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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Special Extravaganza Programme Issue [1953]

The Greatest Club Team I Have Ever Seen

page 16

The Greatest Club Team I Have Ever Seen

A startling statement, but this is the opinion of an ex-manager of the All Blacks, Mr. Parker. What would cause a man so-learned in the ways of Rugby football to make such a statement about the present Victoria University College senior fifteen? What does this team possess that makes it so vastly superior to other club teams in N.Z.?

Glance at an Athletic Park programme. The back line of the University team reads like a Who's Who in New Zealand football. Savage. Fitzgerald, Jarden are all All Blacks. Muller has represented Wellington but finds it difficult to retain his place in the side. The forwards make less impressive reading from the point of view of predominant personalities. But here we find the essence of great Rugby—Indeed of all great team sports. The individual has become subordinate to the playing unit—in this case the forward pack.

This material has been moulded by two of the most successful coaches in Wellington. Dr. Uttley and Mr. Burke are firmly convinced that the only football to play is the bright free-moving game where attack is the keyword. How well they have imbued this spirit into the play is easily seen from the team's performances. The forwards are there to obtain possesion for the main scoring unit—the back line. This is the dominating principle. But hero again we see the wisdom of the coaches. To follow this principle regardless of conditions is nothing less than bad Rugby. When the state of the ground demands a different type of play to adhere to this principle is sheer folly. You must alter your play to suit the prevailing conditions. Who, after watching the games this season has not been impressed by the manner in which University have adapted their play to the heavy waterlogged ground and slippery' snap like ball? in this University has been fortunate in possessing the best wet weather half back in New Zealand—Laurie Savage. For an exhibition of wet weather football by a half-back the game against Hutt must stand as a model. When to pass, how to pass, when to kick, how to kick and when to run with the ball, all were illustrated by Savage on this day.

The captain and leader of the forward Ivan Stuart must first attract our attention. Little is seen of him in open play—the "limelight" for the forward. And because of this his true worth is often underestimated. Chance has smiled again on University in giving her a man of Stuart's type. To bring the team to its present all-round proficiency a forward leader was needed to counteract the tendency of too loose a typo of play by the forward. Stuart was the man for the Job. He works hard in the tight and has given the front row that element of steel it must have if the forwards are to secure possession of the ball from scrums, lineouts and nicks.

McHallick, the hooker, has Improved greatly over the last season. Their close game with Onslow both last and this year showed that Achilles heel of the team would be possesion of the ball. But of late this has been overcome. McHallick, with the aid of a closely-knit scrum, has boon able to more than break even with any hooker in Wellington, with the possible exception of Judd.

McLean and Hill, who have occupied the other prop positions, have been sound forwards, their main sphere of activity being the tight piny. They have above all been those nameless forwards who have conscientiously each Saturday been content to concentrate on working harmoniously with the rest of the, team.

The side row forwards Clark and Fisher have been more prominent in the public eyes. Their position is such that this is not only possible but inevitable. Clark's speed and safe handling have made him an out-standing example of the most predominant characteristic the University forwards have shown. Their ceaseless and speedy backing up, This has resulted in two very beneficial results, Added confidence on the part of the backs and a greater share of the ball from loose play.

Fisher, who is, of course, the other flanker, has combined similar qualities to Clark with something all too rare in Wellington, forward football brains. Last season he was somewhat overawed by Murray in this sphere, who with a few more yards speed could have been another Todd.

The heavy guns of the pack—Smith and Hutchinson—have stabilised the pack. They also have been the main factor in University's securing possession from the lineuots. Both Smith and Hutchinson have played their last games for Victoria and Victoria is weaker through their departure. Smith especially included in his play a touch of opportunism which made him a great danger when near the opponents' line. All have helped make the pack extremely mobile and a potential scoring force in loose passing rushes.

The tactician of the team Savage has fortunately fulfilled the most important position in the team from this respect. Savage has an unfailing instinct as when to attack either by running himself or by feeding his backs or to close up play by kicking or going back into his forwards. Parker, who has substiuted for Savage, has a well-directed long pass as docs Savage, but lacks Savage's experience, it is unfortunate that Parker has not been given the opportunities to gain this experience.

Henley at five-eights has shown himself one of the best wet weather inside backs in Wellington. His penetrating runs have added punch to the backline in a position where it is essential on days on which chain passing is dangerous. It will be interesting to see how he fares on a dry ground where his judgment as when to run and when to pass will be extremely important.

The main penetrating section of the backline, centre and second five-eights have been the key to the scoring of the University team. Fitzgerald has shown conclusively that he is in All Black class. A side step, prop, change of speed, reliable hands and a sure boot can all be found in this player. Add to this a football brain and you have Fitzgerald. Fitz-patrick has all those attributes but has a flair for the unexpected. He is slightly less reliable in set play but in loose play he has no equal—remember the try against Athletic. This is the man to have when the side is three points down and only five minutes to go. His daring makes University a hard team to defeat. In fact they are never beaten when Fitzpatrick is on the field.

Jarden this year has had few opportunities. He is an All Black through and through and on his day there is no better wing in New Zealand. He has an individual approach to positional play which sometimes draws criticism—mainly the way in which he stands so far away from the halfback when on the blind-side.

Battell is a most promising three-quarter and more will be seen and said of him in the future.

The full-back berth has found an occupant well up to the standard of the remainder of the team. Osborne has overcome completely his lack of confidence arising from his injuries and is becoming a leading contender for the representative team. Naturally a left-footer he has of late increased his control and power in his right foot kicking. He tackles solidly and is very cool and on occasions has shown qualities which place him in high class.

Surely hero we have found the reasons for Mr. Parker's statement. His, as can be seen, is not an unfounded exaggerated statement but one which was made after considerable thought and appreciation of the team's true place.