Biography

Les Wilson
Born 1952

Les Wilson of Wanganui was the back-up goalie to Trevor Manning in the 1976 New Zealand Olympic hockey team and, like Northlander Neil McLeod, was not awarded a gold medal because he did not take the field during the tournament.

The controversial International Olympic Committee rule has since been abandoned and these days every player in the team would be awarded a medal, regardless of whether he took the field.

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, Tony Ineson, smashed home a penalty corner shortly after halftime.

The New Zealand team management learned only at the semi-finals stage that their reserves would not be eligible to receive medals if they did not at least take the field, but decided that they could not afford to risk shuffling the team about at that late stage.

Wilson, a long-serving Wanganui representative, contributed heavily to hockey in his region, through coaching and administration. He also continued to play at masters level for many years.

For a time, Wilson was a boilermaker, but he later became managing director of his own company, manufacturing shelving for shops and supermarkets.

The 1976 Olympic hockey team was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.