By John Holloway - Author RRLFC Centenary Book, Richmond Player, Coach, Manager and Supporter for 60 years.
ITS FAIR to say that Sports clubs in most codes generally have an “Old Boys Assn” then again pursuits like Bowls and Croquet they can play till their 90 so for them it doesn’t leave much time to form a coherent group.
The original Richmond Rugby league Old Boys assn was founded on the 4th of September 1944. The membership has stuttered and started over the years but in 2008 members Hec Martin and Rod Rowe revitalised and re-initiated annual OB reunion functions to build awareness and focus around our 100 year centennial celebrations that came to successful and enjoyable fruition in 2013.
The ad hoc committee of the current Old Boys of Richmond Rugby league club still meets every 3rd Weds of the month over a beer and a plate of chips to rumble through old Carlaw Park war stories while keeping a fond eye on the culture and legacy of our great club. We do our best to stay abreast of developments around our old home away from home… Grey Lynn park.
We are a diverse bunch all in the 70 to 80 years bracket so a lot of water under our various bridges. From time to time we have close to a 1000 years of life experience gathered around the table. We have in our number the original “pommie import” Roger Crabtree a North of England prop that the club sponsored over in 1965, he brought a no nonsense straight up the middle, turn and offload style to the senior side of the day. Roger later owned and operated Civic Auto Electrician for many years till his recent retirement. His brother Stewart another prop followed a couple of years later.
Ex club Chairman Brian Martin, longtime playing stalwart and former co-owner of L G Carder, Doug Tutill of the long established Carriers Tutill and Sons, Clive Hill another ex Club Chairman and MD of NZ Chiropractic, Graham Watt who heads up Caldera Heath a NZ Biotech firm working on Prostate Cancer solutions, Hec Martin another former Chairman who gave excellent service as a player then as an administrator over an enduring period and had a long executive management career with Mitsui.
Warren Fabian of Fabian Packaging, Bruce Pert and Trevor Tobin both experienced company Directors.
Plainly persons of this calibre lend a lot of acumen and credible knowledge to our discussions, then on the other hand there are an equal amount of us average Joes perfectly happy to tell jokes and rabbit on. We also naturally keep each other up to date on the inevitable health issues of ourselves and old team mates, it’s a fact of life that for us the halcyon days are gone, we tend to sport hip and knee replacements and Mr Arthur-Itis, hearing aids abound and some the zippered chest of bypass heart surgery but we continue to smile through it. These things we share in common with footy players everywhere along with the comradeship of victory and heartache and memories that built us lifelong friendships.
Many among our group are also supporters, Lounge club members and season ticket holders with The Warriors since their inception in 1995, indeed Richmond provided Joe Vagana and Se’e Solomona to the inaugural year. Several other Grey Lynn park kids have since pulled on their home and away strip.
When you get to our age agree with it or not nostalgia is a factor in our conversations, those gathered have figured in many championship winning teams across schoolboy, Junior and senior age groups. We can recall the great Richmond teams of the 30s 40s and 50s that dominated the League scene. Our first Kiwi rep was Jim Parks in 1926 he was followed by a stream of legendary Kiwis like Bert Cook, Abbie Graham, Ron McGregor, Cliff Johnson, Vern Bakalich, the Robertson brothers, tough as teak Tommy Baxter thru to more recent Richmond prodigy in Fred Ah Kuoi, Shane Varley, Gus Fepuliai, Ray Williams, the Solomonas, James Goulding, Joe and Nigel Vagana, Manlys Steve Matai and Jesse Bromwich at the Storm.
We have pride in the fact that Richmond has produced more Kiwis (55) than any other club in NZ.
On 8 occasions between 1933 and 1948 the Richmond senior teams played visiting Sydney champion sides such as St George, Western Suburbs Eastern Suburbs and Balmain and Combined clubs…. our mighty maroon and blues were victorious in all 8 games. Unmatchable!
In 1955 and 56 the Richmond senior team contained no less than 7 Kiwis - Cliff Johnson, Tommy Baxter, Vern Bakalich, John Lasher, Jim Riddell, Joe Murray, Sel Belsham who had tours to England and France 1955 and Australia 56 to top it off they supplied the Kiwi coach Snow Telford as well. Unmatchable. Us old blokes recall all of this and the notable players of our teams and our opponents through the years. Tough guys, talented guys, fast guys, stiff arm merchants and cheeky cheating hookers and halfbacks, biased refs, blind linesmen and the sideline characters and your standard fare players who contributed to our best abilities. Before the wrath of the whistlers comes down on the club I should add that refs and linesmen are of course great servants of the game and we would have nothing without them ….. Neville Kesha a talented Richmond player in his youth who rose to International Test status with the whistle was a fine example. As the years went by we grew to appreciate the contribution on and off the field of the Polynesian migration that carried our club through the 70s to today.
It has been largely the passion and loyalty of many fine families that has lifted and sustained the Club thru some very hard times. RIP Afi ah Kuoi. Richmond currently caters for 400 junior players, 300 senior graders and 200 social club members. In the season just concluded we boxed well above our weight…our Premiers won the Sharman Cup championship to advance to the Fox Memorial comp in 2016. The Premier reserves and senior A’s also took their grand final honours as did the Tokes and the under 16’s. Our premier ladies team the Roses reached their grand final but sadly relinquished their title. A terrific year. So going forward The Old boys will continue to watch over the club as our Richmond Chairman Gus Fepuleai and his great team of committee men and women, Coaches, Managers and supporters enter the second hundred years working hand in hand with the local Council and Resident groups, ready to embrace the great challenges that continue to make life tough for inner city Auckland footy clubs. One of the core items on their mission statement is to retain and enhance the Richmond Rovers legacy left by the old boys of yesteryear.
The Old Boys left to right Warren Fabian, Gary Ford, Bruce Pert, Graham Watt, Doug Tutill, Brian Martin, Clive Hill, Ash Jordan, Hec Martin, Graham (Spider) Rogers, Bryce Atkinson, Bob Coughlan, Johnny Buchan, Phil Stokes,