The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)
Panorama of the Playground — Railwaymen in the Empire Games
The stage is all set for the British Empire Games which will be held in Sydney this month. New Zealand is to be represented by the largest-team ever to wear the All Black sporting outfit—and the Railways will be there, too!
Cecil Matthews, who broke the New Zealand record by covering three miles in 14min. 7sec., is a son of a Christ-church railwayman, while R. T. Taylor, one of the cycling representatives, is a lifter at the Otahuhu Workshops. His dad, Ben Taylor, is a well-known carpenter at the same workshop. Andy Patrick, at one time New Zealand's best rifle-shot and nowadays a carpenter at Otahuhu Workshops, will be represented in the cycling by his son, A. G. Patrick; G. H. Lambert, trainer of Patrick and Taylor, and associated with the Auckland cycling team, is also an employee at the Otahuhu-Workshops.
Truly a fine record for the Service!
The Empire Games.
Although the standard at the Empire Games is not as high as that which marks the Olympic Games, it is brought home with telling effect just what sport means to the British Empire when the Games are held down near New Zealand. At the time of writing, the English, South African and Rhodesian teams had arrived in Australia—note the distinction! Too many of us refer to a South African as any representative of the continent of Africa, but Rhodesians are proud of their own national status. A small team of Jamaican athletes is also due to call in at Wellington en route to the Games in Sydney, while the Canadian team will total just a little short of 100 athletes and officials.
Although the English and Scottish teams will not be up to full strength there is quantity if not the desired quality. It is only when the English authorities come to send a team to the Antipodes that they realise the difficulties which face New Zealand and Australian sports administrators when sending teams abroad. It is the strict interpretation—and application—of “no expenses allowed” that has kept many prominent English and Scottish athletes out of the team to Sydney.
Although this is the third of the Empire Games to be held since 1930 it promises to be the best ever. The first was held in London, at the Crystal Palace, in 1911, at the time of the Coronation of King George V. At that time the Games were known as the “Festival of Empire.” New Zealand's sprint representative on that occasion was Ron Opie, who distinguished himself in New Zealand by winning the 100, 220 and 440 yds. Australasian track championships in that year. Opie did not show his true form at the Games, but succeeded in winning one of England's most important sprints—the “Crewe 100”—just prior to the Games. W. A. Woodger, of the N.Z. Railways, was in England at the same time, but not as a competitor at the Games.
Donald Budge, Amateur Sportsman.
There may, or may not, have been need to make excuses for the behaviour of Donald Budge in his exhibition tennis match against Gottfried Von Cramm in Sydney recently, but there is a moral for sports administrators—and competitors—behind the demonstration which followed his poor showing. Budge contends that a man cannot be at his best all the time; deny that, one cannot. The Australian authorities—and the people who paid large sums to see the world star play—expected him to turn on a scintillating display. Were they justified in expecting this simply because they brought him from America?
Budge is an amateur—he is not a professional—and claims to play the game for the game's sake. But what has been rightly termed “turnstile amateurism” has reared its ugly head. The ideals of amateurism cannot be carried out while spectators are allowed to call the tune— and they are justified in calling the tune so long as admission charges are made!
Behind the extreme conservatism of the English Rugby Union is the spirit of amateurism—playing the game for the game's sake—and ignoring the wants of the spectators. One cannot deny that sport, even the Olympic Games, is developing into a spectacle for the masses instead of a recreation for the participants. The spirit of the day calls for professionalism of the competitor—even if the man who provides the spectacle is denied the payment of a professional.
Just what Americans think of Budge is shown by the Sullivan Memorial Award being allotted him. This award is made to the athlete—in any branch of American sport—who is considered to have given the greatest service, in all respects, to amateur sport during the year. Past winners include Glenn Cunningham, Bill Bonthron, Bobby Jones, Jim Bausch, and Lawson Little. It is the highest honour awarded in America.
Wellington's Athletic Coach.
L. Fitch, American coach to the Wellington Centre of the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association, is a rara avis among American athletes—he will not have much to say about his own competitive performances! However, I had the pleasure of reading through the manuscript of a book on training which he has been preparing and, during a glance through some of his photographs and cuttings, I made the discovery that he had tied with Archie Williams, Olympic champion over 400 metres, in the National Collegiate 440 yards Championship and the time was 46 1/10sec.—a world record! The photograph, however, showed Fitch to be inches behind Williams and, as a result, the placings were altered. But here was irrefutable evidence that Fitch had actually been within inches of Williams when the world record was broken, and he hadn't said anything about it in New Zealand!
Fitch, at the time of writing, was hopeful of being engaged to coach New Zealand athletes during the next two seasons. He is confident that he can improve the standard in the field events and, after seeing him among the Wellington athletes, I am a staunch believer in his ability. He has had little chance to prove his worth in Wellington, because he was brought out without any plans having been made to organise the athletes, but he has busied himself and results will justify the expenditure.
The American is keen to get among the Police and Fire Brigades and rumour hath it that we will find our next Olympic field event representative from among these branches of public service.
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Misfortune seems to dog the footsteps of some athletes and little Nawe Kira, the brilliant young Rotorua Maori swimmer, is the latest to qualify for the “unlucky athlete” appellation. Two seasons ago, this young Maori lass swept right into the swimming spotlight with a series of remarkable swims, and she was freely tipped to set new figures when the national junior swimming championships were held. But the infantile paralysis epidemic necessitated the abandonment of the tournament just when she was showing her best form. She took the philosophical view, and trained to be in form for this season—and Empire Games selection. Then she contracted pleurisy, and could not be taken into consideration when the team was being selected. Cheer up, Nawe. You are young and 1940 and the Olympic Games are yet to come!
Why not a Jubilee Sports Meeting?
Fifty years ago the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association came into existence and this season it is celebrating its Jubilee in a manner hardly befitting such an important occasion—it just carries on the good work, hardly noticing the important milestone it is passing.
It is this “just carrying on” spirit which annoys some enthusiasts, who would remould things nearer their heart's desire—overnight! Instead of rushing into things without first exploring the way, the N.Z.A.A.A., under the presidency of Mr. R. W. McVilly, formerly General Manager of the New Zealand Railways, adopts a cautious policy and over a period of fifty years the Association has not made many mistakes.
But, surely, a Jubilee year should have been deemed sufficiently important to have staged a special Jubilee meeting?
“Softball” in New Zealand.
Cricket, never the biggest drawcard in New Zealand sport unless overseas stars were in action, has a rival sport in Wellington—a rival which threatens to take a strong root and develop into New Zealand's national summer sport. The sport is called “softball,” and is a modified form of baseball, that glorified game of rounders so popular in America and Canada.
Softball has already attracted more than 1,000 spectators to special matches held in Wellington, and no less than 32 teams have been formed to play in the four grades in the Capital City.
Although the origin of baseball may be shrouded in mystery, there is no need to go back many years to discover the origin of its offspring, “softball.” As mentioned in an earlier issue of the “Railways Magazine,” the school playgrounds in Canada are open the year round and the school children are encouraged to make use of the sports facilities in these grounds during holiday times. But the danger of baseball being played, without adult supervision, brought about the introduction of a soft ball instead of the hard one, and before long the sport had grown into a major summer activity, rivalling baseball for popularity.
Less than two years ago, an American, down on his luck, rented a vacant section near Los Angeles and announced that he was going to introduce Canada's latest sport into Los Angeles. He coached up two teams of young girls, who entered into the sport with enthusiasm—because they were going to show the men how to play! Within two weeks of his opening night this hard-up promoter was “in the money,” to use the vernacular. Any day in the summer you may pick up a Los Angeles sports paper and see softball action photographs on the front page. And, when any sport hits the front pages of American papers— and stays there—it has arrived with a vengeance!
It is claimed for softball that it is one of the few summer sports in which the spectators are not only allowed to audibly criticise the umpires—but are invited to do so!