The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 3 (June 1, 1935)
Panorama of the Playground
The Indian Hockey Team.
IN New Zealand in the last month very little has been seen of the exciting competitive side of any type of sport. Racing, cricket, athletics, tennis, hockey, football—for all these this was the dead season. The visit of the Indian hockey team is an important event although the tour threatens to lack anything of that excitement that is bred by keen competition.
These Indians are verily the “All-Blacks” of the hockey world. Hockey, like Victorian football, lacrosse, and baseball, has never been played in New Zealand to such a standard as to enable the players or spectators to appreciate its beauty and subtlety. All that the public can do during the tour is to sit on the bank—“Silent on a peak in Darien”—and realise that they are watching one of the best team games in existence—fast, subtle, exciting, full of brainy tactics and strategy—played by the best team in the world—speedy, brainy, expert to the last degree and sportsmen whom we should be proud to honour. Unfortunately, although a New Zealand team could probably beat that of any other country but India, for all the difference it would make to those uncanny brothers, Rup Singh and Dyan Chand, our players might just as well follow the example of the spectators and sit in silence wondering how it is done!
It may here be said that, in respect of noble birth, native intelligence, education and general culture this team is probably the “Aristocrat” of all teams that have ever played any sport in New Zealand. On the previous tour, Victoria happened to meet the Indians on a cold day and greasy ground, and playing a roughish, jostling game, managed to hold their own for three-quarters of the game. The way in which these Indian sports accepted the (to them) somewhat boorish conditions of the play was an object lesson to all true sportsmen. How free from jostling and interference hockey, properly played can be, may be guessed at when I remind you that hockey is the Indian national sport, because the difficulty of the “untouchables” among the castes does not arise therein!
The contest between Australia and New Zealand in the first tie of the Davis Cup series ran true to form. Andrews and Malfroy did as well as could be expected, and the remarkable “Marathon” between Crawford and Stedman only showed what can sometimes be done by a player, not quite in the first flight, who is in the pink of condition and who determinedly plays his own game, refusing to be lured off it by even the most wily opponent.
Stedman is a good, hard driver, not as clever as Andrews or Malfroy at tricky shots and cunning placements—so he refused to compete with Crawford at the net in the strategic game at which Crawford is supreme. Stedman stuck to the backline and whanged everything back as hard as he could, whereas if he had attempted to take the net, the astute Crawford would either have lobbed the ball past him or driven it to his feet. Probably the wet and greasy ground helped him, but good tennis tactics were the real cause of his success. Perry used to try the same game against Crawford with some success, but it is a feather in Stedman's cap that he held Crawford to such wonderful figures as 14–12, 17–15, 4-3 unfinished.
It is sad to consider that all the advantage that would accrue to New Zealand tennis if such experience were given to “pukka” New Zealand players, resident in New Zealand, who would pass on the gain to the younger players, is lost. Andrews and Malfroy are now cosmopolitan birds of passage and Stedman may, or may not, return to New Zealand tennis in the near future. Young players like Noel Bedford would benefit greatly from association with the returned Davis Cup players.
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The “All-Black” Team.
Possibly many readers will exclaim in relief, “That's right, cut the cackle, and come to the hosses,” since the “All-Black” team is now the burning question that will soon be somewhat disappointingly solved for all enthusiasts. However, no matter what happens, the “Railways Magazine” will not suspend publication nor Rugby football die.
I am going to select my team here and now—not only as a guide and warning to the official selectors, but also as a matter of interest and information to the general reader. I will show him the line of attack that would be followed and the result that would be attained by Rugby selectors if football excellence were the only consideration. This last proviso makes my task the more difficult than that of the official selectors, because virtually half their team will be picked for them and forced on them by various influences emanating from sources outside real football that cannot be ignored with impunity.
Starting with the most difficult problem—the backs—it will clear the ground if I enumerate the obvious available talent for each position. We have then for—
Full-back: Collins, Bush, Pollock, Lilburne, Gilbert, Nolan, Nepia(?).
Right Wing: Hart, Mitchell, Smith, Holder, Dunne.
Left Wing: Bullock-Douglas, Wright, Ball.
Centre: Caughey, Killeen, Pollock, Lilburne, Olliver.
Second Five-eighth: Lilburne, Killeen, Pollock, Griffiths, Mortlock, Olliver.
First Five-eighth: Page, Solomon, Gaffney, Fookes, Mortlock, Langdon, Hedge.
Half: Kilby, Sadler, Simon, Tindill.
I have followed no order in naming these, except that I have placed first those men whom the official selectors, with all the various disturbing influences behind them, will probably pick first.
My first consideration is this—the big matches of this tour will be very even goes, and winning them will depend largely upon a tactician to decide the type of game to be played. Football followers will see what I mean if they recall how Jimmy Duncan won many games, particularly perhaps the Kaikorai-Linwood match in 1897, how Mark Nicholls won the Wellington-England game in 1930, and how Kilby lost the Australia-New Zealand games in 1934. These were all cases of the better team being beaten because the correct tactics were adopted by the poorer team or the wrong tactics by the better team. The coming “All-Black” team should have such a tactician in the five-eighth line. Among the backs I have mentioned page 62 we can only say that Pollock probably is, and Killeen will probably be, such a tactician, and that all the others are not, and most of them never will be. Playing Pollock at fullback or even centre will not provide the solution, since players in these positions are too far back to see the game even as well as a spectator, let alone as an inner back does, and as Pollock is rather frail for the five-eighth line, I prefer taking the risk and choosing Killeen for second five-eighth and the kingpin and captain of the team.
The rest is fairly easy. Of the fullbacks Pollock is the surest and best and Bush is the safest for a strenuous tour and the best kick. Pollock is such a very versatile and useful man that I feel he must go with Bush—certainly Killeen will want someone to discuss tactics and strategy with. At centre I would place Lilburne, a great natural footballer, slow for the position, but with too poor a knowledge of tactics and strategy to play closer in. Two centres have to be taken, and I am forced to select Caughey, a strong, fast, bustling footballer with little or no knowledge of team play. He is younger than Olliver but it is only the present dearth of good backs that allows him to be in the running for an “All-Black” team.
Among the wings Hart has had his day, Holder and Dunne are not really class, Bullock-Douglas is uneven and raw at his best, Mitchell, Smith, Wright, pick themselves, and Ball shows signs of finding his old form.
Of the inner backs, Griffiths is a young and heady player who won his chance on his play two seasons ago, and will profit by the experience. New Zealand has lost, or had the worst of the game, in every match in which Page and Lilburne have played as five-eighths and I do not quarrel with these results; neither is fit for the five-eighth position, nor plays a five-eighth game. Mortlock is strong and a trier, but has no team work in his play on attack. Hedge is small, perhaps, for a first five-eighth, but is the only one playing to-day who appears to have any knowledge of the correct piercing strategy, which calls for breaking through without losing touch with the rest of the team. It must be a natural gift, since he could not learn it in Auckland club football. Of the others, Solomon is the nippiest, fastest and cleverest, and just as likely to learn how to play a five-eighth game. Unless Langdon surprises us in the tests, the best thing is to take Solomon and let Hedge coach him on the trip over.
Sadler is the outstanding half, on present form the best seen for years, young and wonderfully strong and rugged. His passing is perhaps not so quick and accurate as Kilby's or Tindill's but his close to the line play and his generalship is as good as any I have seen. Tindill is brilliant, but lacks ruggedness, but in both respects he is safer than Kilby, and in the less important matches he would electrify the English crowds. Simon is a great defensive half in a forward game, but Sadler is his superior in this respect even on a wet ground. Simon has been unlucky to be passed over in the past, but for me to-day Tindill wins by a nose—chiefly on account of his youth.
No great difficulty or danger attends the selection of the forwards. Setting down a 3-4-1 scrum (knowing that it is not so effective as a 2-3-2 with a wing-forward, but feeling that it is in better accord with the rules of the game) the obvious available talent is:—
Hooker: Hadley, Lambourne.
Front Row: Hore, Leason, Pepper, Hull, Leahy, McLeod.
Locks: Steere, Purdue, McKenzie, Reid, Clarke, Best, Fraser-Smith.
Side and Back: McLean, Manchester, Andrews, Dellabarca, Mahoney.
I have placed these in the order in which the selectors will probably place them and a great forward team is a certainty. Personally, I will only argue in favour of one man—Dellabarca—the most dangerous scoring forward ever seen in New Zealand, as his record shows beyond dispute. In his knowledge of where to direct the attack in open play, he is superior to any back, and his sureness of handling and wonderful speed when he gathers in the ball have been displayed too often to be questioned. He is the most rugged player in the game, and has never been hurt during the progress of any game which I have seen or of which I have record. If selected he will return the idol of the football world, and will undoubtedly score more tries than any other player in the tour—the first forward in the world to achieve such a distinction.
This then is the team I would select, and I will place first in the list in heavier type the men I hope to see playing in the test games:—
Full-back: Bush, Pollock.
Centre: Lilburne, Caughey.
Right Wing: Smith, Mitchell.
Left Wing: Wright, Ball.
Second Five-eighths: Killeen, Griffiths.
First Five-eighths: Hedge, Solomon.
Half: Sadler, Tindill.
Back Row and Sides: Manchester, Andrews; Dellabarca, McLean.
Locks: Clarke, Steere, McKenzie, Reid, Hull, Fraser-Smith.
Front Row: Leason, Pepper, Leahy.
Hooker: Lambourne, Hadley.
It is mortifying to reflect that even the team I have chosen would probably be beaten in the tests.
I would not expect to see any tries scored for New Zealand from clean passing rushes; the backs are too slow. I would confidently look for at least one try from Dellabarca as the result of open play, and I would hope for one from Sadler wriggling over from a scrum close to the line, and another one or two from the Dellabarca-McLean combination. The English team would score at least one try early in the game from a dazzling passing rush, but after that I would look for Dellabarca to keep their two halves closely bottled up, or to spoil their three-quarters by sheer pace.
Good luck to the team chosen—they will need it!
This 40-ton metal cylinder over-peering the guard's van and adjacent station platform was railed from Bluff to Mataura for the Mataura Paper Mills. (See note p. 48, March issue, “Railways Magazine.”)