Blast From The Past - John Leslie
The following article was written by John Leslie and appeared in the Leslie Rugby monthly news letter, John grew up knowing Bob and was no doubt handed some useful tips by the Master
I recently caught up with legendary rugby player Bob Scott and got his thoughts on his time at his Ponsonby and Petone, Rugby Clubs back in the day and grassroots rugby today.
Bob joined Ponsonby RFC in 1946 after his return from Europe following the 2nd World War and played for the Ponies until 1953. He was a regular sight in the blue and black hoops, marshalling his troops from fullback and hitting the line with magnificent timing to create the extra man and to out maneuver opposition defensive patterns. By his own admission, Bob said that he was not the fastest of players and he used his natural instincts, timing of his runs, his eye for the gap, deftness of his pass and of course the assistance of his fellow team mates, to make the Ponsonby backline of that era capable of tearing any opposition to ribbons. Not only was Bob ahead of his time as an attacking fullback (one writer suggests that he was ahead by about three generations), he had a lethal boot and was a courageous calculated and committed defender. In 1948 Ponsonby won the Gallagher Shield and Bob amassed over 200 points from just 18 games.
This was a remarkable achievement especially considering that in 1948 tries were only worth 3 points. Bob was often out of action for Ponsonby because of his All Black commitments, but would play club football for them whenever he could.
After the 1953/54 All Black tour to Britain and his international rugby retirement, Bob moved to Petone and readily joined the Petone RFC. The Petone team of the day was well coached by Pete Carter and Tim McGrath and was full of solid players that were well blooded in tough club football. He was well accepted into the team and the club.
Bob considers his days playing in the Petone jersey as some of the finest of his career. “The atmosphere was wonderful. Most matches we played were in front of 5-6000 spectators and the Petone clubrooms were a great place to be on a Saturday night. Everything was in the sawdust pit in those days when still actually had sawdust in it. All the Petone team, the opposition team of the day and both sets of supporters mixing together, sharing a few beers and plenty of humour”.
In 1956 Bob and his Petone team mates won the Jubilee Cup and were crowned Wellington Club Champions.
During the 1953/54 All Black tour to Britain, while the team was based in Eastbourne, Bob and a few of the players were having some banter with the local press and goal kicking was the topic. Bob announced that he had always kicked goals in barefeet as he found it more accurate and easier than with boots on. This was a considerable boast due to the fact that all goal kicking of this era was done ‘front on’ with the toe. Throw the heavy leather balls into the mix and you have a challenge the jackass boys would think long and hard over. The inevitable challenge from the press and Bob’s fellow All Blacks preempted Bob to remove his boot and sock without any fuss and set the ball on the 55 yard mark in front of the posts. He then went through his normal direct approach to the ball and hit it full throttle, smack on the sweet spot to send the ball over the crossbar to the delight of those in attendance. A legend was enhanced!
After Bob’s playing days were over he would referee club matches throughout the country and at half time he would put on barefoot kicking exhibitions. His personal best kick was from 65 yards in Hawera. “I had a pretty good sense of timing” was Bob’s low key response to my “What was your secret?” question.
BOB’S THOUGHTS ON CLUB RUGBY TODAY:
“I think that more All Blacks should be playing club football at every opportunity. It would be best for the game. It would toughen club rugby up and provide inspiration and competition for team mates and opposition club players throughout the country”.
Bob congratulates those All Blacks and Super 14 players who have a great attitude towards playing club rugby.
Bob, you are an International Rugby Icon and a Grassroots Rugby Superstar. You are humourous and humble and as sharp as a tack. Thanks for your time.