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The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924

The Varsity Tournament

page 85

The Varsity Tournament

V.U.C.'s share of the burden and the spoils.

In the Beginning

Even in this, our Silver Jubilee, let us be modest. Without V.C. the tournament would have come into being, and in the course of time would have served its main purpose, the creation of an inter-University-College life. That it came when it did, and was, from the first year, an undoubted success, can, however, be claimed to be in no small measure due to V.C's optimism and enthusiasm. The idea of the Tournament was born of a tennis match between Canterbury and Victoria Colleges in 1900. Fathered by H. P. Richmond of ours, the child was adopted by Canterbury and then abandoned—a Moses in the bulrushes of Inter-College indifference. Came Pharaoh's daughter, alias G. F. Dixon, of V.C. he took the abandoned thing, fed it with the musings of many days and nights and pleaded for its life with his fellow night prowlers in the corridors of the old Girls' High School. The outcast appealed to the "homeless." When Dixon and his committee had made their plans, an unofficial note was sent to Christchurch in such persuasive terms that Canterbury in short order resumed its trust. On the 9th of August, 1901, a formal invitation was issued by Canterbury to Otago and V.C. to take part in a tournament at Christchurch at Easter, 1902, the bones of contention to be athletics, tennis and debating. V.C. accepted at once. Auckland was not invited, but V.C. promptly pointed out that even though the Queen City might be, to misquote Kipling, "the last, loneliest, apart," that was no reason why she should not be given the opportunity of drawing a little nearer. A letter from V.C. to Auckland met with a warm response and, as a result, Auckland was most worthily represented in the first Tournament by 4 ladies and 11 men. This being not a history of the Tournament, but merely a running survey of V.C's part in it, no account of the strenuous work of preparation for the first tournament can be given. But after mentioning that the Secretaryship of F. T. M. Kissel was a triumph, and that the efforts of Dixon and his Wellington colleagues was a wonderful help to the Canterbury Committee, let us pass along. With a total population of well under two hundred, with no athletic club, and with but one or two athletes (athletics itself being in a state of suspended animation in those days in Wellington) the V.C. task in making good the promise to supply competitors in all events was no light one. Still the pledge was kept, and with two championships to our credit, a record (2 mins. 3 1/5 sees, by A. S. Henderson in the 880 yards) destined to stand for 19 years, and a close contest with Otago for second place, defeat was not untinged with honour. In tennis, V.C. ladies won both singles and doubles. Our debaters talked as best they could.

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In passing on it must be mentioned as a matter of historic interest that the bronze medal as the reward of victory was suggested by Professor Easterfield (the original idea of the four colleges being a gold medal) and that the design of the medal was the work of F. T. M. Kissel.

After that first burst of enthusiasm followed a period of lean years. From an athletic total of 22 points V.C. declined through 8 in 1903 to 5 in 1904. From two tennis championships in 1902 to none in 1903, with a rising tendency to one in 1904. It was no failing of enthusiasm but simply a case of the old ones still bearing an impossible burden, and the children still in arms.

Came 1905 and Wellington's first taste of the tournament at home. Well managed, it was a success from every point of view and produced the best balance-sheet up to that date. Our athletic stock on Easter Monday night was quoted at 15½, still a long way below Otago's 52, but an improvement. Tuesday saw us the victor in three out of the five tennis championships—combined doubles and ladies singles and doubles. On the previous Saturday despite the heavy artillery of H. H. Ostler's statistics and George Toogood's dramatic oratory, Otago won the debate.

1906 at Christchurch saw us again in the athletic doldrums but in tennis we won four out of the five championships, and the late E. J. Fitzgibbon and his debating partner F. P. Kelly satisfied the Judges "That Nelson contributed more than Wellington to the overthrow of Napoleon" and were proclaimed the winners. In the view of Mr. Joynt, who was one of the judges, the debate that year reached the highest standard yet attained in the tournament.

Annus Mirabilis

The old brigade whose five years of active representation finished with the tournament of 1906 watched with deep interest and no little pride the tournament of 1907 at Auckland. In tennis G. S. Prouse, G. V. and A. H. Bogle, and in athletics the Bogle brothers, supplied the leaven of experience. For the rest the team was the younger generation, making its first serious tournament effort. It was a triumph. Brian Goodbehere won the hundred, furlong and quarter with Ashley Duncan runner up in the hundred, and T. N. Holmden won the 120 yds. Hurdles. For the athletic shield V.C. was a close second to Otago with 12 points to 14. The relay race fell to us and Goodbehere won the Ladies cup. B. E. Murphy and H. F. O'Leary (one of the best balanced debating teams in the whole history of the tournament) won the debate, and all five tennis championships journeyed back to Kelburn. Miss J. Scott was the Victoria Victrix. She won the Ladies Singles, with Miss M. E. Cox the Ladies Doubles, and with G. S. Prouse the combined doubles. Prouse won the men's singles, and the doubles with G. V. Bogle, as well as the combined doubles.

In 1908, at. Dunedin V.C. won the Athletic Shield for the first time.

The 1909 meeting in Wellington ran with the utmost smoothness from start to finish and resulted in a credit balance of over £50—the first in the series to produce any substantial balance.

Space will not permit of my following down the years in detail, but a summary of V.C. achievements will not be out of place.

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The Shield. In 19 contests for the Shield, V.C. has been victorious 6 times, Otago in the lead with 7 wins.

Individual championships have fallen to us as follows:—
100 yds. 19 contests 7½ wins.
220 yds. 19 contests 7 wins and record, 22 4/5 sees, by L. A. Tracy in 1920.
440 yds. 19 contests 5 wins.
880 yds. 19 contests 5 wins, including records by A. S. Henderson (2 mins. 3 1/5, sees, in 1902), and K. M. Griffin (2 mins. If sees.) in 1922.
1 mile 19 contests 7 wins, including record (4 mins. 3 2/5 sees.) by A. Hudson in 1914.
3 miles 14 contests 9 wins—an unbroken run from 1908 to 1919, omitting war years, and record, 15 mins. 24 sees, in 1914 by A. Hudson.
1 mile walk 19 contests 4 wins, including record 7 mins. (i sees, by A. B. Sievwright in 1914.
120 yds. h'dles 19 contests 8 Wins
440 yds. h'dles 18 contests 8 wins, including 1st record, 62§ sees, by A. S. Henderson in 1903.
High Jump 19 contests 2 wins. In all 19 contests there has not been one really good high jump, the record 5 ft. 6] ins. not being up to the New Zealand Championship standard.
Broad Jump 19 contests 3 wins. With seven winning efforts of 21 ft. including two of 22 ft. or better, Varsity broad jumping is on an altogether different plane from its high jumping.
Shot 19 contests Not a single win!
Hammer 18 contests 1 win, and that through an importation from Otago.

The Ladies Cup has been won by F.W.B. Goodbehere in 1907, 1908 and 1912; L.A. Tracy and Jackson (tie with Webber, Auckland) in 1920; by L.A. Tracy in 1921.

The Relay Cup has been held four time by V.C., 1907, 1908, 1922 and 1923.


Our glory is all of the first eight years. Since the wonder-year, 1907, we have not won the men's singles or doubles. The ladies kept the flag flying a little longer, but we have not won the singles since 1910 or the doubles since 1911. Only once (1919) since 1910 have Ave won the combined doubles. In each of the five events there have been nineteen contests.

V.C's tally is:—Men's singles, 2 wins; Men's doubles, 2 wins; Ladies singles, 8 wins; Ladies doubles, 6 wins; Combined doubles, 5 wins. The tennis cup fell to us in the three successive years 1905-06-07.

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We made a late start, (the Scroll being won for the first, time in 1906, which however started a run of four years) but right through, with ten wins in the nineteen contests, V.C. has performed as the home of the Law School should have performed, and the list of winners is a record of names of those who, almost without exception, have subsequently attained honour in the practice of the profession.


V.C's Boxing Club was formed away back in 1910. Through its representations boxing contests, not officially part of the tournament, were held at christchurch in 1914. The noble art found its official recognition in 1920. We have done fairly well. Last year our name was engraved on the Shield along with those of Canterbury and Otago. Out of four contests in each class we have won:—heavyweight 1, middle 2, welter 1, light 0, and feather 2. There has been only one bantam contest (won by Otago).

Our place in the Sun

V.C. helped to bring the tournament into being, and has never failed to do her best to maintain it as a real force in Varsity affairs. In return the tournament has in no small measure made the College a name to conjure with in the world of sport. In our tennis we have yet to produce a Wilding or a Jennings, but to t he track we have sent men who have earned international fame. With the one exception of the late Ronald Opie, the best sprinter at all distances from 100 yards to 440 yards yet produced by the University is L. A. Tracy, present holder of the 220 yards New Zealand and the 440 yards Australasian Championships. No man in Australasia has ever run as many furlongs in 22 seconds or thereabouts as Tracy. Brian Goodbehere (who never quite fulfilled the promise of his Wellington College days) and Ashley Duncan were high class sprinters, and K. M.Griffin is in a class by himself among University half-milers. A. B. Sievwright was the best walker of his time in the Dominion. S. G. Macintosh is the present three miles New Zealand walking champion. Despite R. M. Webber's meritorious Australasian and New Zealand championship wins, I have never wavered in my opinion that the best three miler the University has yet produced was our own Athol Hudson. Altogether V.C. athletes have won one Australasian, eleven New Zealand and not less than thirty provincial championships.

The Wellington Public

The Tournament is not run to make a profit any more than the V.C. motto is to he interpreted "Wisdom is to be desired for the sake of more gold," but any lightening of the financial burden is always welcome. Christchurch and Auckland publics naturally find the Tournament no substitute at all for Riccarton and Ellerslie. Dunedin's weather generally triumphs over it. Only in Wellington does it invariably produce a credit balance—one more tribute to the best all round sport supporting community in the Dominion.