ave for the final time.

- The Auckland Star, November 24, 1996. Reproduced with permission of the author, Tony Potter.