Thousands turn out for cancer campaigner Blair Vining's tribute match

Southland rugby fans turned out in their thousands at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday for the tribute match to cancer campaigner Blair Vining. 

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry was back on the sidelines, coaching the team,  imparting his rugby wisdom for the special charity game.

In his team was a lineup of rugby stars from All Black legends through to loyal mates of Blair Vining. The game marking one year since Vining lost his own battle.

Corey Flynn, part of the Blair Vining Invitational team says he's feeling proud to be a part of the match. 

"I played rugby with and against Blair back in the day, when we were just young fullas.  Blair and Melissa are both household names in New Zealand now, so to be a part of it is pretty special."

Ali Williams and Carlos Spencer were among those dusting off their rugby boots and boxer Joseph Parker was called in to assist Israel Dagg with opposition tactics.

The colours of Vining's rugby club were on display at the game as well as at the Winton Cemetery, where a replica of his old jersey has just been installed over his headstone.

Vining's dying wish was for more timely access to healthcare for southerners. 

The community has been fundraising in his legacy to transform a pub into a charity hospital for the region, $4.5 million is needed to make the change.

Melissa Vining says they're on the way to their fundraising goal.

"We're sitting at about $1.7 million, so well on the way to our goal. We've had a huge number of tradespeople put their hand up to come and help us with the rebuild."

The real winner of today's match, Southland's Charity Hospital.