VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
THE STORY OF THE GREEN AND
GOLDS

1902 – 1987

By JOHN ANDERSON

Table of Contents

Front Cover
Acknowledgements

I express my warm thanks to the many people who have been helpful with ecollections, impressions and hard facts – former players, coaches, administrators and supporters. I assure them I am very grateful for their time and assistance, but while I shall not attempt to name them all there are some who must be mentioned. In no particular order they are –

Dick Burke, Doug Edwards, Henry Moore, Craig Mackenzie, Sam Meads, Blair Wingfield, Collie Henderson, Ken Comber, John Millar, Peter Osborne, Terry Reilly, Ted Thomas, Simon Kember, David Jones, James Hall, Dick McGrath and the late Harry Arndt, John Carrad and Fred Cormack. Also to Charmian Heiford for her assistance.

Grateful acknowledgement is also made to the General Assembly Library, Victoria University Library, Rugby Weekly, NZ Free Lance, Sports Post and the Evening  Post and Dominion newspapers. The NZ Rugby Almanac and the Encyclopedia of NZ Rugby have been valuable reference sources.

John Anderson
December 1987

Ronald Alexander Jarden

1929 – 1977

“A fine athlete, a lover of trees and the sea, an outstanding administrator, and a
distinguished Wellingtonian.

‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete but only one receives the prize. So run that you may obtain.’ 18/2/77”
(Taken from a plaque at the entrance to Wellington Cathedral)

An appreciation of Ron Jarden by a team-mate:

Ron Jarden – The ‘Ace’ of Matchwinners

Ron didn’t enjoy the accolade of ‘ace’ conferred on him by one of the Club’s legendary club captains, but if ‘ace’ means top of the heap, he certainly was that in the matchwinning stakes.

Ron was a matchwinner without peer, certainly from the time he first played, and
very likely up until that time.

From the time he played in his first test match for New Zealand no selection panel would ever risk leaving him out even if he had been playing below form . He had this incredible, explosive ability to win matches whether it was by scoring tries himself, making them for others or by kicking goals. One should also remember the teams who were so paranoid about him they left others unmarked.

If you win a match when the whole team plays well and perhaps the bounce of the ball goes with you – that’s fine: quite frequently and in a most memorable fashion Ron did win matches for Victoria (and Wellington and New Zealand) where the run of play was not in our favour and a lot of people were writing the team off.

For instance, twice in club games in 1954 (one of them the final against Petone)
Ron scored fantastic last minute tries to save us from defeat.

Ron Jarden was a tremendously talented person – in more ways that one – and
he built on this talent by developing his individual skills to an extremely high level. In the ‘golden’ era of the fifties a lot of people contributed to the successes the Club enjoyed – players, coaches and supporters – but you simply have to give Ron a large portion of the credit.

Bill Clark
13 July 1987

Introduction

Participation in sport has always been a tradition at our universities. It came to Victoria College with the four foundation professors – H. Mackenzie, J.R. Brown, TH. Easterfield and R.C. Maclaurin – men steeped in the university traditions of their homeland. So Victoria inherited the English belief that sport provides valuable regeneration for a tired brain.

The student athlete however tends to differ somewhat in attitude from the average sportsman. To the student sport is primarily recreation, a relief, however brief, from his main preoccupation, the forbidding demands of study. It provides an opportunity not only for mental and physical refreshment but for carefree enjoyment, sometimes even exuberance.

Sport to the student is a pastime rather than a way of life. And of course every student has faith in his own ability so that, especially in team sports, the activity is often a little undisciplined – individualistic even. Thus university teams are often somewhat disorganised and the penchant of their members for self-expression is often barely curbed .

Don Cameron (On the Lions Trail, p. 81) makes a similar point: Welcoming the appointment of Bryce Rope as chairman of the All Black selection panel he says, “Any man who has reasonable success selecting and coaching university sides in New Zealand is entitled to the warmest respect. I have seen coaches going grey before their time as they have tried to channel the diverse talents and mentalities of university players into some kind of coherent performance. One university coach of recent times in Auckland once remarked that he was trying to coach 15 geniuses who all had different ideas about how to play the game, and quite often played that way.”

“So from his university days Rope gained a lot in the important area of man management and, very likely, he also gained a lot in what might be called mental agility – in other words, of keeping ahead of 15 geniuses.”

This, then is the story of a university club whose fortunes have fluctuated more than most; a club that was born of optimism (a trait it has never discarded) and a spirit of adventure; a club that spent its first 18 years (admittedly interrupted by a world war) seeking maturity; thrilled the crowds as never before when it reached a peak in the 20’s, spent all the 30s in the doldrums, yet survived a second world war and surprised even Wellington’s rugby writers by winning the Jubilee Cup the year after the war ended. It then went into retreat for five years only to become a legend as it again, after a break of 30 years, attracted crowds of 12,000 or more to Athletic Park where it established fresh scoring records; staged some remarkable thrilling rugby in the 60s and slowly slumped as the ?Os wore on. It’s renaissance has not yet begun, but its former capacity to storm the heights one season and plumb the depths the next has been compressed into an almost weekly occurrence. Its only predictable feature today is its unpredictability.

It is also the story of rugby at a university that serves a geographically large district but has no long-running courses like medicine or dentistry to help it retain players as they mature. As a result big solid forwards are seldom available, the turnover of players is high and the pool of former players who might coach or organise financial and administrative support is small.

1. The Beginnings 1902-08

1902

In the winter of 1902 a group of students at Victoria University College gathered to consider the playing of rugby football as part of the sporting and social life of the new university college. The first college team ever assembled had already defeated an ‘Old Boys’ side 19- 12 at Athletic Park that year.

That first somewhat unorthodox-looking team is listed in the very first issue of the Victoria University College review, Spike, of June 1902 as follows : Backs – Bogle, Stuckey, Fall, Sellar, Logan; Forwards – Wills, Kitching, Matheson, Johnston, Gawaith, Beere, de la Mare, Seddon, Ostler (captain). A further incentive to the formation of a club was provided by Sydney University which had already opened discussions on an interchange of visits with NZ university teams, an arrangement which was later to prove a popular part of the season.

It may be that there was an over-enthusiastic reaction in some quarters to the win over ‘Old Boys’ for the supporters did not carry the day and no club was formed at that time. However the Students’ Association appointed an ad hoc committee of four (all players), S.W. Gawaith, FA. de la Mare, D. Matheson and H.H. Ostler, to examine the question of football generally. Since the College did not have a building of its own, nor even a plot of land (though the inevitable argument over which of several sites should be chosen was in full cry) the meeting was held where lectures were then held, at the Girls High School. The date was March 1903, six years after the establishment of the College.

1903

The 17 students present at the meeting carried the motion of H.H. Ostler “That in the opinion of this meeting the time has come when a football club should be formed.” With some disagreement they went on to resolve by 11 votes to 4, with two abstentions, “That a Victoria College Football Club be formed .”

The meeting elected a committee of nine, all of whom were to become well known in the world outside the College – G.V. Bogle, W. Gillanders, A.H. Johnstone, FA. de la Mare, R. Mitchell, H.H. Ostler, A.G. Quartley, R.G.M. Park and A. Tudhope. They called the first Annual General Meeting for 2 April the same year. Sixteen members attended. “Some were cripples,” says the report, “but all were enthusiasts.”

Professor Von Zedlitz occupied the chair and became the first president. Other officers elected were: Patron, Professor Easterfield ; Club Captain, H.H. Ostler; Vice Captain, FA. de la Mare; Secretary, G. V. Bogle; Treasurer, A.H. Johnstone; Committee, A.G. Quartley, A. Tudhope, W. Gillanders; Delegates to Wellington Rugby Football Union, Ostler and Johnstone.

The new club quickly obtained affiliation with the Wellington Rugby Football Union and entered two teams in the Union’s competitions, one in the junior and one in the third class. The Club’s registered colours were a light blue jersey with a maroon fringe.

The first two rugby teams ever to represent Victoria University College in open competition were drawn from the following squads (there is some duplication of names and no doubt the players moved from one squad to the other): Junior Grade – H. Banks, G.V. Bogle, FA de la Mare, G.H. Fell, E.J. Fitzgibbon, C. Freyberg, W. Gillanders, J.H. Goulding, J. Hardy, J.J. Hay, J.S. Hay, P.C. Hay, G.M. Hogben, A.H. Johnstone, P.W. Jackson, H.W. King, B.W. Millier, B. Mitchell, H.H. Ostler (captain), R.G.M. Park, A.G. Quartley, G.G. Smith, C.H. Taylor, A. Tudhope, A. Wedde, A.J. Wills. Third Class – FA. de la Mare (captain), FC. Douglas, E.C. Feltham, C. Freyberg, J.H. Goulding, G.M. Hogben, A.H. Johnstone, S. Johnstone, H.W. King, A.J. Luke, K. McKenzie, B. Mitchell, G. Moir, H. Newbury, G.G. Smith, K. Smyth, M.W.C. Sprott, J.F Strang, A. Wedde, W. Wilson.

In this historic year of 1903, the College as we know it now did not exist. It had no buildings of its own; the four original professors were still delivering their lectures to a mere 191 students in the old Girls’ High School; the ‘Old Clay Patch’ of later fame had not yet felt the impact of pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. Indeed the College was only six years old, the South African war was still fresh in people’s thoughts, George Bernard Shaw was strutting the English stage, Edith Searle Grossman was writing about the intellectual Englander – an exile in a primitive society – and William Satchell was searching the North Auckland goldfields for material for a novel. Writers were singing the praises of social advancement and the alert left was appearing. A liberal Prime Minister Richard John Seddon, ‘King Dick’, held centre stage. Victorianism was waning. The College, established in 1897, had gained the name Victoria by the skin of her teeth for by then the old Queen had only a short time to live.

Despite its youth, or perhaps because of it, there was tremendous enthusiasm for al l College activities from debating and the arts to sport. By 1903 tennis (1900) and hockey (1901) had already been officially recognised . Rugby arrived in 1903 to be followed by athletics in 1904. Surprisingly cricket did not appear officially until 1906.

On the rugby field success was slow to show her golden wings. The First XV lost all its nine games (points for 15, against 121) and the Seconds left it until late in the season to record Victoria’s first wins in open competition – they beat Poneke 8- 3 and Melrose 16- 8. Their record for the season was played 10, won 2, lost 8, points for 32, against 236. Spike said the First XV were beaten but not disgraced and blamed lack of training for the poor results. Of the second team they said “They were baffled to fight better.”

The first annual report mentioned the difficulties under which the young club had laboured and added “After all, perhaps the highest object of any club is the promotion of good fellowship, and in this respect the club has been a great success.”

1904

The officers elected for the 1904 season were: Patron, Professor Easterfield; President, Professor Von Zedlitz; Club Captain, H.H. Ostler; Deputy, FA. de la Mare (who also captained the First XV); Secretary, C. Freyberg.

The 1904 season was an important one for the Club. They added to their ranks Thomas A. Hunter, newly appointed lecturer in mental and moral philosophy, a man who was to have a great impact not only on the club but on the College. A five-eighth, his playing and coaching are credited with the improvement in the team’s performance.

They won the College’s first victories in the junior grade, playing 10 games for 4 wins (1 by default) and 6 losses, scoring 33 points to 79. The third class team, captained by J.B. Reid, played 12, won 1, lost 11 (1 by default) and scored only 3 points to 200 against.

Thomas Hunter was not only enthusiastic and ambitious, but optimistic. When the Annual General Meeting came round on 8 September 1904 he moved, and H.H. Ostler seconded, “That in 1905 the College should enter a senior team in the Wellington Union’s competition” thus demonstrating the perpetual and still prevalent philosophy of the campus “Hope springs eternal”. Hunter said “Rugby is more than a partial impact of blind atoms. It is a game of brains … the principal difference … between junior and senior football is that junior is slightly rougher.”

Looking back, Spike of 1934 says the motion was carried despite many misgivings. In view of the top team’s miserable record in junior grade who can wonder at that, even though the student roll had risen to 254. Reporting the Annual General Meeting Spike says “No one was bold enough to predict that we would win any matches in the senior grade, but of course that was not our object. We must justify our position this year in order to improve our standing for next year.”

1905

About this time the green of the trees and the gold of the blooming gorse were the favoured colours of the university and the Club adopted the now familiar green and gold for its uniform. Spike said “We may be considered the greenest team in the competition. We certainly look much prettier than formerly.” As well as the seniors a third class team was entered. The optimistic Tommy Hunter was promptly declared Captain of the senior team amid praise for his enthusiasm, his generalship and his football ability. Professor Von Zedlitz was elected Patron: Professor Kirk, President; H.H. Ostler, Club Captain; FA. de la Mare, Deputy Captain and G.V. Bogle Secretary.

Other new clubs admitted to the Wellington Rugby Union that year were Institute Old Boys, St Davids, United and Star Boating, but they have all faded away. Altogether in 1905 the Union organised competitions for 58 teams from 20 clubs.

The green and golds did not fare too badly in their first senior season. They played 9 games, won 2, (over Poneke 9-5 and Wellington 3-0) lost 6 and drew 1, scoring 30 points to 109 against. The third class team played 10, won 5, lost 4, and drew 1, scoring 54 points to 70.

In the same year the Club played its first inter-college games, losing to Otago 0-13 and beating Canterbury 8-6. No more games were played against Otago but the Canterbury fixture continued for many years.

In these more materialistic times it is interesting to note that two idealistic players turned down the chance to be the College’s first Wellington representatives so that they could play for the College against Otago University. They were the captain, TA. Hunter (later Sir Thomas and College principal) and FA. de la Mare. Instead the honour went in the following year, 1906, to G.V. Bogle, a fine defensive back and foundation committee member. He captained Wellington B against Horowhenua and shortly afterwards played for Wellington A against Otago.

The Spike of October 1905 concluded its review of the season with a reference to the decision to play senior grade “We feel our position has been justified.” Ironically, or perhaps a glimpse of events then nearly 50 years ahead, the rugby review was immediately preceded by a story on “The Decadence of Rugby Football.”

Meanwhile the battle of the sites had been lost and won and a brick structure was being erected on part of ‘The Old Clay Patch’. That edifice is now revered as the Hunter Building. On 9 September 1905, the day the tennis club started excavating its corner of the ‘Old Clay Patch’, the premier, Richard John Seddon, who with Sir Robert Stout had helped to found a university college in Wellington, arrived on horseback to survey the proceedings – and be photographed astride his mount.

1906

Club membership doubled to over 60 in 1906. Four teams were entered for very little profit – the First XV, led by G.V. Bogle, played 10 games, won 2, lost 7 and drew 1, scoring 61 points to 163; the juniors under J.B. Reid played 6 and lost 6, scoring 0 points to 84 against; Three A under B.W. Millier played 14, won 8, lost 4, drew 2 and scored 134 points to 36, a most creditable performance; Three B led by A. Fair played 12, won 2, lost 10 and scored 36 points to 267.

Victoria beat Canterbury 16- 11 (it was described as a lucky win) but was thrashed by the touring Sydney University team 31 – 3 in its first encounter with an overseas side. The senior squad was J.G. Jordan, FA de la Mare, A. Tudhope, W. Gillanders, A.H. Bogle, A.D. Lynch, B.W. Millier, L. Short, G.V. Bogle (captain), F.C. Thompson, W. Tudhope, J.H. Goulding, E.F. Simpson, A.E. Dobbie, J.C. Patrick, F.A. Wilson.

Professor G.W. Von Zedlitz was Patron; former First XV Captain T.A. Hunter was both President and Club Captain; W. Gillanders was Vice Captain and K. McKenzie Secretary. F.A. de la Mare was President of the Students’ Association.

Reviewing the season Spike said “Since the beginning the history of the Club has been one of striving and aspiring. In 1902 we played one match but could not form a club. After the Club was formed and the First XV began to win a few games we decided to terrify the senior teams by moving up a step. The greatest difficulty is the lack of time and facilities for training. As a result the team’s main weakness was want of combination and weak tackling.” In piquant note the editor of Spike disclaimed responsibility for errors “because of the service he received from the Club.”

The complaint about training facilities was not without foundation: the only opportunity for regular training was at 7.00am on the Nairn St reserve, a considerable distance across town – the 1984 senior team regarded its use as quite out of the question.

1907

The following year, 1907, was no better – in fact the First XV did not win a single competition game. The win against Canterbury College 12- 9 was the only glimmer of light in the long dark tunnel. lllA started well but by the end of the season Spike had to confess “the junior and third teams have not quite fulfilled their early promise, but have given a good account of themselves nevertheless.” Reviewing the season Spike said “There is no royal road to success and an extensive acquaintance with defeat will enhance the joy of success when it comes, as it surely will.”

The field captains were: First XV, G.V. Bogle; Second XV, George W. Reid; lllA, G.C. Boyce; lllB, H.L.P. Dyett. Bogle again won representative selection.

There was more criticism of the lack of training facilities, which were considered to have contributed to the poor performances on the field . The College had to wait until 1909 before the gymnasium made its brooding appearance overlooking the tennis courts on the last vacant portion of the Old Clay Patch. That the building was erected at all was largely due to the efforts of the rugby club and the energetic Tommy Hunter. (History repeated itself at mid-century when there was again complaint about the lack of training facilities. These ended when the present clubrooms and gymnasium were constructed and Boyd Wilson Field became available.)

The Annual General Meeting in March 1907 had elected Professor Von Zedlitz as Patron; T.A. Hunter, President; G.V. Bogle, Club Captain; B.W. Millier, Deputy and G.W. Reid Secretary. The subscription was raised to 7s 6d.

Deeds of earlier days were remembered and officially recognised by the election of A.H. Johnstone, H.H. Ostler, W. Gillanders, F.A. de la Mare and T.A. Hunter to life membership, an honour that was greatly appreciated by all. Spike said no honour was more deeply deserved. Of those five ‘Froggy’ de la Mare was regarded as one of the great personalities of the club. His study embraced many disciplines and he was often referred to as a perpetual student but the law was his main interest and he eventually took up a practice in Hamilton. Froggy was prominent in many fields of sport. A useful forward he was a Wellington representative in 1908 and played for New Zealand Universities in 1908 and 1909. He was also a university mile champion, a Wellington representative cricketer, a NZU tennis champion and in 1906 President of the Students’ Association. He retained sufficient interest in his alma mater to make a substantial written contribution to the golden jubilee number of The Spike in 1949 (Spike had become The Spike in the 1930’s and an annual instead of appearing twice a year.)

1908

Despite the continued lack of training facilities and many reverses on the field the Club persevered. In 1908 there was a great improvement in the standard of its rugby if not in the number of its successes. Interest was heightened by the preparations for the first New Zealand Universities team’s visit to Sydney. A selection panel was set up consisting of T.A. Hunter (Wellington), FT Evans (Christchurch) and Dr Hunter (Dunedin), and an inter-island game was staged as a trial. Unfortunately Evans was unable to participate, throwing great strain on the two Hunters.

When the touring side was eventually chosen it included five Victoria College players – H.F O’Leary (later Sir Humphrey, Chief Justice) full back, FW.B. Goodbehere, a noted university sprinter at centre, and forwards J.D. Brosnan, A.O. Lynch and FA. de la Mare. The tourists lost all three games by substantial margins. Three Victoria men also played for the Wellington representatives – L.L. Hitchings, de la Mare and E.C. Prenderville.

The Club officials for 1908 were: Patron, Professor Hugh Mackenzie; President, T.A. Hunter; Club Captain G.V. Bogle; Deputy, A. Tudhope and Secretary, W. Tudhope. The field captians were: First XV G.V. Bogle, Deputy H.F O’Leary; Second XV G.W. Reid ; Third XV E. Lyon and Fourth XV G.H. Nicholls.

Spike said of the season “as accuracy is a point on which we pride ourselves, we cannot say the record of the Club in this season’s football is an unexpected disappointment. Ever since the Club has been formed it has been customary in discussing our defeats to cloud the issue by dilating on the impact that is sure to follow the erection of proper training quarters. A good gym has been at the Club’s disposal all this season and there is certainly no improvement due to a regular use of it. On one occasion three men held the floor.”

Canterbury College beat Victoria 16-9. Spike records “As a result of the continued practice he received during the game, Fathers managed to kick two penalty goals for Victoria.”

The juniors had a very poor season, the Third XV had 4 wins, 3 of them by default and the Fourth XV had one win. Of the Thirds’ game against Wellington, played in steady rain on a field that was under water the team lost 9-3. Spike commented “A Rutherford swam in for us.”

In the same year the club said farewell to a foundation member who was also the current Club Captain and leader of the First XV since 1906. As well, G.V. Bogle was the club’s first provincial representative, having played for Wellington in 1906 and 1907. In the summer he was noted as a hurdler. The club gave him a complimentary dinner on the eve of his departure for Edinburgh to continue his medical studies. Bogle did not give up his rugby and was a Scottish international trialist in 1911 -12. He was killed in action in World War I.

And so we come to the end of a stage in the club’s history. By this time a pattern was emerging that indicated the approach of maturity. Virtually every year some of Victoria’s players were selected for Wellington representative teams and New Zealand Universities invariably called on some members of the Club.

Victoria College rugby had emerged from childhood; infancy was over and adolescence was about to begin.

1906 Team Photo
2. Adolescence 1909-18

CHAPTER TWO

1909-18

ADOLESCENCE

1909

By 1909 the innocence of childhood had begun to disappear and a more mature approach was emerging. This was not particularly evident from results on the field but the October 1909 issue of Spike summed it up fairly well : after detailing the season’s rather poor results it said “Yet there is evident nowadays a feeling among our opponents which was absent hitherto – a feeling that the College team is not to be despised.”

Professor Kirk was Patron; Professor Hunter, President; H.F O’Leary Club Captain ; FA. Wilson Deputy and E. Lyon, Secretary. Three teams only were entered.

Spike said “The football club is pursuing a high ideal. Nothing so trivial as the playing of football ; their aim is far higher than that. They are endeavouring to fulfil social functions that are usually usurped by other institutions; so far they have been remarkably successful. All the backs have made one another’s acquaintance; al l the forwards have rubbed shoulders. The next move will be to introduce the forwards to the backs.”

They found the First XV’s football not encouraging, though conceding that they were a very young team. One win, two draws, 63 points for, 187 against was not a good record. “Several members train with irregular regularity; some do not” they said, adding that the team had 2 or at most 3 supporters, the spacious gym was hardly used, place kicking was not practised and the team lacked resourcefulness. “One expects clever football from a college team, but our football is not particularly interesting to watch.”

The Second XV was playing third class “With the same careless insouciance that marks the exploits of all our junior teams.” They were not as successful as expected, playing 11 games for 4 wins, 2 scoreless draws and 5 losses, 40 points for 103 against.

The Third XV, playing fourth class, played 13, won 3, lost 6, drew 4, scoring 50 points to 72 but “A full team was the rule, not the exception.” Spike thought that if the third grade team had been held together there was little doubt that it would have done better, but it was a source of supply to the First XV.

Canterbury College was downed 17-8.

Sydney University again sent a team to NZ in 1909 but for the first time they did not meet with the usual success. After some warm-up games they played two matches against a combined team from New Zealand Universities. To the first, at Dunedin, won by Sydney 15-5 Victoria contributed C.E. Phillips and Brosnan; to the second, at Wellington won by NZU 17-14, A.T. Duncan, Phillips, O’Leary (captain), Brosnan, A. Curtayne, de la Mare, 0. Tennant and W.J. Robertson. Duncan was also selected to play for Wellington.

The opening of the long awaited gymnasium on 24 July, a project largely promoted and assisted by the Club, was one of the great events of the year.

1910

The club was slowly gaining strength and in 1910 felt able to field another junior team. The seniors, captained by A. Curtayne, won 4 out of 12 matches, scoring 84 points to 88 against; the juniors, captained by A.J. Papps and the Thirds, with E. lnder as captain, each won 5 out of 11 matches, with the juniors obtaining some defaults and also playing a draw, and the fourths, led by A.K. Edie won 3 out of 11.

P.J. Ryan, one of the club’s most notable backs of the period, and Curtayne gained selection for the Wellington provincial side.

In a match played in steady rain, Canterbury College beat Victoria 5-3.

Spike in June deprecated “The kid glove manner in which we handle our opponents” adding “One source of weakness is that many of our players are with us for only a year or two.” At the end of the year Spike said boldly “Our football has improved” and this spirit of optimism also permeated the club’s annual report for 1910. It said “The team have risen from the rank of holders of the wooden spoon to that of ‘a power to be reckoned with.”

However, the exhilaration of true university rugby, with fast running clever backs and excited crowds shouting on the sidelines was still a decade away.

1911

The principal officers of 1911 were Patron and President T.A. Hunter; Club Captain, A. Curtayne; Deputy, J.D. Brosnan and Secretary, A.E. Dobbie. It was not a successful season for the seniors, who were once again awarded the wooden spoon. They played 17 matches, won 2, lost 14, and drew 1, scoring 61 points to 303.

They beat Auckland 17-8 in the inaugural match between the two colleges, but lost to Canterbury 3-11.

Of the juniors Spike said “Up to within a week of the opening of the season they had a really good team on paper, but then the ranks began to thin. “They had three captains, the first two of whom (Daniel l and Bertrand) were soon filling gaps in the seniors, leaving WJ (Bill) Melody to lead them . Of 9 games they won 2, lost 7, scoring 42 points to 98.

The Thirds team, playing in third class, was handicapped by lack of players. Three teams had been entered by the club but at no time were there three teams on the field; before the end of the season only two remained . The Thirds played 7 games, won 3 and lost 4, scoring 43 points to 61. Spike spoke of lack of training and sought encouragement in Tennyson “and he said ‘Fight on! Fight on !”‘

Ryan retained his place in the representative team and for some years no Wellington team was complete without him. Curtayne, Ryan, Brosnan, Robertson, A.S. Faire and R.H. Quilliam crossed the Tasman with NZU in an attempt to subdue Sydney University.

1912

In 191 2 there were, excluding schoolboys, 68 teams fielding a total of 1750 players in the Wellington Union’s competitions. Victoria’s fortunes were presided over by T.A. Hunter; J. Davey was Club Captain; his Deputy, R. Quilliam and the Secretary T. O’Shea.

The First XV, led by P.J. Ryan , played 14 games, won 2, lost 11, drew 1 and scored 69 points to 103; the Second XV, captained by T O’Shea, played 12, won 4, lost 8, scoring 39 points to 183; the Thirds, under Bill Melody, played 9, lost 9 and scored 18 points to 149. The club captain said “How long before we follow Otago University’s example and work our way up the rugby ladder?” He also lodged an emphatic protest against the lack of interest shown by students in inter-college games. Victoria beat Auckland 12-8 and lost to Canterbury 3-12.

The senior squad comprised F.E. McKenzie, T. Beard, A. Miller, WT. Dundon, P. Grey, A.S. Faire, N.A. Middlemas, A.C. Nathan, I. Davey, P.J. Ryan (captain), R.H. Quilliam (vice-captain), N.M. Paulsen, T. Walker, W.H. Stainton, J.F. Davie.

Spike reported “At the commencement of the season it was confidently expected the club would have a very successful season, but once again there was a series of defeats . . . some teams were forced to take the field with anything from 11 men upwards.” Ryan retained his representative berth.

1913

In 1913 Ryan was joined by A.S. Faire and T.E. Beard in the provincial team. Among NZU’s pilgrims to Sydney that year were Ryan, Faire, Quilliam, A. Sandie, L.J. Shaw, T. Fawcell and N.M. Paulsen. The last named’s presence is intriguingly listed in the records as ‘unofficial’. Spike notes that while these players were in Sydney with NZU the club team suffered its worst defeats.

The Club Captain in 1913 was I. Davey; the Deputy Captain and Secretary RH Quilliam; the First XV was led by P.J . Ryan, the juniors by H.H. Daniell and the Third XV by A. Hudson. The Thirds had 1 win (by default) and 5 losses.

The Club drew with Auckland College 8-8 and lost to Canterbury 11 -23.

Reviewing the 1913 season Spike said “Every year for the past seven years and probably before that our First XV has started the football season with excellent prospects and hopes strong, and yet the best performance was registered in 1910 when we finished half way down the list . . . (This year) we might have done better. We commenced well and finished well but did poorly in between. However we managed to avoid the wooden spoon and The Dominion was almost enthusiastic”.

The club’s strength had grown steadily during its first eleven years and it had nurtured many valuable players for the representative side but it had not been able to claim a place in the top group of the senior competition; it has been suggested that it was the overall strength of the other Wellington clubs that kept Victoria out.

1914

For 1914 T.A. Hunter was again elected President; P.J . Ryan, Club Captain; Deputy, A.S. Faire and Secretary D.A. Harle. The seniors under Ryan played 12 games, won 4, lost 8 and scored 76 points to 109; the juniors, captained by T. O’Shea played 9, won 3, lost 6 and scored 51 points to 107; the Thirds, led by A. Hudson, played 8, won 2, lost 4 and drew 2, scoring 51 points to 57.

Ryan, Beard and W.J. (later Sir Wilfrid) Sim appeared for the province; Ryan and Beard also played for North Island B against South Island B at Athletic Park three days before the main clash. During the club season Victoria’s supporters were encouraged by the fact that their team beat the ultimate champions, Athletic, 10-3.

Spike complained that “the boisterous weather that has visited Wellington and apparently taken up permanent residence has seriously militated against the old game … The results cannot be considered satisfactory … We can be proud no matches were defaulted.”

Then towards the end of the club season the world plunged into war. J.B. Trapp (The Spike 1949) says “Before the end of the season the Great War had wrecked the edifice so long and carefully built up, claiming more than 100 club members, many of whom did not return, and sending Victoria College football, in common with that of the whole city, almost underground for the next two years. “Some 113 members and ex-members of the Club joined the colours; at least 38 of them did not return. The Wellington Rugby Union closed off the club competition uncompleted, but maintained a fairly full representative season.

1915

Of 1915 Wellington’s Rugby History says (p65) “The response to the call for active service was so great that clubs lost nearly all players of military age, and difficulty was experienced in keeping the game alive. It was evident that the Union’s ordinary 14 programme would have to be greatly modified, and the representative programme was curtailed to five games … Three soldiers’ teams were entered in the senior competition but had to be withdrawn later in the season owing to the transfer of the forces to Featherston Camp. Ranfurly Shield challenges were suspended for the duration of the war … The universal Saturday half-holiday came into force and the Wednesday competition was abandoned.”

The club officers that year were: Patron, Professor Adamson; President, Professor Hunter; Club Captain, A.S. Faire; Deputy, L.J . Shaw and Secretary, N.F. Little. Senior and third grade teams only were entered. Tom Beard captained the First XV, a small group all of them under 12 stone. The seniors played 8 games, won 2, lost 6 and scored 72 points to 132.

To Spike it was “Pleasant and consoling to think that every branch of sport has suffered heavily through the demands of war … We would like to see more old players taking an occasional interest – or even playing.”

1916

In 1916 the Union decided that no single man eligible for military service be allowed to take part in any competitions, an attitude that was not relaxed until 1918. No senior or junior matches were played, third being the highest grade for the season, and there were no first class or inter-college fixtures.

The club was administered by Professor Adamson as President; A.S. Faire, Club Captain and B.C.B. Dickson, Secretary. The club started out with two teams, a First XV in the third grade led by Tom Beard (later by L.D. O’Sullivan who had been captain of the Second XV) and a team in the fourth grade, but the latter was dropped because of lack of interest. The team played bright open football and was doing well, but it is recorded that with the vacation ‘dry rot’ set in .

1917

By 1917 men were returning from the forces and the Union decided to make the senior and junior competitions open ; seven representative matches confined to men under military age were played and the Union, in financial trouble because of severely reduced gate takings, launched a successful appeal for funds to pay the rent of Athletic Park.

Professor Garrow was elected Patron ; Professor Hunter, President; Albert Jackson, Club Captain; S.A. Wiren, Deputy and V.W. Russell, Secretary. Victoria entered two teams but had to abandon the attempt to run the second. They finished the club season in second place, being beaten by Petone in the final. The club was handicapped a great deal by having to hold its practices at ?am, the only time available. Noted hurdlers A.O. Jackson and G.G. Aitken plus F.A. Morton played regularly for the Wellington Representatives while V.W. Russell and D.H. Scott were also called on. Jackson at times captained the team.

Spike regarded 1917 as a very satisfactory year although the players were handicapped by a succession of wet Saturdays, resulting in a smaller number of games.

1918

Prof Hunter was again president in 1918 as the Club came back to life. The Union lifted the age restrictions which had debarred a few Victoria players; however most of the other clubs stood to benefit much more. Although Canterbury College was crushed 40-6, the club had to be content with the position of runners-up for the second successive year, this time to Poneke. A third grade team was entered but did not achieve any great distinction.

Aitken, R.R. Scott and P Martin-Smith represented Wellington.

Spike thought that while it had been a successful season it had not fulfilled expectations and more hard training was required. Running through the team, they praised Knell as a good fullback, fast and clever; Barker was the fastest back in the team; Scott had plenty of dash; Aitken was always dangerous, very quick off the mark, good at making openings, but as captain could afford to hustle the team a bit more; Gillespie showed plenty of speed; Morton was less valuable since he had hurt his ankle; Pope was not passing well at halfback; of Lusk, first emergency, “If he could only grow fat his reckless dashes – reckless in one so light – would be exceedingly useful, Martin-Smith was the best forward; O’Regan does not show up much in the open; Espinner has the makings; Low, wing forward, does not get in the way enough; all in all, according to a bystander, the team’s play is too gentlemanly”, they said.

It is interesting to note the names of some of the rugby clubs affiliated to the Wellington Union during this period. They make strange reading 60 years on, reflecting as they do a life style quite unfamiliar to New Zealanders living in the late years of the century. Consider for instance Polhill and Bakers, Railway Training School, St Johns, Tramway, Butchers, Artillery, Exchange, United Methodists, Railway Battalion, Banks College, War Expenses, Forresters, Olympic, and a name today more familiar in the round ball code, Stop Out.

Many of these clubs played in a Wednesday competition which was abandoned when the weekly half-holiday was transferred to Saturday in 1915.

Overseas at the beginning of 1919, before our domestic season began, two Victorian men were members of the New Zealand army team which gained considerable fame as it toured England soon after the war. It played 32 matches, winning 28, losing 1 and drawing 3 and went on to play in a series of matches for the King’s Cup, presented by King George V. The New Zealanders defeated the Royal Air Force, Canadian and South African forces teams and the Mother Country before going down to the Australians – 6 games, 5 wins, 1 loss and the Cup to show for it. The team toured South Africa on the way home. The Victoria College members were G.J. McNaught, who played the full tour, and F.M.H. Hansen (later Brigadier, DSO, OBE and permanent head of Ministry of Works), who played for the team in England and returned to play again for Victoria and the Wellington representatives. For the last half of the period covered by this chapter rugby was seriously disrupted by the demands of war. Once hostilities ceased there was a general desire to get life back to normal as quickly as possible. The return of former players and the release of younger men from military obligations helped to revitalise rugby, the nation’s number one sport, but sadly war casualties had left many gaps.

The Victoria College Club mourned the loss in battle of such men as G.V. Bogle, a foundation team member and club official and the club’s first Wellington representative, H.W. King , J.H. Goulding, G.H. Fell, who played in the original First XV, Maurice Sprott and G.M. Hogben of the original Second XV, F.W.B. Goodbehere, a sprinter who played for NZU in 1908, L.D. O’Sullivan who was captain of the First XV in 1916, and many others.

However the club survived and was soon to flourish as never before.

3. Exuberance 1919-27

THREE

1919-27

EXUBERANCE

The decade starting in 1919 saw Victoria College become a force in Wellington rugby; however maturity came slowly, erratically, almost reluctantly. In 1917 and 1918 the green and golds were runners up in the senior championship; they then went into retreat until 1925 when they came third; in 1926 they were second, in 1927 third, and then for two years, 1928 and 1929, they were the premier club.

Yet in 1930, with almost the same team, they were bottom, and the Rugby Union was most concerned at the eclipse of a valuable drawcard. As so often with university rugby in Wellington, there was no discernable reason for the collapse – and not even hindsight has offered an acceptable solution,

1919

To return to the chronology: In 1919 Spike happily announced that two seasons ago the Club was represented by one team; last year there were two and this year, with the return of old players, four, in senior, junior and third grade A and B. The senior

team won 6, lost 5 and drew 2 games but beat Canterbury College 13-3. The rugby union called on eight players – Baker, Beard, Jackson and D.E. Chrisp for the A team and Aitken, Brosnan, Martin-Smith and R.R. Scott for the B’s.

There was some difficulty in getting the right jerseys and some criticism in the press for wearing multi -colours. This worried Spike. Nevertheless they concluded that the 1919 season had proved most successful: “No championship was won, but this was due not to individual players but to the absence of adequate training facilities.” Of the players they said Tracy has pace and will improve; Barker is the fastest back in Wellington; Aitken was not up to previous form; Jackson (the captain) perhaps the best defensive back in Wellington; Scott was an improving half; Beard was back to his old form; Martin-Smith, the ‘bouncing boy’ of ‘Free Lance’ fame, played best after a capping dance, and of Dighton “He’s a rattler and will play great football before he is pensioned off .”

But ‘Inky’ Dighton never did make the big time (he coached later on); Tom Beard was in his last year in the representative team; all the others played representative football except Tracy, who disappeared from the records.

The senior team for 1919 was P. Martin-Smith, J.D. Brosnan, TE. Beard, M.M. Smith, R.R. Gordon, J.D. Hutchison, R.R. Scott, R.T. Chrisp, N.A.J. Barker, A. Jackson (captain), G.G. Aitken, R.S. Gillespie, G.N. Lusk, J.L. Dighton, L.A. Tracy, E.W. Espiner, K.W. Low, W. Randell.

With a good club season and a large provincial representation, it was indeed a year the club could look back on with considerable satisfaction. The representative season returned almost to normal. Wellington successfully defended the Ranfurly Shield, which had been in storage during the war, and the inter-island games were resumed.

1920

In a sense, 1919 was a buffer against the misfortunes 1920 was to bring. Again four teams were entered, in senior, junior and third grade (2), but the highly promising First XI/, whom the whole College expected to win the championship in 1920, won only four, drew 1 and lost 6 of its 11 matches. This dismal record was put down partly to the demands of NZU who took Jackson, Aitken, J.D. Hutchison, former New Zealand Army Representative F.M.H. Hanson, S.K. Siddells, D.H. and R.R. Scott to help it against the visiting Sydney team.

The representative se lectors were not deterred by the club’s poor record and took Siddells, Martin-Smith, Jackson, Barker, Aitken, R.R. Scott, Hutchinson and M.L. Smith. To Barker went the further honour of being the first Victoria College man to be selected for the North Island team. A successful university sprinter, he brought real speed to the wing three-quarter position. Sadly he later suffered a serious break-down in health.

According to Spike, the club’s activities for the season far surpassed those of recent years: “The First XV has as usual played inconsistently, defeating leading teams and losing to lower ones. They possessed the fastest set of backs in Wellington, but their forwards were handicapped by lack of weight.”

The team lost to Auckland College at Auckland 9-19 but drew the home game 3-3. Canterbury College was beaten 23-0. The senior coach was E. Perry. Down the grades the junior team won 2 and lost 6 of 8 matches; Third A won 1 and lost 5 (2 by default, which Spike thought was disgraceful) and Third B won 2, lost 5 and drew 1.

1921

In 1921 the First XV was disorganised by the absence of six of its members in Sydney for a month of the club season with NZU. They won 5 and lost 8 club competition matches. The squad comprised: Backs – G.G. Aitken (captain), B.C. Dickson, Dr F.C. Hutchison, A. Jackson, G. Mackay, S.K. Siddells, J. Trapski; Forwards – H.N. Burns, P. Dryden, F.H. Hanson, P. Martin-Smith, (then Prsident of the Students’ Association) A.O. McRae, D.H. Scott, C.B. Thomas, K.A. Woodward. E. Perry was senior coach.

The Union accorded the club the honour of choosing it to meet the premier team, Poneke, for the National Mutual Cup in its inaugural match. Victoria lost an exciting game 7-9 on the call of time. No tries were scored by either side. The third grade team, coached by J.L. Dighton, played 11, won 5, lost 5, drew 1, scoring 111 points for to 92 against.

The immediate post-war years were a boom time for Wellington rugby, and university football shared in the impetus that so many good players in one city must give.

The NZU team for the game against Wellington (NZU won 12- 6) and for the visit to Sydney included Hanson, Jackson, Aitken, Siddells, D.H. Scott and H.N. Burns. Wellington sides took Siddells, Aitken, Jackson, Hanson, C.B. Thomas, F.C. Hutchison (who became a doctor in Wanganui while his brother J.D. also a Victorian player,

became a supreme court judge) G.G. Mackay, D.H. and R.R. Scott.

However, the club’s greatest honour came in the selection of its captain, George Aitken, to lead New Zealand in the first and second tests against the Springboks on their first visit to this country. So Aitken became not only the club’s first All Black but also its one and only All Black test captain. Spike congratulated him on achieving the highest honour a footballer can obtain.

Born at Westport in July 1898 (he was also Westport’s first locally born All Black) George Gothard Aitken came to Victoria via Westport District High School after having played for Buller as a 16 year old. He wasted no time in Wellington either, being selected for the representative side in 1917 for the first of six consecutive years. At 5ft 9in and 12st 41b he was a speedy, thinking centre with a high knee action. In the summer he was an accomplished 440yd hurdler. He had played for NZU in 1920 and 1921, and for the North Island also in 1921. After the 1922 season he left New Zealand…

…on a Rhodes Scholarship and was later to represent Scotland for several years as part of the famous three-quarter line of Smith, Aitken, Wallace (an Australian) and McPherson. (For details see Chapter 22 “The Honours Board”).

Aitken and Albert Jackson (of whom more later) were both housemasters at Wellington College and not long before his death it still brought a smile to the lips of Harry Arndt as he recalled the pleasure of playing inside them at first five. They were inseparable companions as well as accomplished footballers.

As they have done on every visit since, the Springboks made an immediate and lasting impact as formidable opponents as they swept through the country. One of several Morkels in the teams, fullback Gerhard became a real star, and soon the schoolboys of New Zealand were dubbing one another Markel, van Heerden and so on. Against these giants the slight figure of George Aitken led New Zealand on to Carisbrook ground on 13 August 1921.

New Zealand won that first test at Dunedin 13- 5. Aitken played well, keeping the home side on attack and engineering NZ’s first try with a shrewd punt. Nevertheless when the All Blacks lost the second test at Auckland 5-9 (Aitken had risen from a sick bed to play) he was dropped. “The New Zealand selectors caused a sensation by dropping the captain, George Aitken, and reshuffling the backline,” comments Men in Black (p. 70).

Exhibiting the peculiarities of selectors throughout the ages, they made mysterious changes. For instance, the best back and the best forward in each team was given a gold medal. Despite receiving the medal for the best back in the first test the famous Ginger Nicholls was dropped by the selectors for the second test.

However, despite the banishment of Aitken, Victoria maintained its representation in the All Blacks. The club’s (and Wellington’s) full back Keith Siddells was chosen – to play on the wing. He was a good tackler and was chosen to mark the Springbok flier van Heerden. This he did, but he may have lacked the pace to score what would have been the winning try of the game and the series. Karl lfwerson, Aitken’s replacement and a recently reinstated league player who was playing his only game for New Zealand, placed a shrewd grubber kick over the goal line but Siddells missed the try.

There are various accounts of the incident but no agreement – unfortunately TV had not then been invented. One writer, R.A. Stone (Rugby Players Who Have Made NZ Famous, pp. 59,71) suggests Siddells lacked pace, or was not fully alert and points out that he was a full back and not a wing but had played a fine defensive game; lfwerson is reported as being very annoyed and saying Siddells should have scored; Keith always said he did score, but referee Albert Neilson said he did not place the ball down with his hands. This statement impelled the patriotic Winston McCarthy to say sarcastically “A wonderful decision in such a vital match.” (Haka, the All Blacks Story, p 75).

Controversy raged for many years, but referee Neilson stuck to his story that Siddells grounded the ball with his chest and not his hands. Stone (op. cit., p. 71) says “Siddells took a while to decide whether he would chase the kick and when he did make the gallop he was just beaten for the touch .”

Yet Siddells was not entirely an orthodox full back, nor did he lack pace and a liking for the spectacular. The story is told of a club game in which he fielded a long kick, raced right through the opposing team, forced the ball under the posts, sat on it, and joined in with the clapping of the crowd.

This was of course in the 1920’s when the Wellington public was introduced to ‘varsity rugby at its best. The promise of a decade or so before that the green and golds had become a power to be reckoned with came true with a vengeance as cheering crowds followed the team. One chronicler of the period wrote “Citizens flocked to Athletic Park to gaze with rapture at the University team, and small boys brooded ecstatically upon the existence of George Aitken, for Aitken was not merely captain of the College team but also skipper of the All Blacks.” Another said “From the early twenties it (University) had established a reputation for providing the brightest and best in club football – and this at a time when Wellington football was at an uncommonly high level.”

Another idol of the crowd at this time was Albert Jackson, ‘Jacko’, who represented Wellington in 1917, and 1919-23, and NZU 1920-22. Though almost blind without glasses he was a very fast long-striding wing. No one ever knew what he would do next – sometimes he even hurdled attempting tacklers {he was a hurdling champion) Harry Arndt used to tell a story of a social game while he was at Wellington College in the early 20’s and Jackson was a housemaster. A game for the second XV was arranged against the crew of a visiting merchant ship. Jacko had raced through the opposition and had no one in front, but there was a small Englishman in hot pursuit. Jacko stopped and asked his pursuer “Whose side are you on?” Getting a reply “The ship” he sped on and scored.

He was also an occasional goal kicker. In 1923 during Craig Mackenzie’s first game on Athletic Park, the pre-season ‘gymnasium day’ as they used to call it because the takings went to clubs, ‘Varsity’s goal kicking was deplorable. So captain Jackson decided to take one himself. It was near half way and Jackson called out to his ball holder {they were obligatory in those days) “Where the hell’s the goal?” As he couldn’t see, he finally got his team mate to line it up.

In those days boys leaving Wellington College were asked to join the College Old Boys Club; they were also told that if they went on to University they should play for University. That does not seem to happen today.

1922

The Club President in 1922 was Professor Boyd-Wilson, who also agreed to coach a team; Albert Jackson was Club captain and A.O. McRae his Deputy; E. Perry was again senior coach. New players were J.J. Malfroy from Canterbury College and Otago representative M.L. Smith. S.K. Siddells played at second five this season, winger G.G. Mackay moving to the vacant full back position. A. Murray was at first five, J.F. Trapski was half back, D.H. Scott was hooking, H.N. Burns chief lineout man and C.B. Thomas wing forward and goal kicker.

The full squad was C.B. Thomas, R.E. Pope, A.O. McRae, H.N. Burns, S.K. Siddells, M.L. Smith, S. Gilmer, G.G. Mackay, A. Murray, P Maloney, J.L. Dighton, J.F. Trapski, P.S. Bryden, G.G. Aitken (captain), A. Jackson, D.H. Scott, J.J. Malfroy and B.C.B. Dixon.

Spike opened its review of the season with a little philosophy. “There is something indescribably alluring and inspiring to most men in the sound of the punting of the leather, and in the shrill blast of the whistle, in the keen air of the football field, and in the feel of the springy turf underfoot. It is a kind of instinct – ‘Atavism’ in sweeping terms.”

Spike went on to express its appreciation of the close personal interest in the club’s affairs taken by Professors Boyd-Wilson and Murphy; also Mr J.N. Millard, once a noted Otago wing threequarter. Of two prominent players it said ‘”Where George Aitken is, there is Albert Jackson’ might be said of these two inseparables both on and off the field. Aitken, Malfroy and Jackson are probably the most brilliant three quarters in Wellington.”

Like 1921, 1922 was notable more for the number of players selected for representative honours than for wins in the club championship. And once again the First XV was weakened by representative and NZU selections – 12 of the team gained Wellington representative honours (Thomas, Siddells, Jackson, Aitken, big hard-working forward Hec Burns, R.R. and D.H. Scott, J.O.J. Malfroy, A. Murray, A.D. McRae, M.L. Smith and J.F. Trapski) and five (Jackson, D.H. Scott, Siddells, Thomas and McRae) played for NZU against the touring Sydney University side (they beat Victoria 21-14); Siddells also played for North Island against South Island and was selected for the All Black tour of Australia but was not available. None of the Club ‘s junior teams had much success.

On being presented with a shield, the Union’s management committee instituted a club championship to be awarded to the club gaining the highest aggregate championship points in all grades. Petone were the first winners. Another innovation that still exists was the invitation of the president of the referees association to management committee meetings in an advisory capacity.

The boom of the immediate post war years was noticeably on the wane as older players dropped out and were replaced by inexperienced younger players.

1923

Professor Boyd-Wilson was both Patron and President in 1923; A. Jackson, Club Captain; A.D. McRae, Deputy; P.B. Bryden, Secretary and J.N. Millard (who was also NZU selector) coach. The First XV put up a comparatively poor performance and was again in the lower part of the club championship tabe. As Spike said “It was hard to lose all at once Aitken, Siddells, Trapski and Murray (backs) and Burns, one of the best forwards . .. Also five went to Sydney with NZU – Thomas, McRae, Martin-Smith, H.B. Riggs and Malfroy.” In addition Jackson, Thomas, Malfroy, McRae, Martin-Smith (again President of the Students’ Association) M.L. Smith and I.A. Hart represented the province.

All of these men were of course among the players who were attracting the crowds flocking to admire and enjoy the spectacular fast open game that was synonymous with Victoria College rugby of the period. Indeed many fine players wore the green and gold during these seasons, and there always seemed to be more equally promising youngsters ready to step into the shoes of those who dropped out of the game.

In 1923 the First XV was R.O.C Marks, E.H.M. Adams, E.C. Wiren, R.H.C Mackenzie, J.O.J. Malfroy, P.B. Bryden, L. Sutherland, J.G. McMillan, H.B. Riggs, P. Martin-Smith, G.G. Mackay, A. Jackson (captain), A.D. McRae (vice-captain), I.A. Hart, C. Smart, C.B. Thomas, D.H. Scott and M.L. Smith.

The juniors, coached by Williams, showed good form, the third XV was registering wins steadily and the fourths were stated to be a sound team. The silver jubilee number of Spike, issued at Easter 1924, looked back over its shoulder at College rugby “The record of the Club during the 21 years of its existence is one of which the College has some reason to be proud. The other clubs and the public of Wellington have learned to expect from University teams a clean and sporting game played in the true amateur spirit. It must be confessed that we have not always played great or competent football … (and have) sometimes been slack in training and content to shield ourselves behind the greater tribulations of November. On the other hand we have not seldom made a handsome showing and our defeats have been numerous enough· to chasten our spirits.”

1924

The 1924 season was greeted with an air of pessimism. Many senior players had retired and the Club’s chances were considered to be hopeless for years to come. But the reverse was the case. True most of the famous figures of the immediate post-war period had gone, but promising youngsters were ready to step into their shoes. The club was in fact at the beginning of a six-year period of great strength, and indeed, glory.

The senior team comprised N.G. Whiteman, R.E. Pope, E.G. Wiren, G.A. Nicholls, R. Gilpin, H.B. Riggs, E. Walpole, G. Mackay, W. Goodwin, R.H.C. Mackenzie, P. Martin-Smith (captain), C.J. O’Reagan, J.O.J. Malfroy, S.G. Joll, I.A. Hart, W. Blathwaite, J.G. Britland, E.H.M. Adams, J.G. McMillan, A.O. McRae.

They finished well up the championship ladder and Malfroy, Martin-Smith, Riggs, Hart, J.G. Britland, E. Walpole and C.J. O’Reagan played for the Union. The administration of the club was in the experienced hands of Professor Boyd-Wilson, Patron; Professor B.E. (Barney) Murphy, President; W.H. Stainton, Club Captain; A.O. McRae, Deputy and C Mackenzie, Secretary. McRae was also captain of the First XV.

The June 1924 issue of Spike said “Wellington weather has excelled itself – only one fine Saturday so far … fitness and combination are lacking (also) better facilities for training . . . The retirement of Albert Jackson has robbed the playing field of one of its most familiar figures; also Percy Bryden, for two years an energetic Secretary and conscientious forward.” At the end of the season Spike noted that the standard of play had shown an al l round improvement. The seniors played 14 games, won 6 and lost 8; they also lost to Canterbury (12- 9) and Auckland University Colleges.

1925

The 1925 officials were: Patron, Professor Murphy; President, Professor Adamson; Club Captain, W.H. Stainton ; Deputy, P. Martin-Smith and Secretary, Jules Malfroy.

In June Spike said “A wonderful spirit of optimism pervades the club .” One more team was entered, making one senior, 2 junior and two third grade teams – and they all did well. Victoria was the only College team to defeat the tourists from Sydney University – a first for Victoria and a respectable score, 16-8. Canterbury University went down 19-10 and Auckland 16-3; in inter-club they won 9, lost 5 and drew 1.

In the next five years ‘varsity football in Wellington fully lived up to the playing traditions established by such figures as George Aitken, Albert Jackson, Keith Siddells and their contemporaries. In 1925 University were third in the championship, drawing 15-15 with Poneke, the ultimate winners, in the second round. Hart, Walpole, Malfroy, Martin-Smith, O’Regan, E.W.T. (Tui) Love (later Colonel of the Maori Battalion and a war casualty), S. Joll and R.H.C. Mackenzie played for the Wellington Senior Representatives; New Zealand Universities (NZU) took H.N. Burns, Martin-Smith, Mackenzie, Malfroy, C. O’Regan, Walpole and C.J. Sceats, a wing who was also a noted high jumper.

All of these played in the tests against Sydney University and Love played for New Zealand Maoris in New Zealand. Club junior player Forde was selected as a Wellington Junior Representative; Hart and Ballinger for the Third Grade Representatives.

1926

The following year (1926) the club went one better and finished second. Back and forward divisions were both strong and the team played splendid football. The representative selector thought so too for he made use of 12 players – F Noble-Adams, J.D. MacKay, L.J. South, Malfroy, Sceats, Mackenzie and E.T. Leys (backs) and Burns, Martin-Smith (captain), FJ. Platts-Mills, O’Reagan and S.C. Childs (forwards). Tui Love gained a place in the Maori All Blacks who toured Britain, France and Canada. He was half back in the international against France.

Professor Adamson took a turn as Patron and Professor Hunter assumed the Presidency, P. Martin-Smith was Club Captain, H.N. Burns his Deputy and Jules Malfroy continued as Secretary. Spike’s June issue had some piquant comment: “The First XV is an aggregation of brilliant individuals who, except on one or two occasions, have displayed a lamentable lack of combination. As individuals there can be no complaint, but as a team everyone is to be blamed. It is not the loss of matches that hurts; it is the playing of feeble football.”

“Senior B are doing well; the junior grade teams (players fresh from school) have done well, but the third grade teams are most unsatisfactory. Well over 100 players put their names down at the beginning of the season, so the committee entered six teams. When the competitions commenced it was found impossible to get a full team

for third grade fixtures, so the Third B team was withdrawn.”

Of the players mentioned above Tui Love was later to give his life while leading the Maori Battalion in the second World War. Platts-Mill s, a lawyer and a competent forward, (he played for Wellington in 1926), also gained some distinction. He went to England and was elected to the House of Commons where he became quite an indentity as a Labour member. Fergie Noble-Adams, a light but competent full back (Wellington Representative 1926 and 1928) took up a legal practice in Blenheim.

1927

Professor Boyd-Wilson was again President, Martin-Smith and Burns continued as Club Captain and Deputy and N.G. Whiteman became Secretary. ‘Bobby’ Martin-Smith was at this stage edging away from the field of play where he had given such great service to the club over many years. He was also a member of the Wellington Representative forward pack from 1918-20 and from 1923-26 and had played for NZU in 1923 and 1925. He later became a selector for NZU.

Childs, Love (vice-captain), O’Regan and Burns went to New South Wales with NZU; Mackenzie, O’Regan, FS. Ramson and E.E. Blacker represented the Union. There was rough play in those days but the sportsmanship that could be shown is well illustrated in an incident in a game against Poneke (played at Petone because the Villagers were performing on the Park). MacKenzie’s team- mates complained of an opponent who was giving them a right cross as he tackled them. Finally the player hit MacKenzie and the referee saw it. As a result the sporting Poneke team dismissed the player from their club.

Craig also remembers well Oriental lock Jimmy Moffat discarding his boots in the I.·middle of a game “because they were hurting” and playing on in bare feet – then quite common in North Auckland but not in Wellington.

The First XV was still strong all round and finished third in the senior championship. New players were coming on and it seemed very likely that Victoria would soon achieve its greatest ambition – to win the senior championship. But perhaps because of many disappointments over the years the campus was not ringing with excited anticipation as the 1927 season ended. This time they had the determined confidence of maturity.

4. Triumph 1928-29

CHAPTER FOUR

1928-29

TRIUMPH

1928

The ultimate triumph came in 1928. John Carrad says “Few who followed the team’s successes will forget the magnificent games they played that season. The senior A championship was won after a great final with Poneke, and University, after many disappointments, had done it at last.”

At the head of the club hierarchy that year were three men who had given a great deal of time and effort to the club: Patron, Professor Boyd-Wilson; President, Professor Murphy and Club Captain and Coach ‘Bobby’ Martin-Smith, who had led the First XV and played for Wellington from 1918-26. The Deputy Club Captain was A.W. Miller and Secretary, N.G. Whiteman.

The team ‘s performance on the field was sparkling and effective; on paper their record was, and is, impressive – played 16, won 13, lost 2, drew 1, points for 332, against 148.

Prior to the final against Poneke they were lying second with 25 championship points while Poneke had 26. So a draw would spell defeat. Spike made special mention of organised barracking by ‘Wikitorians’ on the western bank, praised Craig Mackenzie as a “capable and efficient skipper” and lauded the wonderful spirit or camaraderie in the team.

The members of the senior squad during this historic season were: Backs – full back, the slightly built Fergie Noble-Adams; utility back, Cam Malfroy (NZ Tennis singles champion and brother of Jules); on one wing, hard running E.A. (Ted) Brown; on the other, Doug Mackay, soon to become an All Black; centre, Stan Ramson, goal kicker and maker of openings; second five, Arch Irwin ; first five and captain, Craig Mackenzie (about to become an All Black); half back, ‘Tiny’ Leys (also soon to become an All Black). Only Malfroy and Irwin did not play for Wellington. In the forwards were front rowers Stan Child s, Tommy Hislop, big hooker Con O’Regan, J.N. Blackeney; locks Ted Blacker (defender of the backs), formidable Roy Diederich; wing forward, H.W. (Sandy) Cormack and F.W. Grant, W.R. Hart, H. Williams, Rodger and Airey. Childs, O’Regan, Blacker, Diederich and Cormack played for Wellington.

They beat Poneke 16-12 in a hard excellent game before about 12,000 spectators. It was a great contest. In fact 26 years later, in 1954, the Wellington Rugby Union’s official programme Rugby Weekly, referred to it as a match that must be considered in any argument regarding the most exciting final every played by local teams.

Early on Leys made an opening and sent Childs over; Ramson converted. Ramson made an opening and sent Mackay in; Ramson converted. The score was 10-0. Elliott potted a goal for Poneke and the score at half time was 10-4. In the second spell Mackay made a run for Ramson to score, but Elliott and then Tilyard scored for Poneke to make it 13-12. Many hearts missed a beat when Pickrang, a hefty Poneke forward made a dangerous break. However he was pulled down. Then towards the end Diederich scored and the game ended 16-12 to University.

The western bankers swept across the field at the end and carried Mackenzie from the field on their shoulders. Craig says the intense barracking was just a muffled roar on the field and no words were distinguishable through his concentration; even when they carried him off shoulder high he was only dimly aware of what was happening.

Poneke had tried very hard but sportsmanship was not forgotten. Craig Mackenzie recalls that before the game the Poneke hooker, Bert Wilson, came up to him and said “I hope you win today Crow, it means so much more to you than to us, but by God you’ll have to earn it.” He also congratulated the team after the game. And Poneke’s need was not nearly as great as University’s – they had by then won the championship 13 times, starting with four in a row from 1886.

The origin of Mackenzie’s nickname “Crow” is, like many of these things, something of a mystery. Craig says a schoolfriend who claimed to have originated it claimed that Craig’s father, Hugh Mackenzie, foundation professor of English, was often referred to as “Pro” (instead of Prof.) and that “Crow” was a mixture of his name and his father’s nickname.

Poneke were naturally enough selected by the Union to be Victoria’s opponents in the National Mutual Cup challenge the following Saturday, for which ‘Varsity were ill prepared – virtually the club’s entire backline from the previous week (including the captain) and some forwards (nine players in all) were absent injured or on representative duty. So the senior B’s were called on. Of course no one was prepared to put their money on Victoria, a feeling that was confirmed when Pickrang ran through Cam Malfroy right at the start; but the defence caught him.

Apart from Leys the backline was entirely senior B players. The team was Griffen, Bailey, Tim McKenzie (a centre who captained Otago the following year), Foden, Malfroy, Harry Arndt, Leys, Airey, Childs, Richardson, Cormack, Blackeney, Diederich, Grant and Hart.

After their shaky start the team settled down and tries were scored by Ted Foden, Harry Bailey (a sprinter) and Cam Malfroy. Sandy Cormack converted two and their lead was never threatened. The final score 22-9 secured a very rare trophy for the College – they never won it again as a challenge trophy. From 1965 it was awarded to the winners of the new senior third division championship.

University rugby was strong throughout New Zealand in 1928 – university teams won the senior A championship in all four main centres. Coincidentally Sydney University also won the Sydney A grade competition.

Captain Mackenzie says Victoria’s success was based on a policy of getting the ball out to the wings as quickly as possible. Ramson was a good centre and wings Mackay and Brown both knew their way to the tryline. Mackay at least had learned one valuable lesson on the way when he was pushed over the dead ball line when running round to dot down behind the posts. Although a forward in his playing day, coach Martin-Smith believed in playing to his backs – he would not let the forwards run with the ball because he said, it cramped the backs.

Spike was moved to place on record the club’s appreciation of the sportsmanlike attitude of the Poneke players in the final games, which, it said, were both played in the best possible spirit.

Then came a trip to Christchurch to meet Canterbury College. Playing without the injured Mackenzie, who was replaced by Harry Arndt, Victoria was beaten in the last minute 13- 16. Victoria were hot on attack; Ramson made a break but, with Malfroy outside him, elected to cut inside. Canterbury representative winger Loveridge, wrenched the ball from him and scored at the other end.

The senior B team finished fourth in their grade but were well satisfied at having been able to help win the National Mutual Cup. The junior, third and fourth grade teams all met with a fair measure of success.

Spike said “Especially noticeable throughout the whole club was a universal good fellowship which shows that ‘Varsity still lives up to the reputation that the Wellington public has given it, namely that of playing the game for the game’s sake.”

The club also had two of its players selected for the All Blacks that year – wing three quarter, Doug Mackay and first five, Craig Mackenzie. A New South Wales team was touring the country and had already been beaten in two tests. However the selectors decided to make changes and Mackenzie and Mackay were included in a New Zealand team that was pitted against a combined West Coast/Buller side. A few days later they were included in the All Black team for the third test. The only other Wellington player was C.G. Porter. This was the last time New South Wales carried the Australian flag in New Zealand; subsequent teams have been selected from the Queensland and Victorian Unions as well as NSW.

The two new All Blacks were joined in the Wellington representative team by fellow Victorians Noble-Adams, Ramson, Leys, O’Regan and Blacker.

News was also received that J.O.J. Malfroy, for some years a senior club player and Wellington representative, had been included in the British team to tour Argentina. Jules, brother of Cam, had gone to Cambridge on a travelling scholarship in law. He became a Cambridge don and later joined the staff as a lecturer. He represented Wellington from 1922-26 and NZU 1923-25.

Perhaps in those gay frivolous twenties, rugby was not such a serious matter as it often is today. Harry Arndt told a story of a Kings Birthday seven-a-side tournament at the Palmerston North showgrounds. Reserve first five for the First XV, he was asked to play halfback; Roy Diederich and Ted Blacker were in the forwards. Victoria had a bye and a win to enter the final against Palmerston North High School Old Boys and were losing 10- 12 with 2 minutes to go. Arndt got the ball 25 yards out but in the clear and was in his last stride to the line when a bell went. The referee awarded the try but the Manawatu official who was touch judge ruled that the try could not be counted as it was scored after the bell. Arndt says Victoria were not too dismayed; they had gone to the tournament mainly for the fun.

1929

Next year, although regarded by some judges as not playing as well as in 1928, Victoria again carried off the senior A championship. However, the National Mutual Cup eluded them – it went to Petone after a stirring game.

Professor Murphy was Patron; Professor Kirk, President; P Martin-Smith, Club Captain and Senior A Coach; W.D. Goodwin, Deputy and N.G. Whiteman, Secretary. The club membership was a numerical record and seven teams were entered – senior A and B, junior, third grade (3) and fourth grade. The coaches were Martin -Smith ,

Glasgow, Whiteman, Turner, Goodwin and Paetz.

The senior A squad showed little change from 1928 – J.M. Blackeney, F Cormack, R.E. Dierderich, C.E. Dixon, M. Edgar, E. Blacker, W.R. Hart, S.C. Childs, J.D. Mackay, FS. Ramson, R.H.C. Mackenzie (captain), H.W. Cormack (vice captain), FW. Grant, A.H. Irwin, E.K. Eastwood, J.A. Whitcombe, TN. Foden, TC. Hislop and E.T. Leys. New faces were full back Fred Cormack, who played for Wairarapa in 1928, flank forward Dixon, forward Edgar, half back “Ginner” Whitcombe and wings, Eastwood and Foden. Harry Arndt spent a frustrating year as seldom needed emergency.

The team was powerful both forward and back. Spike said, “The outstanding feature of the season was the success for the second time of the First XV in winning the senior championship. The form displayed throughout was very consistent. Though perhaps not as bright on attack as last year its defensive qualities were very sound, thanks especially to Mackenzie at five eighth and F Cormack at full back. They trained assiduously and were a very happy family, well balanced. Ramson with his boot scored well over 100 points – a truly remarkable performance.”

The team played 16 games for 13 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw and a score of 217 points to 120.

Even more players were chosen to represent Wellington in one or other of the Union’s teams: Ramson, Mackay, Mackenzie (captain), Leys, H.W. Cormack, F Cormack, Dixon, Diederich, Edgar and Eastwood.

The first combined Australian Universities team to tour New Zealand lost all three tests – 15- 3, 26-17 and 18-3. Victoria contributed Mackenzie (captain), Leys, Mackay, Blacker, Diederich and Edgar. Victoria had the distinction of being the only college to be beaten by the visitors. The score was 6- 3. Spike again: “It speaks much for the true spirit of hospitality at VUC.” The Australian record – played 7, won 1, and lost 6.

Later that year the injury-hit All Blacks sent for “Tiny” Leys to replace an injured Bill Dalley during their tour of Australia. A half back, he played well and appeared in five matches, including the third test. Unfortunately his subsequent career was curtailed by injury.

The lower grade club teams for the most part did quite well; indeed better than in previous years.

The club’s new full back, Fred Cormack, who had come to Wellington to attend teachers’ college, tells how he learned a useful trick while playing for Wairarapa in a Ranfurly Shield defence against Auckland. Seeing the slight Bert Cooke in the fullback position, Auckland hoisted a high up and under and made a concerted charge.

Cooke waited impassively. Then just as the ball and the Aucklanders were both about to descend on him he moved to one side and forward several yards to where the ball was actually going to land, fielded it behind the charging forwards and cleared. A good eye and nimble footwork (a la Bob Scott) are essential to pull that one off.

In this year, 1929, the Wellington Rugby Union became conscious of its advancing years and purchased a cup which was to be its premier club trophy. As it marked the first 50 years of the Union it was called the Jubilee Cup. And the first club name inscribed on it was Victoria University College.

And with the end of the 1929 season the curtain was rung down on Victoria University College’s first period of rugby glory. Incomprehensively an almost unchanged group of players dropped from first to last in one season, ending ingloriously a decade of strength and brilliance. In the next 16 years there was to be little to enthuse the club’s supporters; indeed it placed an at times unbearable strain on the loyalty of players and spectators alike. It was almost, one might say, a period in the wilderness.

5. The Wilderness Years 1930-39

CHAPTER FIVE

193039

THE WILDERNESS YEARS

1930

The 1930 season introduced a period of collapse that not even the efforts of the Rugby union could restrain . In the next 10 years the club was twice relegated to the second division and twice reinstated. The relegation impelled several prominent players to leave the club so that they could continue to play senior first division rugby; their erstwhile colleagues were not amused. In 1938 the club showed signs of a resurgence by winning the second division championship by a big margin, and, as a result of an administrative decision by the Union, found itself back in the first division for 1939. There the team performed creditably only to be confronted at the end of the season by the spectre of world war.

The club’s elected administrators for 1930 were: Patron, Professor Kirk; President, Professor Cornish; Club Captain, P. Martin-Smith; Deputy, N.G. Whiteman and Secretary, C.M. Turner. Both Martin-Smith and Whiteman were later to become life members.

It will have become evident that for many years a number of the academic staff took a practical interest in the club. The very first President was Professor von Zedlitz and he was followed by Professors Hunter, Mackenzie, Kirk, Adamson, Garrow, Boyd-Wilson, Murphy and Cornish. Some of them, Boyd-Wilson, Hunter, Murphy, Kirk for instance, used to take turns at being Patron or President. And their interest was quite genuine. Professor Cornish had a reputation as a recruiter of players, and on occasions when his students were sitting an exam on the morning of a test match he used to promise them he would take into consideration that there was a test match on their minds when he was marking the papers.

In 1930 the playing through champions came last in the Wellington senior club competition. It was like falling off the top of a ladder. The rungs flashed past with gathering speed until only the ground terminated the onrush to disaster. Annihilation was complete; the first were last. Nobody has yet come up with an acceptable explanation,

adequate or inadequate, of this phenomenon so prevalent in the Victoria University Club. John Carrad says rather tentatively, “Many things were blamed for this eclipse, but of these the alteration to the old kick into touch rule was mainly responsible.” If so one wonders why did it affect only ‘Varsity? Another theory advanced was that the demands of NZU deprived the club of a group of players for a whole month. But this view ignores the fact that no NZU team was picked in 1930.

In any case it must be admitted that other clubs have been known to do much the same thing; the big difference is in the frequency of the happening.

The Spike said, “After being up in the air for two seasons the Football Club has come down to mother earth with a resounding thud this year. To finish up bottom of. the ladder after holding the proud position of premiers for two years, and then to lose the playoff is a rather ignominious retreat despite extenuating circumstances to some extent in this case. The number of injuries was extraordinary and this resulted in the team being changed around a great deal. Four games only were won. The defeat in the playoff against Wellington was due to an unfortunate mistake by the referee.” (He awarded a dropped goal that did not go over).

Nevertheless Ramson, Blacker, Mackay and Diederich were selected for the senior representative team. Captain Mackenzie who ‘ran’ the team was also chosen but was unable to travel (He admits he was worried about the team’s performance and did not want to weaken it any more). Young was chosen from the junior team to play for the Junior Representatives. The senior team was not really greatly changed from the previous year as a list of those who played senior A during the season shows: Backs – J. Black, F. Cormack, J.D. Mackay, N. Hislop, J.N. Goodwin, E.K. Eastwood, P Webb, L. Williams, F.S. Ramson, R.H.C. Mackenzie (captain), A.H. Irwin, D. Griffin , T.N. Foden, Sutcliffe, E.T. Leys, D. Mulvihill, J.K. Logan; Forwards – E.J. Aim, J.M. Edgar, A. Claridge, H. Macaskill, H.W. Cormack, C. Dixon, S.C. Child s, R.E. Diederich, G.R.J. Hope, Banks, E.E. Blacker, J. Beaumont, J. Blackeney, M.E. Mahoney and H. Williams.

This was Arch Irwin’s last season with the club. He sailed with friends in the yacht Windward towards the Chathams, but neither they nor the yacht was ever heard of again.

The lower grade teams met with fair success, the fourth grade team doing really well. Championship points scored by the third grade teams were: A’s 14, B’s 10, C’s 8 – a record for Third C’s.

One surprising reaction to University’s plummeting form was the attitude of the Union. After lengthy discussion and a special general meeting of club delegates the A and B senior championships were both enlarged from 10 to 12 teams largely so that University would retain its senior status.

A 1951 Wellington Rugby Union official programme records the event as follows: ” It all came about because University, the champions in 1929, finished at the bottom of the table in 1930, and there was a strong body of opinion against the club being demoted even though it lost the grading match against Wellington, who had gone down to the B grade the previous season.

“The system of promotion and re legation was discussed at the annual meeting of the Union, and it was decided to make no change. However, the feeling that it would be in the best interests of the game if University did not go down was strong enough to cause a special meeting of club delegates to be called before the entries were graded. At this special meeting the decision of the annual meeting was reversed after considerable discussion and by the narrow margin of one vote. The motion to that effect was declared lost on a show of hands, but when a decision according to the voting powers of the clubs was sought a different result was obtained.

“One aspect of the voting which aroused comment, comment to which Mr P. Martin-Smith subsequently replied on behalf of the club concerned, was that the University delegates announced early in the meeting that, being directly concerned, they would not vote . When the vote was taken, however, University voted with the rest.

“The resolution carried was to the effect that the motions carried at the annual meetings of 1926 and 1930 concerning senior A and senior B competitions be rescinded and that there be two open grades, senior A and senior B without restriction.

“Stating that he would like to present the senior B aspect of the case, Mr U.P. Calcinai (Miramar) said, ‘Last year we had the exhibition of a team that made a fool of the senior B grade – a team with players grabbed from all over the universe.’

“Mr G.F.W. Jackson: ‘I take strong objection to that.’

“‘Well, I will withdraw,’ said Mr Calcinai amidst laughter. ‘Now we have the prospect of the same thing happening this year. I feel sure that University will upset the senior B competition as Wellington did last year.’ (Cries of ‘No’ and ‘Yes’).

“Other speakers considered that the strong Wellington team, with its bright and enterprising play, had been beneficial to the B grade.

“At a subsequent meeting of the management committee the following teams were accepted in the senior grade: Division A- Hutt, Petone, Eastbourne, Poneke, Athletic, Beramphore, Oriental, Miramar, Wellington, University, Marist, Wellington College Old Boys. Division B – Hutt, Johnsonville, Onslow, WCOB, St Pats Old Boys, Training College, Melrose, Porirua, Upper Hutt, Oriental, Selwyn, University.”

1931

In the early part of 1931 it seemed the club’s troubles were over – four matches played, four matches won, and a really powerful side on the field. Then the New Zealand University team left for Australia taking with it J.H. Ruru, Mackay, Deiderich and Dixon. The loss of these men for a month was too great. ‘Varsity did not win another game until late in the season partly because, when the NZU players returned, injuries took a heavy toll.

Mackay, Diederich, Blacker, F. Cormack and Ruru played for the provincial team; Mackay was a reserve back for the All Blacks and was chosen for North Island but was unable to play; Ruru played for New Zealand Maoris, who toured New Zealand and defeated Australia.

In 1931 the administration of the club was in the hands of Professor H.H. Cornish as Patron; Professor TA. Hunter as President; Club Captain, PR. Martin-Smith; Deputy, A.P O’Shea and Secretary, C.M Turner. “The Football Club” had an eventful season,” says The Spike, “It played Canterbury College for the first time for some years and lost 14-28, and its junior side played Massey Agricultural College for the first time and lost 6-19. The demands of NZU and an abnormal run of injuries resulted in the team in a number of games taking the field minus almost all the regular backline. Nevertheless, Ramson scored well over 50 points.”

The result of Ramson’s efforts can be seen in the breakdown of results – played 16, won 6, lost 9, drew 1, points for 248 and against 194.

The full back was F. Cormack; the three quarters – J.D. Mackay, F.S. Ramson, J.H. Ruru, N. Hislop, D. Young; five eighths – R.H.C. Mackenzie (captain), D. Mulvihill, J. Black, R. Leech; half back, J.M. Pacey; wing forwards – D. Griffin, R. Simmers; forwards – TM. Elliott, J. Beaumont, R.F. Dierderich (vice captain), C.E. Dixon, W.R. Hart, G.R.J Hope, E.E. Blacker, H. Macaskill, D. Barker, M.E. Mahoney, Banks, Dalgleish. S. Kidd, Webber, H. Middlebrook, Masters and Dickinson each played one game.

The Spike says “Senior B started a good side but replacements for the A’s ruined the team’s chances of the championship. They were a happy side coached by F. Petre and H.C. Bailey.”

The team: Read, Webb, Young, Dickinson, Gully, Hislop, Whitcombe, Pau l, Black (captain), Leech, Clifford-Jones, McKee, McWhinnie, Barton, Dalgleish, Desborough, Kidd, H. Williams, Macaskill, Webber, Banks, Mahoney, Benge, O’Shea, Steele.

The juniors had a good heavy pack but suffered from lack of practice. Third A and B were as usual well down the list. The Spike said, “Both teams have a facility for enjoying themselves and do not mind whether they win or lose. Undoubtedly the best team in the club this year was Fourth A. They were only beaten once, and then by the leaders, Petone A. They were the best lower grade side we have ever had… mostly boys in their first year away from school. The coach was A.P O’Shea. They won 11, lost 1, drew 1. Fourth B did not have many successes. The new practice ground behind the gym is nearing completion and when finished will give the Club a big advantage as far as training is concerned.”

In this year the Union decided to award blazers to players who had played in ‘A’ representative games for at least three seasons and in not fewer than seven games. The year was notable also for the retirement of Craig Mackenzie after he stood on a tussock on a playing field and badly twisted his ankle. It was his first (and only) serious rugby injury. He retired and married, closing a senior playing career that started in 1923 and ended in 1931. Surprisingly enough he started as a wing forward at Wellington College from 1920-22 and played there in his first years at VUW – he even played for Wellington in that position. Craig is still a little shamefaced when he recalls the tricks Sid Shearer taught him in the game against Southland. He also considers that the little bits of sleight of hand worked so well that Sid was selected for the All Blacks on the strength of that game, which was watched by the selectors.

Mackenzie became a five eighth only because Victoria was weak in that position. Before he gave up his wing forward role though he had an entertaining afternoon opposing Cliff Porter, who had made the opposite switch – from second five eighth to wing forward. The future All Black captain (remember 1930 Lions manager J. Baxter’s ‘Porter you cheat’ accusation at a post-match dinner and the subsequent rule change by the International Rugby Board which then represented only the British Isles?) had just started his new career and did not tumble to Craig’s little obstructions as Porter dashed around the scrum. He was penalised all day for bumping into Mackenzie who of course was looking the other way as he stepped back.

Mackenzie says his most famous moment in rugby came during a representative game at Auckland. As a scrum went down second five Mark Nicholls asked Craig to change places with him. Wellington won the ball and “Bubs” Knight came off the Auckland scrum and hit him on the jaw. Then he said “Sorry Crow, I mistook you for Nicholls.”

Craig played for the All Blacks in 1928, for Wellington from 1925-29 and NZU 1925 and 1929. An astute first five eighth he led NZU to victory over Australian Universities in three tests in 1929; he also led Victoria to its first championship victories in 1928 and 1929, two years in which he was also President of the Students’ Association.

One of Mackenzie’s fondest memories is of playing inside Mark Nicholl s, who, he says, had a great brain, and Bert Cooke. He considers Poneke’s H.J. Julian as probably the best half back he played outside (his career was terminated by injury) and has tremendous respect for J.N. ‘Pasty’ Millard as a coach .

1932

No doubt in 1932 the slump affected rugby as it did everything else, and university teams perhaps more than others. Nevertheless the club had a large membership and was able to enter seven teams in the Wellington Union’s competitions.

The senior A’s , who had a young and inexperienced backline, finished well down the ladder after losing the first six games. Nevertheless they earned 15 championship points. The forwards were solid and well led by Roy Diederich, who was at that time President of the Students’ Association. The team: Backs – F Cormack, Dickinson, Ruru (vice-captain; N. Hislop, Young, Webb, Thompson, Kane, Thurston, Wild, Leitch, Clifford-Jones, Whitcombe, Jerram and Turner; Forwards – Bade, Beaumont, Edwards, Elliott, Wood, Hart, Dixon, Blacker, Deiderich (captain), Hope and Espiner.

Despite calls from the A’s and injuries, senior B won several games and lost others by narrow margins; Junior A, a good team, finished with 12 championship points, Junior B had a fa ir measure of success but tended to fade before 80 minutes were up; the thirds did not fare too well but enjoyed their football; Fourth A was probably the strongest side in the club for its grade and was runner up for the second year in succession; Fourth B were also a good side.

Diederich and Neville Hislop (brother of Tony) played for Wellington A (Ruru was chosen but was unable to tour); D. Young was selected for the Senior B Representatives; Blandford, Glendon and Bradshaw played for the Wellington junior A team, and Burke, Buddle, Edgar and Watt in Fourth A.

Also in 1932 the long since abandoned ‘no replacement rule’ came into effect for representative games.

1933

History of the less desirable sort was made in 1933 when for the first time Victoria was relegated to the new second division of the senior A competition . Club pride was badly dented and at the end of the season several prominent players left to join other clubs and so retain their senior A status.

Nevertheless seven teams were entered and met with reasonable success, particularly senior first XV (playing in the second division) and third A. The First XV did, however, lose to Canterbury College 4- 28. J.D. Mackay was Club Captain ; T Petre, Deputy and H.R.C. Wild, Secretary.

The Senior A Coach was F. Glasgow and his squad comprised: Backs – F Cormack, A. McKenzie, Ruru, Feltham, Hislop, Dickinson, Kane, Thurston, Wild, Pacey, Macauley; Forwards – Ongley, Claris, Dick, Eade, Sutherland, Reid, Blacker, Dixbn, Wells, Diederich (captain), Edwards.

Another of the famous names of the past decade was no longer listed – Stan Ramson had hung up his boots. A dashing, penetrating centre he answered critics of his tackling with a brillaint display for Wellington against the 1930 British Isles team. A splendid goal kicker, he scored well over 100 points in one season for Victoria, and

some years over 50. Stan played regularly for Wellington from 1927-30, but did not appear for NZU. Like Mackenzie he was a school teacher; again like Mackenzie he taught at Hutt Valley High School where the doyen of Wellington rugby, Norman Millard was principal. Little wonder the school turned out All Blacks like Jarden, Fitzgerald and Loader.

Senior B under coach F Petre had varying fortunes; the juniors led by J. Frost and coached by H.N. Burns did not do very well; third A under Alan Wilson and coach Laurie Bonsgrave were very successful; Third C, captained by H. Garner greatly enjoyed their football, which they played in a carefree spirit; the Fourths (under 19) were fairly successful under the leadership of Dean and coach R.T Wright.

successful under the leadership of Dean and coach R.T Wright.

C.M. Ongley and Jock Wells were selected for the representative team; Diederich (captain), Wells and Edwards for NZU. Again the withdrawal of these players for the tests with Australian Universities was blamed for ruining the team’s chances of success – and with a certain amount of justice.

The team missed promotion to the first division of the senior competition and were runners-up in the second – just not quite good enough. A confidence booster was Victoria’s defeat of the touring Australian Universities team by 21-15, and the completion of a practice ground behind the gym added a degree of stimulation. The site was levelled by unemployed labour and club members turned out in force to further the project.

1934

Indeed 1934 did provide some encouragement. After surviving some stern encounters the First XV was reinstated in Senior A for the first time since 1932; the third grade C team and the fourth grade team both won their competitions. This was the first time since 1929 the club had won a grade championship, and it had never before won a lower grade. The club also derived great satisfaction from the fact that it was fourth in the club championship. Also Canterbury College was beaten 16-6.

Professor Kirk was President; H.R.C. Wild, Secretary and R.E. Diederich, Club Captain. Seven teams were entered in the competitions.

The senior A’s, coached by former All Black Doug Mackay with the assistance of masseur Roy Brien, had to surmount the loss of five prominent players at the beginning of the season. Because of the senior team’s relegation to second division they decided it was in their best interests to transfer to other clubs. But Roy Diederich and others remained loyal and, aided by a sprinkling of new blood, the team played splendid football.

At the end of the first round it was promoted to the first division where, although it won only one game, several of its defeats were by narrow margins. “The forwards all played well ,” Spike says, “with Burke, last year a third grade man, always outstanding (he was later to be one of the clubs great players). In the backs Jack Ruru was the mainstay on defence and attack, and Rae also showed good form.”

The full team was H.M. Hislop, H.R.C. Wild, F Cormack, B.D. O’Shea, J. McM. Elliott, J.B. Thurston, H.C. Middlebrook, J.A. McBride, R.A. Russell, G.R.J. Hope, C.F Feltham, A.G. McKenzie, J.H. Ruru (captain) , E. Blacker, S.J. Eade, K. Claris, R.B. Burke, G.G. Rae, D.W. McElwain .

Senior B again had a lean year; they had good forwards and poor backs, but showed great improvement when TC. Hi slop took up the coaching later in the season. Bradshaw was the captain. Of 16 games played 2 were won, 14 lost, 96 points to 247.

The juniors had a successful year with Wilson, Hansen and Thurston prominent in the forwards, but again the backs were weak. L. Bansgrove was coach, Wilton captain and the record reads: played 13, won 8, lost 3, drew 2, points for 94 and against 62. Third A had a fair season. Holderness and Lee were prominent in the backs and the forwards all played well. P Buddle was captain and R. Roberts, coach. They played 13, won 5, lost 8, points for 111, aginst 128. Third B were exhorted to pay more attention to training. Coached by Mr Beaumont, captained by B. Campbell they played 15 games, won 4, lost 9, drew 2, points for 63 and against 114.

Third C, almost entirely Weir House men, won their first few games, found they liked winning and were inspired to train. Result, one grade championship, and by a good margin. Captain, organiser and manager was Birks, who led the forwards with Sage in support. Redwood and Fitzgerald were outstanding backs. Their impressive record : played 14, won 12, lost 2, points for 138 and against 27.

It was the club policy to keep the under 19 men in the fourth grade and in 1934 it really paid off with a championship!. Several names that were later to be prominent appeared – coach H.E. Moore, backs Overton, Simm, Tricklebank, Te Punga; forwards Gibbons, Armour, Akel and Broad. The team’s record speaks for itself played 16, won 14, lost 1, drew 1, points for 354, against 36.

Players selected for Wellington representative teams were : senior – J. Ruru; junior – Marshall and Wilson ; fourth grade – Overton.

Tragedy was, however, lurking in the wings. J.H. (Jackie) Ruru, a brilliant centre and regarded as a certainty for the Al l Black tour of Britain in 1935, died as a result of an injury received in a tackle during the annual Prince of Wales fixure at Rotorua. Jackie, who played for Hawkes Bay while still a pupil at Te Aute College, was already a Maori All Black when he came to Victoria University College in 1931, having played with the Maori team that toured New Zealand in 1927 and against the British Isles in 1930. While at Victoria Ruru played for the 1931 Maori team on its tour of New Zealand and for New Zealand Maoris against Australia later in the year. He also represented Wellington in 1931 and 1934 and NZU in 1931.

Spike said “All the joy of a successful season has been lost for us by the terrible news on September 2 that Jack Ruru had lost his life. As a member of our senior team for four years and our brilliant captain for this season he . . . had been largely responsible for bringing our club once more to a leading place in Wellington football .. . He had by his brilliant play and gentlemanly bearing won the admiration of al l Wellington footballers and the affection of his own teammates… the finest of footballers and the fairest of sportsmen.”

The tragic death of this gifted and popular player, the club’s only provincial representative for the year, took most of the sparkle out of the team’s early successes, and his fellow players turned their thoughts to the provision of a suitable memorial to him. Money was raised and a trophy specially carved by Mr Hebberly of the Dominion Museum. It was called the Ruru Shield and was allocated by the club committee to the annual match between Weir House and the rest of the College. When it was first played for in 1936 the Rest came home victorious.

Maori rugby also honoured Jackie Ruru. In 1936 they added a Jack Ruru Memorial Cup to the Prince of Wales trophy.

The Ruru Shield was played for regularly for over 30 years but when in 1978 women students were allowed to live in Weir House it became impossible for the hostel to field a team. So the Shield was laid aside for some years until in 1982 it was resurrected

as a challenge trophy for the Club’s social teams. The first holder was the Junior 6 team known as Cornelius Groat who repulsed a challenge from Junior 8 (The Seven Ounces) in 1983 but lost to them in 1984.

1935

Having taken a hesitant step forward in 1934 the Club marched boldly backwards in 1935 and was for the second time re legated to the second division of senior A. Even there it began badly. Fortunately the team hit its straps in the middle of the season and ended up in third place in the second division.

Mind you, they started out with only three forwards and three backs from the previous year’s team so of course it took some time to work up a combination. Their playing record : played 14, won 9, lost 4, drew 1, points for 183 and against 102. They were beaten by Canterbury College 32- 14.

The senior team was: W. Tricklebank, T.A. Harper, J.B. O’Regan, D.W. McElwain, R. Wild, B Overton, L. Pau l, G.G. Rae (captain), G. Gibbons, C.M. Lima, G.E. Wilson, J.P Miller, R.A. Russell, S.G. Eade, E.E. Blacker (vice-captain), A.H .. Armour, E.R. Chesterman, A.C. McKenzie, E. Missen, W.L. Barker. Doug Mackay was again coach.

The Junior A team, downgraded from Senior B because of the top team’s relegation, were captained by Wilton and coached by Stannard. They played 16 games for 8 wins and 8 losses, 208 points to 146. Junior B, led by P Buddle and coached by Eckhoff, played 16, won 4, lost 8 drew 4, 169 points to 129.

Third A, coached by Bansgrove and led by B. Campbell , played 16, won 6, lost 8, drew 2 and scored 146 points to 148. Third B with Roberts coaching and Fraser captain, played 12, won 2, lost 10, 46 points to 193. Third C, the grade champions, played 15, won 10, lost 3, drew 2 and scored 230 points to 87. Parker was captain. The Fourths also had a very good season: they played 15, won 7, lost 8 and scored 167 points to 135. Buddle was captain, Moore and Wicks the coaches. With 7 teams on the field there were more good results than bad.

Club stalwart Roy Diederich was Club Captain, G. Rae, his Deputy and H.R.C. Wild, Secretary. Blacker, E.R. Chesterman and G.G. Rae were selected for representative teams; Chesterman also played for Wellington Colts. Overseas, Rhodes Scholar and former team member R. McG. Cooper played for Scotland against Wales and

Ireland in 1935-36.

The announcement of the first NZU tour of Japan provided a great boost for university rugby and places in the team were keenly sought. Hopes were high that the tour would be a breakthrough for university rugby and lead to more overseas tours and reciprocal visits. When the boat sailed on 2 December, among the 24 man party were Victoria players Rae (half back), Chesterman and Eade (towards), Wild (five eighth or centre) and Tricklebank (full back). Usual club hooker, Dick Burke, who was spending a year at Canterbury Teachers College (the Wellington College was closed as an economy measure) and had represented Canterbury was also on board. The team won 6 and drew 1 of its games in Japan and won both games in Hong Kong. Tricklebank scored 26 points. Bobby Martin-Smith was selector.

However, perhaps the real heroes of the season were Third C, who won their grade for the second year in succession.

1936

Third C took the honours again in the following year, 1936, when they became the first Victoria College team to win their grade three years in a row. E.E. Blacker was Club Captain; H.R.C. Wild (President of the Students’ Association and a future Chief Justice), his Deputy and L.O. Desborough, Secretary. Dough Mackay was again

Senior Coach.

The First XV, playing again in the second division, managed to hold their own, though they were a young team: Backs – W. Trick lebank, F. Fitzgerald, H.R.C. Wild, M.O. Ekdahl, PJ. Reid, G.A. Parsons, P.F. Simm, G.G. Rae (vice-captain); Forwards – R.B. Burke, B.G. Jackson, W.R . Cunliffe, G.E. Wilson, E. Blacker (captain), L.O. Desborough, W.G . Thurston, S.G . Eade, R.A. Russell , G.B. Gibbons. They were beaten by Auckland, lost the first match against Massey 3- 6 and won the return encounter 8-3.

Dick Burke and Stu McNicol (who had come into the side) played in the Wellington A Representatives, Reid and Ekdahl in the second division team and Simm and Hansen for the juniors.

Spike says “Junior A, led by Redwood, did exceptionally well and at one time looked like winning the championship. Junior B with Campbell as captain, had a very good season; Third A, led by Fraser, played good football on occasions; Third B, with Oliver as captain, had very few regular players and were often short.” Of Third C, who won their grade, Spike says it “was a social team and we cannot learn very much about it except that it wins every Saturday and then adjourns to the Gresham.” The fourth grade team, led by Larkin was deemed to be not as good as in other years.

Meanwhile down in Dunedin, medical student and former Victoria player J.M. Watt became an All black against the visiting Australians.

Another important event took place in 1936. For the first time inter-island university teams met for what was to become an annual fixture. True, there had been a single trial in 1908, but it was not followed up. South won this historic encounter at Wellington 31-14. Victoria players in the North Island team were Tricklebank (full back), Wild

(centre), M.O. Ekdahl (wing), G.A. Parsons (five eighth, captain), S.G. Eade (No.8), E.E. Blacker (lock) and R.B. Burke (hooker). Selector P Martin-Smith awarded NZU blues to 13 players – they had to be bona fide matriculated students taking a definite course of lectures. Parsons was the only VUC recipient.

The tour of Japan, 1935-36 is regarded as providing the impetus for the inter-island fixture. The teams played for a Japanese rose bowl presented to the NZU team during the tour by Michio Yusawa Governor of Hyogo, Japan.

In this year also the Teachers Training College Club, which had been in recess from 1933- 35 while the Wellington Teachers College was closed because of the depression, was readmitted to the Union as an adjunct to the Victoria College Club. It played in senior B and came near the top of the grade. It resumed its status as a separate affiliation the following year. Only Sam Meads stayed with ‘Varsity, although Stu McNicol rejoined in 1938.

Sam Meads points out that teachers and teacher trainees had made a big contribution to the club, especially to the backlines of the champion teams of the late 20’s, men such as Craig Mackenzie, Stan Ramson, Tom Beard, Ted Brown, Doug Mackay, Fred Cormack, Albert Jackson; in the 40’s there were Dick Burke, Sam Meads, Gus

Wilson, Stu McNichol and Jo Bryers.

1937

In 1937 the club was again placed in the senior second division, but the air was filled with the usual, and so often misplaced, optimism. The team started well by winning four games in the first round, which entitled them to a place in the first division. Alas, that was where the dream ended – perhaps it was an omen that the carefully constructed practice ground was taken as a site for the college biology block. J.B. Trapp notes (The Spike 1949, p. 98) “The seniors must have welcomed the end of the season with its release from regular weekly defeat – for not another game in nine was won, and the team finished last in the grade. There was not even a single Club member in the provincial team. ”

Nevertheless the Club Captain (A.P. O’Shea) thought the season could be reviewed with a great deal of satisfaction in spite of the fact that they won no outstanding honours. Deputy Club Captain and Field Captain was E.E. Blacker and L.O. Desborough was Secretary. O’Shea and Blacker were later to become life members. The coaches were J.H. Parker (a 1924 Canterbury All Black wing forward) for the First XV and Chapman, Eckhoff, Richards and Macintosh down the grades.

Of the other teams The Spike says senior B was just a recruiting ground for the A’s. “The team was never the same. It contained two distinct types of players – the ambitious who saw themselves as on trial for higher honours and thus try to do too much on their own, and those who go out each Saturday for a good old romp around the paddock.”

Junior “B” (Social) A had a quite successful season. They were just up from three lower grade wins and lacked weight. Jeffs was captain. Junior “B” B took a while to settle down, Third A were disappointing, and Third B, led by Mitchison found it difficult to field a regular fifteen .

H.R.C. (Dick) Wild (centre), PJ. (Phil) Reid (five eighth), R.A. Russell (No. 8) and Dick Burke (hooker) played in the inter-island university match, and Wild, Reid and Burke were chosen by selector T.G. Hislop for the NZU team. However no fixture was arranged for it. Massey defeated Victoria 14- 8 and Canterbury won 19-6, but Auckland succumbed 10- 8.

The Phil Reid just mentioned was a brilliant second five who came to the club straight from Silverstream College. Unfortunately he stayed only one year before going to Hawkes Bay, from where he earned a place in the North Island side in 1939.

1938

On the heels of calamity came success or, more accurately, something of a resurgence. In 1938, unpredictable as ever, the First XV, playing again in the second division, won all their first five matches. Then, predictably, they lost two, though by narrow margins. Regaining their breath, so to speak, they rattled off the next six games and won the competition, five clear points in the lead. The despair of their supporters one year, they won a senior championship, albeit in the second division, the next. After eight years in the senior rugby wilderness, they had won the College’s third senior rugby championship.

In inter-university games Victoria was beaten 20-16 by Auckland, but beat Massey 13- 11 and Canterbury 27-6.

A.P. O’Shea was Club Captain and J.H. Parker, senior A Coach. The 1938 team was J. Kissel, R.P. Hansen, J. Eastwood, J. Bryers, P.E. Bridges, S. McNicol, E.E. Blacker, J.H. Armour. R.A.H. Russell , W. Tricklebank, O.S. Meads. T.C. Larkin, R.B. Burke (captain), H.R.C. Wild (vice-captain), V.J. Palmer, S.G . Eade, J.B. O’Regan,

R.A. Buddle and R.J Thomas.

Nevertheless, The Spike thought the teams had not fulfilled expectations and commented on poor club spirit in the lower grades. They said senior A coached by J.H. Parker had had a satisfactory season. In the forwards they picked Burke (captain), McNicol, Thomas and Hansen as the stars; in the backs Wild at centre or first five eighth was excellent, Bryers at second five eighth and the three quarter line of Eastwood, Tricklebank and O’Regan were all strong determined runners while Kissel at fullback had developed into a first class player.

Bob Thomas was an Auckland prop or hooker on the tour of Japan who had moved south to VUC. Jim Parker, 1924-25 All Black wing forward, was regarded by his ‘pupil s’ as a very fine coach, a gentle giant who had the knack of encouraging and inspiring his players.

Senior B had no regular coach but put up a creditable display despite losing players to the seniors; Junior A, captained by D. Ekchoff, had a most disappointing season after a good beginning; Junior B (social) had its worst season ever; Junior C (Star) lacked specialised backs; Third A, coached by the dedicated enthusiast, H.E. Moore, had perhaps the best performance in the club; they were mainly freshers. Two teams were entered in Third B but both suffered from shortage of players.

The number of players selected for higher honours gives an indication of the strength of the team at this time: J.F Eastwood, McNicol, Burke (Wellington A) , Rae and Wild (Wellington B) were selected for Wellington representative teams); Victoria supplied the whole North front row for the inter-island university clash – Roy Hansen, Dick Burke, Stu McNicol and in the backs Jack Kissel (full back), Jim Eastwood (wing), Dick Wild and Jo Bryers (five eighths). During the game Bill Tricklebank came on for an injured Bryers.

Bryers, Wild, Burke and McNicol played for NZU in its first encounter with a major rugby province, Waikato. Eastwood and Kissel were selected but had to withdraw because of injury. All in all it was a good year for Victoria University College rugby.

Waikato won this first encounter 13-6. Nevertheless the game represented another step forward for university rugby as it opened up a new field for future matches. The acceptance of the proposal to select each year after the inter-island university match a NZU team to play a major province gave a great fillip to university rugby. In this initial year the national university team was selected by T.G.A. Hislop of Wellington; J.H. Parker, also of Wellington, selected the North Island team.

1939

The year 1939 saw the club back in the first division – sadly not on the basis of playing achievement but because the Union raised to 12 the number of teams in the first division. They held their own in the new grade, performing creditably if not spectacularly.

The Club Captain was Alex O’Shea; his Deputy, Henry Moore and the Secretary, C.G. Rea. The Spike said, “A review of the season must provide considerable satisfaction. The Club’s most cherished hope of recent years was realised when the First XV became once more a senior A team. Its record, though not spectacular, justified its promotion.” The team played 16 games, won 7, lost 8 and drew 1. They came second in the Hardham Cup. The coaching was in the hands of Jim Parker, assisted by Dick Wild and “Their success was due to them and the inspiring leadership of popular captain, Dick Burke.”

Junior A played 16, won 10, lost 5, points for 165 and against 123, championship points 21 and came third in a field of 14, which was very creditable. Junior B did not have a good run, but Third A had a successful season, coming second in their grade. Of Third B the only record is that “their play showed an improvement.”

Jim Eastwood, Stu McNicol (lock), Dick Burke and Roy Hansen (prop) gained representative honours and the last three played in a powerful NZU side led by Otago All Black Trevor Berghan which defeated Canterbury 24-5. Playing for North Island universities were Burke, Hansen, McNicol, O.S. Meads (lock), half back G.G. Rae (known as ‘Fat’) and Kissel. South won 20-13. In inter-university matches Victoria drew with Massey 14-14, and were defeated by Canterbury 5-3.

Some of the players listed above may deserve a little more mention. Jim Eastwood was a 440 yard track champion who developed into a powerful wing three quarter; Sam Meads and Stu McNicol were an impressive pair of locks who nevertheless had their own individual characteristics. Few would have guessed that Stu was likely to suffer from nerves, but he had a lot of trouble from a nervous stomach the night before the match. Sam, perhaps more phlegmatic and practical, introduced the lethal crotch hold tackle. Dick Burke was one of the most accomplished hookers never to become an All Black – the selectors seemed to prefer bigger men. Roy Hansen was a hard lean loosehead prop who is fondly remembered by Burke as a man whose feet were always placed where his hooker wanted them – out of the way. As player and administrator Hansen took an active part in Club affairs for some 30 years from 1934 – he played from 1934-49 (Wellington and NZU rep 1939) and Club Captain 1952-65. He turned out for NZ Services in 1940.

‘Fat’ Rae was a most useful half back who played for Wellington in 1935 and NZU in 1936; he also did a stint as Club Secretary. Jack Kissel was a very competent last line of defence who played for NZ Services in England in 1941-42.

The ‘mighty Diederich’ as he is referred to was undoubtedly the great personality of the period. Roy Diederich, forward leader and First XV captain 1933-34, Wellington representative 1929-32, NZU 1929-33, was an outstanding individual, a strong character with high moral atttributes and great leadership qualities. Some of this is demonstrated in the following incident: In the early 1930’s Norman Millard, Wellington selector and coach, asked retiring All Black, Mark Nicholls to talk to the representative team. In the course of his remarks Nicholls advised the players to ‘kick anything above grass level that moves.’ Roy remonstrated and told Millard he ought to be ashamed of allowing a player who talked like that to address the team.

For a period, President of the Students’ Association, he became a senior official in the Public Trust Office and was posted to Fiji as a magistrate in the late 30’s. When war broke out he returned to New Zealand and enlisted as a trooper – and he was killed as a trooper.

As indicated above the Wellington Union had modified their grading system for senior teams in 1939 by adding two teams to the first division. For a number of years the Union had divided the senior grade into two divisions, first and second, with the two top teams in the second division moving up into the first division at the end of the first round. Henceforth there were to be 12 teams in senior A first division, and the former second division was to be called senior second division. However the first division was still to be divided for the second round, the bottom six teams dropping

out of the Jubilee Cup group. The Union purchased a cup for this competition – the Hardham Cup – commemorating the long-serving player and administrator, Major W.J. Hardham, V.C., who had played 53 games for the Union.

By the end of the 1939 season New Zealand was at war once again with Germany. For the next five years life in general, at the university and on the playing field, was sadly disrupted. Clearly this was the end of an era, and for Victoria University College rugby a somewhat troubled one. Dick Burke, who was associated with the club from 1932-56 as player and coach (with an interruption in 1949-50 when he was Wellington sole selector) sees this clearly. He refers to the period 1932-39 as one of demotion and promotion, retirement and replacement, marked by the endeavours of some great players and characters and the departure of several prominent players (including Wellington representatives) for first division clubs when VUC lost its senior first status. However a loyal corps, including Cormack, Blacker, Burke and Diederich remained, and their rugby careers did not suffer. Indeed the Club ended the period in good heart and with a large membership.

In fact there were more triumphs to come. But before then there are the trials and tribulations of six years of world war to consider.

6. The Demands of War 1940-45

CHAPTER SIX

1940-45

THE DEMANDS OF WAR

At first the Club, with its relatively large membership, did not feel the impact of the war very greatly. New players were available and six teams were entered. Before long, however, the large numbers of players enlisting began to have an effect and it became harder and harder to keep a senior team on the field – in fact in at least two war years well over 40 men played for the First XV. The club’s survival as a senior team was largely due to the efforts of a small band of enthusiasts led by H.E. (Henry) Moore.

Henry had taken over as senior coach at the beginning of the war when 1924 All Black J.H. (Jim) Parker had found himself unable to continue. A university cross country champion in 1921 , Henry had been coaching junior grades with considerable success for some years and the club was extremely fortunate to have him on hand. Throughout the war season he regularly spent Friday nights with Orm Creed in John Carrad’s office trying with him to raise a team for the following day. They would, for instance, ring Trentham camp seeking eligible players and Wellington hospital hoping to find student doctors from Otago university doing their hospital year.

1940

For 1940 A.P. O’Shea was elected Club Captain; D.R. Scrimgeour, Deputy and B. Campbell , Secretary. Dick Burke led the First XV, who had their moments. They had a fine pack, one of the best in the competition, but were short of backs. The difference in scores was very rarely greater than 6 points. With 10 championship points they were 5th (bottom equal with Oriental) in the Hardham Cup.

Junior A had a very disappointing season, what with calls from the seniors and the requirements of military service. Third A paid strict attention to training and had a very successful season; Third B started well, but neglected their training and faded. Before 1940 was over there was a shortage of players, expecially for the First XV, and the lower grade sides were struggling. In these circumstances success was hard to come by, and the only team to make its mark, so to speak, was Junior 3, which tied for first place with Porirua.

Representative games were severely restricted . McNicol played for the Wellington senior representatives and Burke, H.E.M. Greig and O.S. Meads appeared for the province in other matches. The NZU team which beat Combined Services 12-11 at Auckland included Burke, Meads and McNicol. R.D. Patrick (five eighth) was selected but did not play. The North Island Universities team included Kissel , Patrick, A.H. Churchill (half back), McNicol, Meads and Burke (captain). The New Zealand se lector was again T.G.A. Hislop, and for the North Island FR. Macken, Wellington . North won 12-5.

1941

Professor B.E. Murphy was elected President for 1941; A.P O’Shea was Club Captain; H.E. Moore his Deputy and O.J. Creed, Secretary. On ly four teams were entered and the Spike records that “Although no side won a championship the club had a very successful season, each team finishing well up its grade despite losses to the services.”

The juniors improved greatly during the season and Third B made a splendid showing under coach Bill Joll and captain Vance Henderson.

The seniors, led by Sam Meads (Dick Burke was in the army) played some splendid rugby, especially against an army side which contained six All Blacks, but did not have the reserves to stand the losses through enlistments. Sam Meads, by now a teacher at Rongotai College where he was also First XV coach, introduced one or two college players to senior rugby in the ‘Varsity jersey on two or three occasions to fill gaps – Ian Colquhoun at first five (later a prominent player, though not for Victoria) and Ian Boyd, a speedy winger. Neither was out of his class.

The team finished well down the ladder despite a fine late season run. Their brand of football accounts for the fact that six players were selected for provincial and university teams – W.G . (Guy) Smith and R.T (Ray) Shannon (flanker) played for Wellington (Meads and Shelley were also selected but were unable to play); Meads

(captain), Patrick (five eighth) Greig (full back), Shannon and G Stuckey (replacement full back) for NZU against Wellington. the match was drawn, 6- 6. No inter-island game was played because of travel difficulties. Major T.G. Hislop was NZU selector.

1942

When 1942 arrived with the war still on and fewer and fewer players available the maintenance of the club became a real burden to the small band who were dedicated to keeping it alive. Sam Meads was now also on active service with the air force and there were enough men for three teams but no more: morale was low; the personnel of teams changed from week to week as members enlisted – in fact the First XV called on 43 players during the season. As was to be expected, after a good start there came a string of defeats.

This year the President was Professor E.J. Boyd-Wilson; the Club Captain, H.E. Moore; Deputy, A.P O’Shea and Secretary, O.J. Creed. The Spike says “Reduced from 8 teams to 3 the club just managed to carry on. The seniors, who fielded men, were good but inconsistent, as might have been expected. The Second XV was a chopping block for the seniors, but performed well; thanks to captain lgglesden the Thirds battled manfully and scored some good wins.

“Tribute is due to the outstanding work of the club captain, Henry Moore, without whose enthusiasm, skill and tire less efforts the Football Club would probably not have been able to function .”

Travel restrictions made it impossible to carry out the usual representative programme, and only Don Patrick and J.P Murphy appeared for the Union in the few matches played. No NZU games were played, nor were there any inter-college games, but a team sponsored by the club and containing six of its members travelled to Wanganui and defeated the local colts 12-5. For the first time since World War I entries in the Union’s competitions fell below 100 – the actual total was 80.

1943

In 1943 the rugby union decided to play two qualifying rounds to decide who would play for the Jubilee Cup and who would play for the Hardham Cup. Victoria proceeded to lose its two qualifying games and so was placed in the second division once more. They performed quite creditably in the circumstances and finished third. Patrick and lock A.O. MacLennan played for the provincial team, but no NZU game was played. Inter-college games were however recommenced. Victoria lost to Auckland and Canterbury but defeated Massey.

The administration of the club was in the hands of Henry Moore as President and O.J. Creed as Secretary. It was regarded as a moderately successful but uninspiring season by the club “all of its teams maintaining a high level of mediocrity.” Of the four teams originally fielded one was withdrawn early in the season. The seniors, making a radical change from usual ‘varsity custom, started off poorly but finished up very well for a high place in the Hardham Cup competition. The juniors under captain Buck Ryder (a five eighth) were moderately successful. Spike says “the backs were capable but the forwards could have displayed more cohesion and vigour. ” The third grade team, coached by Pat Caird, was young but promised well. ”

1944

Injuries and transfers had a big effect on the senior squad in 1944, resulting in no fewer than 46 players appearing in the team. They narrowly defeated Massey, annihilated Canterbury, lost the first two games in the club competition and then ran off nine in a row. J.B. Trapp reports (The Spike, 1949, p. 99) “There were periods of both brilliant and uncommonly bad football. Sometimes it seemed that even senior second division was too high for the team, sometimes that no team in Wellington could be their equal.” The passing years have not persuaded the leopard to change its spots – many a present day supporter has seen similar performances. Growing numbers had enabled the club to enter four teams, but the players’ quest for higher honours bore little fruit. South Island universities beat the North 9-8 at Christchurch. H.B. Cutler (prop), A.W. Greyburn (lock) and C.T Cornick from Victoria played for North, but only Cornick was selected by H.E. Moore for NZU. However, it was a paper selection only – no game was arranged for them. Cornick was unlucky again when he was selected for Wellington but was unable to play. And there it ended except for Dr J.R.E. Dobson who came on for Wellington as a replacement.

Still for a club that was probably the hardest hit by the war the wonder really was that it was still alive and functioning . This was due almost entirely to the small band of .enthusiasts led by Henry Moore who by cajoling, persuading and encouraging had kept the club alive at senior level.

1945

The seniors were still in the Hardham Cup division in 1945 but returning servicemen boosted the Club’s membership and five teams were entered. Club spirit was re-emerging from three years in the depths but the old idiosyncrasies remained and brilliant performances were still followed by rubbish . Still the wins outnumbered the losses and the senior team was able to fill sixth position in the second division {the Hardham Cup).

Reviewing the season the Sports Post said “University (who had many gaps to fill from match to match) could never be taken lightly .. . If University had been able to keep a regular fifteen together they would have been well up with the best.” – Prophetic words indeed.

The Spike considered the season somewhat disappointing and blamed injuries to players and faulty handling in the backs. “Murphy and Shannon were the mainstays of the forwards and Goodwin in the backs. The juniors, led by G.S. Orr, were the chopping block for the rest of the club; Three A, under R.G. Wilde never really came up to expectations; Three B, a social team, was a great credit to Tanu Jowett, captain, coach, manager and organiser. They enjoyed the afternoon playing rugby and the evening at the Post Office Hotel.

”K.W. Watson was captain of Three C whose performance was one of the really bright spots in the club’s record, even though they were not very high in the competition. The club ‘s coaches were J.H. Parker, H.E. Moore, L.C. Berg, O.J. Creed and H.C. Bailey.”

The detailed records of the various teams were First XV (in Hardham Cup), played 15, won 8, lost 6, drew 1, points for 167 and against 146 (6th of 12); Junior played 15, won 3, lost 12 points for 83 and against 155 (13th of 16); Third, first division – played 15, won 5, lost 10, points for 83 and against 132 (9th of 12); Third, second – played 13, won 1, lost 12, points for 46 and against 126 (11th of 11 ); Third, third – played 15, won 5, lost 10, points for 98 and against 155 (6th of 10).

NZU selector, Henry Moore included R.J. Dun (prop), J.P. (Red) Murphy (flank, captain), R.T. (Ray) Shannon (lock), J.A.L. (Jack) Bennett (flank) and D.S. (Doug) Goodwin (five eighth) in the North Island universities team which was beaten 19- 12 by South.

The NZU side, beaten 19-9 by Otago, included Shannon and Murphy. The representative programme was still heavily curtailed by travel restrictions but Murphy and L.B. Lewis played for the provincial seniors, Shannon and G.W. Loveridge for other Wellington sides. R.B. Burke also appeared but as an army member.

But war leaves its scars and its sorrows. There are about 300 names on the Victoria University College roll of honour, many of them former club players and supporters. Among them are E.R. Chesterman, G.K. Claris, R.E. Diederich, E.T. Love, I.A. Hart and A.H. Churchill.

However, the war was over, the battle was won, the Club was not only safe but in good shape and ready to begin a new era. Henry Moore and John Carrad could now resume their normal Friday nights.

The Wellington Union, no doubt with its eye on the future, started Saturday morning competitions for schoolboys – and they are still going strong.

7. Brief Glory 1946

CHAPTER SEVEN

1946

BRIEF GLORY

1946

The 1946 season dawned quietly with no more than the normal degree of stimulation around the campus. There was no reason to expect it to be any different from most seasons. True, the Club had been granted first division status largely because it had preserved its identity through the war years – a fitting reward for those who had struggled so hard and long to keep the Club alive – but that was a stimulus rather than a passport to victory.

Like every other club, Victoria had received an influx of players, both experienced and inexperienced, returning from the Services. Partly to cope with this the Wellington Rugby Union expanded the senior first division from 8 to 12 teams and made similar adjustments down through the grades. On one point everyone was agreed – the stage was set for a bumper year’s rugby, and for once public opinion was right.

Victoria fielded an interesting combination of experienced ex-servicemen like Dick Burke, the captain, and talented younger players such as Ran Jacob and Doug Goodwin. The hard-working Henry Moore was again coach, and D.A. Clarke was Club Secretary.

The team at the beginning of May was H.F.M. Greig; Tweed, J.D. Dillon, W.P.M . Martin ; R.W. Berry, D.S. Goodwin (vice-captain), R. Jacob, R.E. Barraclough, R.T. Shannon, R.G. Cuming, O.S. Meads, J.P. Murphy, A.D. MacLennan, R.B. Burke (captain) and R.P. Hansen. Martin had previously played for Training College under the name Mataira. By the first game in June some changes had been made. The three quarter line was C.W. Loveridge, A.S. Macleod and Berry; the five eighths were Goodwin and TC. Larkin; the front row was J.R. Battersby, Burke and Hansen; MacLennan was locking. By July the three quarter line was Martin, Macleod and Berry; the five eighths, Larkin and M.F. Radich; J.A.L. Bennett was locking and MacLennan was back in the front row. The other positions were unchanged.

M.F. Radich, originally from Taranaki, was a half back or five eighth who had represented Manawatu as a half back in all its games in 1942 and had played for the Army’s Fourth Division and the Taranaki Regiment. He was to represent Wellington in 1947.

The team began the season with a decisive 16-6 victory over the playing-through champions, Athletic; lost to WCOB 9-11, and Maris! 5-13, then beat St Pats 20-5, Petone 19-12, Wellington 11-6 and Johnsonville 12-7. Poneke held them to a three-all draw, but after that it was all plain sailing to the end of the round. Oriental went down 12-7, Hutt 5-3 and Eastbourne 14-12. The grade was then divided into two equal parts, the top six playing for the Jubilee Cup and the lower six for the Hardham Cup. Only three Jubilee Cup games were played as by that time Victoria and Athletic were well out in front.

Victoria beat Petone 15-9 and Hutt 6- 0 in the lead up to the final. Entering the final, Athletic with two losses and 3 draws were one point behind University who also had two losses but only one draw. There was considerable tension and excitement, a very large crowd at Athletic Park and good rugby weather. Victoria were not given much chance by the critics (the media explained later, when challenged, that the club had played most of its matches outside the city area and so had not come under close scrutiny!!). It was said that G.R. Wales, the Athletic captain, had told his team before the game that University was only a bunch of college boys, and to get stuck into them.

But, as Henry Moore recalls, his team had decided to take Athletic on in the forwards for they had good locks (Meads and Bennett) and the two best flankers in the competition in Murphy and Shannon; Ran Jacob was a brilliant half and Doug Goodwin an excellent first five (he was later to play for Hawke’s Bay for many years). So they decided to spin the ball only when well into Athletic territory.

Led by the experienced Dick Burke, University took charge in the forwards, and even after having played the first spell into a southerly, looked like winners. The 16-3 score was even better than that of the opening game and reflected the merits of the two sides. The Evening Post called it ” .. . one of the most popular wins in years. Throughout the season University have played grand football, and with Burke, Murphy, Shannon and Meads in the forwards, Jacob outstanding behind the scrum and Greig a safe custodian, the team deserved success for its well-balanced composition.

“This year will stand as a notable one for Victoria College since it marks a double triumph, the Cook Shield for cricket as well as the rugby trophy. The football success is the more praiseworthy in that it has come in a season in which University are back in the Jubilee Cup section for the first time since their wartime relegation to the Hardham Cup competition.”

Though University could scarcely have won the final more convincingly than they did, their success was not generally anticipated. They took the field with the best wishes of the vast majority of Wellington Rugby enthusiasts, who had seen Athletic, Poneke-Oriental and Petone monopolise the honours during the war years and were ready for a change. The same well-wishers doubted, however, whether University could master their experienced and well-performed opponents.

“There need never have been any misgivings … University set out to settle the argument in the forward division. For a start supremacy was hard to gain, but the first spell , with University playing into an appreciable southerly breeze, had not been long in progress before it became apparent that only a serious reversal of form could rob

the students of victory.

“With Burke himself playing a vital part by winning a large share of the ball from Kiwi hooker Morrie lngpen, the ‘Varsity forwards secured a grip on the game which Athletic could do nothing to weaken.

It was a coincidence that University should open and close their part in the championship with overwhelming wins against Athletic …

“Two members of the University pack which beat Ahtletic … on Saturday are now out of action. They are R. Barraclough who played through the second spell with a broken collarbone, and R.T. Shannon, who had his nose broken at the end of the first spell . .. He has been in hospital since the match.”

The Dominion: “Congratulations are in order to University for winning the Wellington Rugby Union’s senior championship for 1946 … Throughout the season the University players have played splendid football and could not be included in the charges of unnecessarily rough play that were being made a few weeks ago.

“It will do rugby a lot of good in Wellington to have a champion team outside the usual trio – Athletic, Poneke, Petone.”

– The Weekly News commented: “University, who were practically unheralded throughout the season, are the Wellington Senior Rugby Champions, taking the title…

…for the first time since 1929. They swamped Athletic in the final, winning 16-3, largely because of an outstanding display by the forwards. There was a marked reluctance all along to give University any credit for their successes, although they won 11 games in a row – the side was always lucky; or its opponents weren’t at full strength. There were always excuses for the vanquished. University got there because they had the best balanced fifteen in the competition.”

The Spike said, “Two major clubs, cricket and rugby football, have brought distinction to themselves and the College by winning the senior grade competitions These splendid results were achieved by not only the possession of good individual players but also a fine team spirit and organisation and a will to win .”

The victory was a fitting reward for dedicated coach Henry Moore, who was not ashamed to be proud of the victory. It is claimed that Henry a heavy cigarette smoker, chewed instead of smoked his cigarettes during some of the close games.

One of these would undoubtedly have been the game against the bottom team, Eastbourne. This was the closest call of the season for the competition leaders. University were three points behind when the game entered injury time. Just before the final whistle Doug Goodwin made a weaving run to score under the posts. “That, to our great relief gave us the victory 14- 12,” Sam Meads says, “but the Eastbourne supporters were disgusted .” Eastbourne were in fact on their way out of senior first division rugby. At the end of the season they began to slide down the grades.

The winning team was: R.B. Burke (captain), O.S. Meads, A.O. Maclennan, W.P.M. Martin, D.S. Goodwin (vice-captain), A.S. Macleod , J.P. Murphy, R.T. Shannon, M.F Radich, H.FM. Greig, J.A.L. Bennett, R.P. Hansen, R. Jacob, R.E. Barraclough, R.W. Berry. Others who played during the season were J.D. Dillon , P.G. Mullins, R.G. Cuming, J.R. Battersby, V.G . Maclennan, TC. Larkin, C.A. McLeod, C.W. Loveridge and Tweed.

Among those who congratulated the coach and captain were J.N. Millard, chairman of the Wellington Rugby Union’s management committee, a one-time Victoria senior coach and a former Otago University player; Sir Alexander Roberts, H.F O’Leary KC (Chief Justice), Sir William Perry and T Hislop. Mr O’Leary was captain of Victoria in 1909 and in the same year led NZU to its first victory over Sydney University. Mr Hislop was a member of the 1928 team which won the championship.

The First XV played 14 games, won 11, lost 2, drew 1 and scored 163 points to 97 against, for 23 championship points. At hl etic finished with 20 championship points, Petone 18 and Poneke 14.

The National Mutual Cup was well within the team’s reach until half time in the match against Petone. The Evening Post said “A definite first spell advantage to University’s exuberant and well-schooled backs was wiped off in the second half by the Petone pack, which hooked the ball consistently after the interval from an opposition minus Burke, Barraclough, Shannon and Murphy.

“Petone’s final and winning points were a converted try by Logan, who gathered in a centering kick from one of his own forwards while standing offside and strolled over unopposed.

“Referee A. Hooper said later he saw Logan take the ball but did not see whether he had followed up, or was standing offside, and that he would not ‘penalise an infringement he did not see.” Petone won 19- 17.

The University team was: Greig, Berry, Radich, Macleod, Goodwin (captain), Larkin , Jacob, Battersby, Murphy, Meads, Bennett, Cuming, Hansen, B. Philpott and Maclennan. Murphy was replaced at half-time by Burden, and Macleod, who broke a collarbone in the second half, was replaced by Martin .

The season was a major triumph for captain Dick Burke. A product of Hutt Valley High School he joined ‘Varsity in 1932 and became a Wellington Fourth A Representative. He was a third grade player in 1933 and jumped dramatically to senior in 1934 when he was described as ‘outstanding’ by The Spike. Because Wellington Teachers College was closed he moved to Canterbury in 1935 where he became a Canterbury representative and a member of the NZU team which toured Japan in 1936. From 1936 he played for Victoria except for a period when he was in the Army. He captained the NZ Services side in 1945 against a New Zealand XV and was vice-captain of the NZU team which played Wellington the following year.

An extremely good hooker, he represented Canterbury in 1935, Wellington in 1936, 1938-39, 1945-47 and NZU in 1936, 1938-40, 1946. The Weekly News said “Much of the success on the field of University, winners of the Wellington senior rugby championship can be attributed to the leadership of Dick Burke .. . He held the pack together splendidly, and in the deciding game with Athletic he kept his forwards up to it all the way.” (see also p.56)

Down the grades the club’s record was: Senior second division played 14, won 3, lost 10, drew 1, points for 81 and against 159; Junior 1 were 8th of 13 teams and gained 11 championship points; Junior 2 were 13th of 13 with 3 points; Third 1 (the Colts) first equal with Maris! after a special final match, in a field of 14, 23 points; Third 2 were 4th of 16 with 18 points; Third 3 were 16th of 16 with 1 point.

The Wellington Union called on nine Victoria players for its teams: for the A team Dick Burke, Hal Greig, Sam Meads, Pat (Red} Murphy, Ray Shannon, Ran Jacob; at lower levels Doug Goodwin, M.F. Radich and Alister Macleod. Greig, Goodwin, Jacob, Meads, Shannon, Burke and Alistair Maclennan played in the North Island Universities team, selected by R.G. (Ron) Bush and Henry Moore. The New Zealand Universities selectors (C.A. Blazey, H.E. Moore, L.G. Loveridge) called on Burke, Shannon, Goodwin, Greig and Jacob. Ron Elvidge was captain and Dick Burke vice-captain. They beat Wellington B 20-14. Meads was not avail able because of injury. Rex Monigatti, who later played for Victoria at half back was an emergency from Canterbury College.

Ranfurly Jacob also played for New Zealand Maoris, thus becoming the third member of the Club to gain that honour.

And so ends the record of the memorable year in the history of the Club. The pity is that it stands as an oasis in the desert, all by itself, alone. The very next season saw the Club’s fortunes slump again.

8. Retreat 1947-51

CHAPTER EIGHT

1947-51

RETREAT

1947

As had happened in 1930 after the victories of 1928 and 1929, the 1947 year was an entirely different story. Again, despite the continuing presence of eight Wellington representatives (four of them NZU blues) the team played without polish or drive and was often quite sluggish. It was almost as if they felt they had to expiate their victories.

With a club membership of 150 seven teams were entered. J.B. Trapp was Secretary; Dick Burke again captain of the First XV and Henry Moore First XV Coach and North Is land selector. Other coaches were J.H. Parker, F.R. Macken, W.G .. Smith , B.L. Hurrell , O.J. Creed, E.G. Kedgley, G.D. Duncan and the Rev. M.G. Sullivan.

Since the end of the 1946 season Doug Goodwin had gone to Hawke’s Bay (where he played representative rugby for some years), Pat Murphy to Auckland where he became a prominent referee and later gained international status , R.G. Cuming to Massey College and R.G. Barraclough to bed after a skiing accident. In return the team gained S.S. Kurtovich, a hooker from Auckland and J.B.S. Hutchinson, a lock from Waikato.

With only four wins in the first 11 games the playing through champions were reduced to contesting the Hardham Cup. Even there they managed only one win and a draw in four games.

The Spike thought the overall performance of the Club had not been as good as was hoped at the beginning of the season. However the record of at least one team, the colts, was worth commendation. Of the Senior A team they said: “Despite the fact that apart from three players the personnel is the same as last season, at no time has the team shown form comparable to last year. They have achieved a correspondingly low place on the ladder.” They played 15 games, won 5, lost 9, drew 1 and scored 123 points to 132 for 11 championship points.

Of Senior B (second division) they said, “Although they have not won many matches the members still retain their enthusiasm, if not their encouraging form.” Of 14 games they won 2, lost 12, scoring 123 points to 207, third bottom of 19 teams.

Regarding Junior A, The Spike commented, “A very good set of forwards and some competent backs kept them in a creditable place. Junior B (the social team) appears to play ‘Kiwi’ or social rugby at will. Three A had an extremely fine record but Three C had not been over successful. ”

So no Club team did anything to relieve the general gloom.

Victoria beat Massey 14-5 but lost to Auckland 9-12. South Island Universities beat a North team that included A.S. Macleod , M.F. Radich, R. Jacob, R.T. Shannon and O.S. Meads (S.S. Kurtovich was emergency) by 17 points to 3. NZU, with Macleod, Jacob, Shannon and Meads from Victoria, beat Canterbury 21-0. Burke was not available for either game. Jacob, C.M. Burden and Meads (captain) were included in a Wellington colts team that beat Bush 18- 12.

R.B. Burke captained a Wellington town team against country, and led the Wellington representatives, where he was accompanied by Meads, Radich, Macleod and Shannon from Victoria. Other representative teams took Kurtovich and C.B. Burden.

The Jubilee Cup was won by Wellington who played 15 games for 13 wins and 2 losses, scoring 174 points to 113. Their style of play did not win them any friends. The press critics described them as “A pack of forwards and a full back,” and the headlines read “Dour Club Rugby” and “There is little Glitter on Jubilee Cup Rugby Today.” The Post said, “The competition . .. featured too much play that was unimaginative and inefficient … Is the conclusion to be reached that the Juiblee Cup is so intensely coveted that it casts a blight upon our players?”

The 1947 season was Dick Burke’s last as a player. The Evening Post commented “Burke, one of the most accomplished hookers in Wellington, New Zealand for that matter, will be a great loss both to University and Wellington representative rugby.” Burke was indeed widely respected both as a player and as a captain (see also Chapter 7, PP54). He had attracted attention while playing fourth grade for University and after a year in third grade he was promoted to senior in 1934. As NZU vice-captain, Victoria and Wellington captain in 1946, he was referred to as ‘the prince of hookers’. Burke was an extremely fast striker and an astute and capable captain, but he never became an All Black, probably because he was regarded as lacking size.

An unusual speciality of his was charging down full backs’ clearing kicks, almost literally taking the ball off their boots, and running in a try. As early as 1937 he did this to Petone’s Al l Black full back Bunk Pollock. He captained Wellington again in 1947, his last year of play.

After his retirement he became Wellington’s sole selector of the Senior A and B teams in 1949-50 (with two assistants reporting to him) .ln 1952-54 , and again in 1956 (after a year spent resting an injured back) he was co-coach with Ken Uttley of the victorious University teams of the golden years. In 1956 he also coached the NZU side that beat the Springboks, in its first international, and from 1958-64 he was a NZU selector.

Other losses were: Hal Greig, a competent full back and sound kicker, who had played for NZU and Wellington; S.S. Kurtovich, a hooker who played for Wellington during the year (he returned to Auckland) and C.M. Burden, another representative forward, who went to Canterbury.

1948

In 1948, for the first time for many years, eight teams were entered. This was an indication of the numerical strength of the club rather than a pointer to quality. In terms of success the year was a very poor one. The Patron was Sir Thomas Hunter; the President, Professor H.B. Kirk; the Club Captain, H.E. Moore; Deputy, R.T. Shannon and Secretary, J.B. Trapp.

C.A. (Clem) Shannon, brother of Ray and a former Petone player who had been in Hawke’s Bay, joined the pack as hooker.

The senior squad consisted of F. Buckley, J.D. Dillon, R.W. Berry, I.V. Dalgleish, R.G. Wilde, D. Dickson, M.F. Radich, H. Jaeger, R. Jacob, R.E. Barraclough, O.S. Meads (captain), A.W. Grayburn (back from Japan), P. Grayburn, J. Corkhill, R.T. Shannon, C.A. Shannon, B. Philpott, R.P. Hansen, R. Jermyn and J.R. Battersby (out with a leg injury in 1947). Barry Hutchinson had gone to Auckland.

In 16 matches the seniors had 4 wins, 11 losses and a draw and finished fourth out of six in the Hardham Cup, scoring 108 points to 184 against. The colts were runners up in their grade, the closest Victoria got to a competition victory, although they did beat Canterbury College 11-8 in the annual contest for the Prinz Memorial Cup. In the curtain raiser Victoria juniors beat Canterbury juniors 9-6.

The Wellington selectors called on Meads, Jacob, R.T. Shannon and R.G. Wilde from Victoria for the Senior A representative team. North Island University selectors (sic-ed)

Henry said he was having three trials at the weekend : he would put Jarden in the last one and his grade would depend on his performance. In 10 minutes, Henry says, he knew Jarden was All Black material.

The team was short of a goal kicker so Henry asked Ron if he could kick. He admitted he had kicked a bit so Henry gave him a club ball and told him to take it home and practice. In due course he returned it kicked out of shape and got another one.

Henry says Ron was the easiest player to coach because he was always ready to try out an idea. Henry asked him to try the standing kick at goal from in front of the posts – it is less likely to be charged down and the kicker is unlikely to slip in the mud.

That worked well so Henry pointed out that if the wing gets caught with the ball the attack generally dies: he suggested a good wing should develop a centering kick. A few weeks later Henry heard from neighbours that every morning Jarden was out on a field at the rear of his home practising a running kick which he would catch on the tips of his fingers (a Jarden characteristic) and then centering kicks until he could land them on a handkerchief. In between he would practice swerving round a series of stakes he put in the ground.

By happy coincidence the club introduced to senior rugby the following year a young flanker who was the ideal complement to the centering kick – tall , fast, with good hands and keen anticipation. His name was W.H. (Bill) Clark. Thus was born a combination that was to become the scourge of the opposition at club, provincial and international level – and the delight of the teams’ supporters.

Jarden would break on the left flank and loft a perfect centering kick; Clark was by then charging up the middle of the field splendidly positioned to catch the ball and race over the line. Inevitably opposing teams tried all sorts of tactics to thwart the move (many of them illegal) but they rarely succeeded; it is a pity no one has counted the number of times they brought this manoeuvre off. The Rugby Almanac of New Zealand very perceptively included Jarden both in its New Zealand team and as one of its five promising players on the basis of that first senior year.

Just as Jarden was polishing his technique the club lost one of its best backs. Ranfurly Jacob, New Zealand Maori Representative half back 1948, Wellington and NZU 1946- 48, went to Sydney University to study veterinary science – he is now a veterinarian in Hawke’s Bay. Victoria’s third Maori All Black, Ran was a brilliant half back who always covered his wings – a half cum three quarter. His father, a former prominent footballer, did not want him to play senior rugby when he first earned selection, but after discussion with coach Henry Moore agreed to leave it to his discretion. Moore decided to protect him by limiting his running – he was to run only when Moore said. Thus against Petone he ran in two tries in the first 10 minutes and did not run again – he had by then created a winning margin and, incidentally, created a great impression on former All Black Mark Nicholls of Petone, who was on the side line.

An unusual speciality of his was charging down full backs’ clearing kicks, almost literally taking the ball off their boots, and running in a try. As early as 1937 he did this to Petone’s All Black full back Bunk Pollock. He captained Wellington again in 1947, his last year of play.

After his retirement he became Wellington’s sole selector of the Senior A and B teams in 1949- 50 (with two assistants reporting to him).ln 1952- 54 , and again in 1956 (after a year spent resting an injured back) he was co-coach with Ken Uttley of the victorious University teams of the golden years. In 1956 he also coached the NZU side that beat the Springboks, in its first international, and from 1958-64 he was a NZU selector. posts-it is (sic-ed) less likely to be charged down and the kicker is unlikely to slip in the mud.

That worked well so Henry pointed out that if the wing gets caught with the ball the attack generally dies: he suggested a good wing should develop a centering kick. A few weeks later Henry heard from neighbours that every morning Jarden was out on a field at the rear of his home practising a running kick which he would catch on the tips of his fingers (a Jarden characteristic) and then centering kicks until he could land them on a handkerchief. In between he would practice swerving round a series of stakes he put in the ground.

By happy coincidence the club introduced to senior rugby the following year a young flanker who was the ideal complement to the centering kick – tall, fast, with good hands and keen anticipation. His name was W.H. (Bill) Clark. Thus was born a combination that was to become the scourge of the opposition at club, provincial and International level – and the delight of the teams’ supporters.

Jarden would break on the left flank and loft a perfect centering kick; Clark was by then charging up the middle of the field splendidly positioned to catch the ball and race over the line. Inevitably opposing teams tried all sorts of tactics to thwart the move (many of them illegal) but they rarely succeeded; it is a pity no one has counted the number of times they brought this manoeuvre off. The Rugby Almanac of New Zealand very perceptively included Jarden both in its New Zealand team and as one of its five promising players on the basis of that first senior year.

(NB – This is a repeat of a previous paragraph) Just as Jarden was polishing his technique the club lost one of its best backs. Ranfurly Jacob, New Zealand Maori Representative half back 1948, Wellington and NZU 1946-48, went to Sydney University to study veterinary science – he is now a veterinarian in Hawke’s Bay. Victoria’s third Maori All Black, Ran was a brilliant half back who always covered his wings – a half cum three quarter. His father, a former prominent footballer, did not want him to play senior rugby when he first earned selection, but after discussion with coach Henry Moore agreed to leave it to his discretion. Moore decided to protect him by limiting his running – he was to run only when Moore said. Thus against Petone he ran in two tries in the first 10 minutes and did not run again – he had by then created a winning margin and, incidentally, created a great impression on former All Black Mark Nicholls of Petone, who was on the sideline.

It is interesting to note that Ran won an Australian newspaper honour while playing for Sydney University. In 1951 he won the Sydney Herald competition to find the best and fairest rugby union player of the year. He won the Fairfax Cup and a personal trophy consisting of an engraved silver tea service. Vincent Fairfax, a director of the newspaper company congratulated Jacob and recalled that he had been named in honour of New Zealand’s Ranfurly Shield after his father had played in a winning side. Jacob went on that year (1951) to captain an Australian XV against the touring All Blacks and Australian Universities against New Zealand Universities.

Ran’s father, Ike Jacob, who captained Manawhenua the day that the combined team won the Ranfurly Shield , was so pleased with the win that he named his son, born that day, Ranfurly. (The combined Manawatu-Horowhenua side had three Shield wins and was later disbanded).

In addition to Meads and Jacob the club lost in the same year the well -performed R.W. Berry, who also went to Sydney University to become a vet.

1949

While it held promise of things to come, the club’s record in 1949 was quite undistinguished. The First XV played 15 games for 4 wins, 10 losses and a draw, 118 points to 158. They scored 23 tries for 25 against, kicked 11 penalties to 18, dropped no goals but suffered 3. That gained them second bottom place in the Hardham Cup with 9 championship points. None of the other club teams came near to winning their grades either.

The club did have its day in the sun, however. It was the game against the Wellington club. The Dominion headed their account “University’s Day” and talked of the splendid example of relentless vigorous forward play set by the captain, Ray Shannon. “University blasted Wellington fore and aft with rousing forward tactics and purposeful back movements . . . Apart from the undoubted quality of the University forwards on the day, the Shannon brothers, J. Smith and R. Petch being tireless workers, the smart constructive play of their backline was a treat to watch. F. Mackay whipped out his passes with speed and direction, and the whole chain, flanked by two pacy wingers in R. Jarden and A. Macleod, penetrated frequently and earned rich dividends.”

Victoria won 14-5 but that sort of display didn’t happen often enough. Five states were represented for the first time in the 22 strong Australian Universities Rugby Team which crossed the Tasman in May for a seven match tour. They defeated 17- 15, a Victoria-Massey combined team, which included A.S. Macleod, J. McIvor, R. Shannon, J. Smith, W. Drake, J. Stone and C. Shannon (captain). B. Valentine and J. Dillon were back reserves . For the three tests NZU used 28 players, possibly because no inter- island universities game was played. A panel of 5 selectors (including Henry Moore) picked Smith and R. Shannon for the first test, which Australia won 8-6, the first victory over NZU by an al l Australian Universities side. The press criticised the standard of play, saying it was much below that expected of university teams, and said New Zealand were given a rugby lesson. Macleod and C. Shannon were in the reserves.

Six changes were made by NZU for the second test. Ray Shannon was dropped to the .reserves and his brother Clem brought into the team; J.T. Fitzgerald (Otago) became second five and Macleod was still in the reserves . New Zealand won a disappointing game 11-8.

The players mentioned retained their places for the third test. Heavy rain and a strong driving easterly made play difficult on a waterlogged Eden Park. It was a scoreless draw.

Victoria beat Auckland 25-8 but lost to Massey 5-6. Dick Burke, sole senior se lector for the Union picked only Jarden and Smith for the senior representatives.

1950

And so we move on to 1950, sadly another undistinguished year. Ron Jarden and Clem Shannon, both with knee injuries, missed the early part of the season, but that does not of itself account for the team winning only 2 of 16 games, with 12 losses and 2 draws. They scored 139 points to 234 for 6 championship points. Only Tawa with 5 points was below them. Victoria scored 22 tries and conceded 44, converted 15 penalties to 10, 14 conversions to 20 and no dropped goals to 2. Only one Hardham Cup side scored more tries; on the other hand only one Hardham Cup side had more tries scored against it.

Down through the grades the club did have some success to sustain a ray of hope for the future. Victoria won both the Junior Third Division and Third (second division) titles.

Canterbury College beat Victoria 17-11.

With Jarden unavailable because of injury, only B.G. Porter and W.H . Clark were picked for North Island Universities by selector F.E. (Frank) Sherwood, a former Victoria player and a member of the New Zealand Universities Rugby Football Council. North, captained by Bryce Rope, beat South 8-6. The NZU team was selected by Sherwood and South Island selector L.G. Loveridge, and the nearest Victoria got to representation was Bill Clark as a reserve. Otago won a bright display easily, 19-9. Dick Burke, again sole senior selector for Wellington, picked Macleod, Jarden, J.H…

…McIvor and Clark. Jarden also played for North Island. Arthur Carman put the young and relatively inexperienced Jarden in the Rugby Almanac New Zealand XV.

1951

The second half of the century began pleasantly enough with two good wins. The team had been strengthened by the return of rangy, hard as nail s, all elbows and knees J.G. (Jack) Smith from a year studying engineering at Canterbury, from where he played for South Island Universities, and the return from Auckland, to Wellington, of noted water polo expert and strong, solid, skilled lock, NZU blue J.B.S. (Barry) Hutchinson – a solid pair of locks who were to bind the representative scrum. Another newcomer was George P. Nola, a destructive loose forward in the mould of feared Springbok No. 8, Hennie Muller, whose destroying play was soon to be outlawed. However, his style did not suit the university game and he returned to Waikato after a few weeks.

In the backs P.C. (Peter) Osborne was recruited from Hutt Valley High School along with Colin Loader, but the shortage in this area was so acute that former representative winger Alister Macleod was drafted into the five eighths.

The Evening Post, in its pre-season assessment, said that the forwards would probably be able to deliver an adequate amount of ball but “it is questionable however whether University will have the men to make the most of their opportunities, a depressing thought when one thinks of the fine backlines of other years. The untimely death of Fred Mackay, a promising half, was a severe blow.”

Mackay’s place was taken by John Parker, ex Nelson College, who had had a couple of seasons in the lower grades.

Barry Hutchinson was elected captain and Dr K.FM. Uttley, a pathologist who had played for Otago and NZU in 1932, joined Henry Moore as coach. Henry was later to be elected a life member.

Uttley also assisted Dick Burke with the Wellington representative team. The Union reported 166 entries in its interclub competitions, an increase of six on the last year. International Rugby Board law changes introduced included alterations, mainly to scrummaging law, in an attempt to ensure quick clean ball ; they also made it illegal to collapse a scrum.

The team for the first game was: P.C. Osborne, A.S. Macleod, A. Henley, R.A. Jarden, R. Harrison, C. Loader, J. Parker, G. Murray, G. Nola, J. Smith, B. Hutchinson (captain), W.H . Clark, B.G. Porter, C.A. Shannon, D.B. Maclean.

So far as early season form went, the prophets, were right in predicting ‘Varsity’s forward strength. Hutchinson, (an early injury) Ivan Stuart (h is replacement), Jack Smith, Bill Clark and Graham Murray all receive praise as they toppled playing through champions Marist and then Wellington.

‘”Old supporters of rugby are rating the University pack as one of the best for years, particularly in mobility-. Smith, Clark, Porter and Murray are logical representative candidates’ (Evening Post) . And the Dominion, “It is necessary to go back to the Wellington pack which mowed down the Kiwis to find the equivalent of the University forwards. Their strength, relentless drive and complete annihilation of anything which drops into their grasp puts them into the heroic class. Every man is up there with the rest, but J. Smith, I. Stuart, W.H. Clark and G. Murray usually manage to do just a little bit more than the others.” The Dominion headed its account of the game against Wellington “University Scored Almost Perfect Try On Saturday” and said “University’s try against Wellington at Athletic Park is likely to remain the talk of the season. It was almost a copybook effort. “Two minutes remained after Stuart .. had crashed through to make the scores 17- 14 (to Wellington). From the half way kick off a loose ruck developed. The ball came to Monigatti and went out to Henley. Jarden was blocked by Mellish, but Murray was handy, took the pass near the sideline and swung the play in-field.

“From here the ball went through the hands of Hutchinson and Shannon, finally to Porter in the direction of the opposite touchline. Porter wisely refrained from putting it out to his wing, but turned infield, stumbled, but retained possession and sent the ball to Clark who broke clear to score, Jarden converting.

“A remarkable feature of the movement, which saw four backs and six forwards handle, was that, except when Porter was nearly halted, not a hand was laid on the University players when in possession. The passing was perfectly timed … University’s success was achieved by some really great rugby. The pack is the best seen for years – rugged, mobile and highly competent.”

Changes in the team were B. Meagher on the wing for Macleod, who went to second five in place of Harrison and became captain for a time; Rex Monigatti replaced Parker and Ivan Stuart the injured Hutchinson. Monigatti was a former NZU half from Canterbury.

Some of their later slump of form could no doubt be put down to the absence in Australia with NZU of Jarden, Hutchinson and Clark, three key players. Later on the Sports Post reported “Has it not been for the fact that University had to get together a team after contributing half a dozen of their stars to the All Blacks, the New Zealand Universities team and the Wellington representatives, Oriental, the Jubilee Cup leaders, might have suffered their second defeat of the week at Athletic Park.” The players referred to were Jarden, Colin Loader, Murray, Smith, Stuart, Clark and B.G. Porter.

Half back Parker was by this time playing at full back, Meagher and Harrison had rejoined the backs; in the forwards Norm Clifton had joined the team and the durable Roy Hansen was back propping.

Under the sub-heading “Stuart Outstanding” the Dominion said, “The best forward at Athletic park was I.E . Stuart, the University captain. Stuart was in everything and his energy was expended with intelligence. Not for many seasons has one club fielded as many fine forwards as University have paraded this season and it is a great pity that the team is now so disjointed.” In addition to the players selected for various representative teams they had lost Peter Osborne after two games with a fractured wrist and hooker Clem Shannon also injured. Ivan Stuart took over the hooking.

Those first two wins over Marist and Wellington were followed by three close defeats; one more win completed the team’s first round successes. The club came third to Marist and Taita in the Hardham Cup section. A good win in the last game encouraged the players to challenge for the National Mutual Cup, but the Union wisely decided against Victoria. That last game was played against WCOB in a strong southerly on Kelburn Park.

The first half was scoreless though dominated by Old Boys as ‘Varsity frittered away their chances, Victoria were getting little scrum ball but some good lineout ball. The author well remembers his half time ta lk as the makeshift backline asked for guidance. It was Jarden’s first club game after becoming an All Black when in Australia with

NZU. The inside backs, some of whom had never played there before, were told not to run but to pass the ball straight our to Jarden to give him room to move; and he called on the forwards to assert themselves in scrums and rucks. Young Bill Clark had been getting messed up by the opposition pack and Jack Smith was asked to protect him.

The Sports Post said, “There was no score up to half time but it was a different story from then on. Jarden came completely into his own and scored four tries, and some of the movements were really well carried out. Brown and Monigatti also scored and with three conversions by Jarden their score totalled 24 points. ” One try was scored by Old Boys. Jarden scored one try from half way when a short throw-in was returned to him and he sped away past the front of the lineout.

It was Poneke’s 15th championship and their first since 1932. None of ‘Varsity’s lower grade teams was successful , but the Dominion’s review of the season said, “Also unfortunate were University, the club which produced the Dominion’s star player of the year. University contributed R.A. Jarden not only – with others – to New Zealand University, but also to New Zealand for tours of Australia. Just what that meant was indicated on Saturday when Jarden scored 18 points out of 24 against WCOB.” It was Jarden’s fast game since he had been injured near the end of the All Black’s tour of Australia and the team certainly heeded Coach John Anderson’s half time injunction to “Give our new All Black a chance to show us what he can do.”

Of 16 club games Victoria won 7 and lost 9, scoring 144 points to 142. None of the lower grade teams achieved any prominence. Weir House was beaten by the Rest 32- 16 for the Ruru Memorial Shield; both sides were well supplied with senior players.

The Union regretfully accepted selector Burke’s recommendation to suspend their coaching school because of lack of interest.

Wellington representative teams took Jarden, Clark , C.T. Loader, G.A. Murray, J.G. Smith. I. E. Stu art (who had worn the Hawkes Bay jersey in 1944) and B.G . Porter. Smith was also a New Zealand trialist and won a place in the North Island team; while Porter a nephew of the celebrated Cliff, also played for North Island colts.

The NZU team to Australia, selected by Frank Sherwood , contained three Victoria players, Jarden, Hutchinson and Clark. They won all 7 games they played, including two tests (14- 9 and 27- 17), and Jarden recorded a personal tally of 72 points. They also ran up against our old friend Ran Jacob, whom the press call ed “Australia’s NZ Captain” for the university tests. Jarden and Tanner stayed in Australia to join the All Blacks.

When it returned to New Zealand, the NZU team was beaten by Wellington 11 – 9, but was reported to have been suffering from travel weariness and injuries.

Jarden was also a prolific points scorer with the All Blacks in their clean sweep of Australia, 12 games to nil . His 38 points against Central West (6 tries, 10 conversions) represented the highest score ever put up in a match for New Zealand , exceeding W.J. Wall ace’s 28 points against Devon in 1905. It was also the highest score for New Zealand in Australia exceeding M.F Nicholl s’ 23 against New South Wales in 1922 and C.A. Rushbrook’s similar score in 1928. His 10 conversions equalled Nicholls’ record for most conversions in a match.

Jarden’s other record was 88 points for an Australian tour, beating the 85 scored by Wall ace in 1903. The new record was made up of 15 tries, 17 conversions and 3 penalties.

Salient, the student weekly, in its issue of 20 September, 1951, paid rugby the unusual compliment of a full column on its activities. It said, inter alia, “Unfortunately the Rugby Football Club’s Senior XV has again this year been un able to bring home any trophy to brighten the interior of that rather bare cupboard in the main lobby. This despite the predictions of the club’s supporters after two rousing wins at the beginning of the season (there were quite a number of supporters at that stage) that the team would be well in the running for the Jubilee Cup. Thus we still gaze with awe at the photo of the victorious 1946 team, so honoured as to be included among the inspiring pictures that adorn the Men’s Common Room, and we can only hope that within the next two seasons another competition -winning ‘Varsity team will gaze down on the harried occupants of the train seats. However, after this season’s disappointing display, most people would put their money on the seats being changed before the club again wins the Jubilee Cup.

“However, both the club, and I am sure the rest of the University too, were proud of the performance of Ron Jarden during his recent prolonged tour of Australia. We actually heard there were some other footballers travelling with him too, at one stage ‘ It was even suggested that he should satisfy the fans back home by making a few solo appearances prior to his first game at Athletic Park.” After referring to his record points scoring the article went on ” (It) made us realise that it has been the ‘Varsity’s misfortune not to have had this outstanding player on our side more often.”

“The club has been unfortunate … in losses through injury . and transfer… Losses combined with the tour of Australia by the university team . . caused the side to be unsettled over most of the season and it was only in the last few games that the mere handful of di e-hard supporters, still loyal enough to cling Saturday after Saturday to the rails beside windy Kelburn Park, were rewarded for their patience by some consistent play and, what is more, some results.

“After overcoming the initial difficulties it developed into quite a promising team with a very strong young forward pack of which six have played for Wellington in one or other of the representative teams. Although it was unfortunate that the team took so long to settle down, good team spirit was built up. This usually took place on Saturday night and, although one young lad had to follow the tram lines home one early morning, when the direct route would have saved him some miles of weary staggering , attendance at practice the next morning was usually fairly good, although many couldn’t sight that ball very well .”

Tributes to the coaches followed, and the article’s happy cheerful note makes a good introduction to the three golden years that were to follow.