My Early Years with a great bunch of guys - Dave Linkhorn
“What’s your name son and where are you from? “
These were the words from an elderly bald headed guy running backwards up the Korokoro track in February 1961 and remain an enduring memory of one of my first contacts with the Petone Rugby Football Club.
The person was of course the legendary Bob Scott as fit as ever he was in charge of the pre-season training for what was my first year playing for the Village.
I had arrived after playing for the local Petone Tech first XV for the previous two seasons and also having just completed a season rowing with the Petone Rowing Club and thought I was reasonably fit, well how wrong was I; that track found me out big-time.
I have to say that I got to hate that bloody track over the next few years but at least it must have helped in developing a set of tree trunk size legs and a decent swallow from gasping for air all the time. In addition, I remember the late Ken Gray running up and down London’s Road (also on the Korokoro hill); with great big heavy work boots on, no fancy Addias or Nike footwear in those days.
That first year was played in the 5th grade being coached by Ray Beynon and Alec Morris, our team came from all sources, Petone Tech, Naenae College and St Bernards,( I can’t remember any coming from Hutt High ), big Jim Martin was the Club President and happy Peter Dougan the Club Captain. We were encouraged to play an open style of rugby, and resulted in us winning the grade unbeaten.
The bulk of that team stuck together for the next two seasons, in the 5th grade again and then the 4th grade in 1963 under coaches Hapi Te Potae and Tim McGrath (Life Member), in total we won 39 games and drew one, scoring 743 points for and only 40 against.
A fair number of our players were selected in the Wellington lower grade representative teams with the selector, ex All Black & Petone man Artie Lambourne commenting if he could have had his way, he would have picked all the Petone players, there was nothing biased about Artie!
In those days of six a’ clock closing, the club bar was set up in the sawdust gym, but only open grade players were allowed in (all you get to drink for 5 shillings). So if you were picked to stand by for one of those teams after we had played our age grade game, oh joy, you got into the sawdust pit for the after-match, lemonade only, yeah right.
Our team water hole was the old Kings Cross Hotel in Lower Hutt. Remember you had to be 21 years old to be legal in those days, and so we would set up in a corner with the younger looking guys being covered by the older looking when the boys in blue would make a visit before closing time, yet none of us got thrown out but I think that the “Plods “were more tolerant then.
Most of the club teams then would arrange an end of season trip away, we went to New Brighton in Christchurch, and going down there on the over-night ferry, all booked in the men’s shared 50-berth cabin way down in the ship. Once the ship cleared Wellington heads the bar would open and we were away, (yes the drinking games were going on in those days as well) I cannot ever remember making the bunk!
The great team spirit that built up among the players lead to the idea of a trip to Australia. So the group undertook various fund raising activities including housie, selling chicken raffles from the back of Jack Cleland’s truck in Jackson Street on a Friday night, digging gardens, painting houses, and some demolition work, with the budget target being achieved in December 1963.
And so a party of 24 players plus 4 officials went on a ten-day three-match trip to Sydney in March 1964, the first overseas tour to be made from a team from Petone.
Included among the backs was Norm Cleland, Jumping John Hintz, (who would line up kicks at goal with his left foot and then come in and kick the ball with his right foot). Brian Flash Wilson, Jim Pencil Brown, Lance To fat Kilminster, Roger RAM Morris, Vic Horse Cartwright and vice captain K J O’Halloran.
Andy Leslie lead the team from number 8, Peter Moose Walker and I were the props with Terry Barthole Aekins and Dale Roddick sharing the hooking duties. Jim Taumanu and Bob Scott (no not the bald headed one) were the locks with Pete Auz Narby, and Graham Edwards making up the loosies.
All three games were won on the tour with the last against the Randwick Colts being our test match; they were so brassed off in losing that they did not even invite us back to the Coogee Bay clubrooms after the game!
The results were-
V’s South Carlton 16-11
V’s Petersham 34-0
V’s Randwick 22-14
Some points to note:-
• The total cost for the three game tour was $3,000, what is that in today’s value?
• The club required written consent from the parents before the players could travel.
• Housie was one of the means of fundraising, and the club took it over and ran it for many years after.
• That Jack Cleland gave the free use of one of his trucks to help in running raffles, weekend gardening and demolition work.
• The club Patron of the day, Mr W Miller donated a Guinea (one pound and twenty pence) to start the tour fund.
• On a sombre note, seven of the touring team have moved on to the big rugby field upstairs!
I can honestly say that those three years were some of the best times in my 47 years with the club, good mates, great rugby games, and a tremendous social life.
But wait, what about all those years in the B’s, my two premier games, Gerry, Kerry & the real blokes in the Presidents, the other bookend, the USA trip, Hong Kong for the 7’s, untold pre and post season games all around the country, Mike Whatman and the lilies in Opotiki and of course the Picton trip!
They will just have to wait for another day.
Kia Kaha Kia Maia