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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]

Sport in the University Community

page 45

Sport in the University Community

Elsewhere in The Spike you will be able to read of the progress or otherwise of your favourite sports club over the past three years. Here I propose to examine three aspects of sport in the university community: first, the University Tournament; second, the participation by Victoria in that tournament; and third, problems arising out of the growth of Rugby football as a university sport.

The University Tournament

Since the University Tournament sytsem began in 1902 it has expanded so greatly that the time has come for a reappraisal of the functions of the two tournaments now in existence. It can truly be said that there is no activity controlled by the New Zealand University Students' Association which so directly affects the average student as the Easter and Winter Tournaments. But what began purely and simply as a festival for sports actively participated in by students from all Colleges has now developed into a grand get-together for all and as many students who can get to the tournament centre. Such sports as Drama, Debating and Oratory have become appended to the Tournament programme, and Law students are at present agitating to have their moots accepted as a further sport. Nor is this the end of the problem. Not only Law students, but also yachtsmen, women's rowers and women's golfers are after full Tournament status. Who knows but that next year there may be weightlifters, cyclists, women's wrestlers and darters clamouring at the door. These points must add weight to my argument that we have to reconsider the present set-up.

As stated above, I believe that the Tournaments were originally devised to allow for the participation in inter-university competition of men and women who played sports that were actively supported in all the major colleges. It has been argued that the proper function of a Tournament is merely to allow as many students as possible to meet and take part, and, therefore, as a corollary of this, new sports should be allowed into the programme to encourage those people keen enough to interest themselves in widening the sporting facilities available to students. Worthwhile as this may be, surely the proper place for such encouragement is at the local college level. When it has been shown that the sport is receiving some reasonable measure of support from all the colleges, then, and then only, should the sport be allowed into Tournament. Further, even forgetting the principle involved, which I consider to be a strong enough argument by itself, there are the practical problems involved which have to be faced by every host college. Foremost of these is that of billeting. We can presume that in the past, because of the pressure on them, successive Billetting Controllers have made exhaustive enquiries into every possible source of billets, and therefore proposals to search for further sources appear over-hopeful and rather useless. The problem to be faced at the present time is not one of extending Tournaments, but of restricting them. It must be page 46 realised that sooner or later sports at present in the maturing stage will become strong enough to demand full Tournament status. When that happens they will have to be admitted, so let us now look for ways in which we can prepare for the future.

One positive proposal to clear the way for the entry of new sports is to discard those cultural activities which do not rightly belong in a University sporting festival. This year V.U.C. put before the New Zealand University Students' Association a proposal to investigate the possibility of holding a separate Arts Festival. This festival could be built around the nucleus of Drama, Debating, Oratory and possibly Law Moots, and it could be developed by allowing for the inclusion of other cultural activities"—literary, musical, etc. Such a festival, held annually (possibly in the May vacation) at a different college from those who are to be Tournament hosts for the year, would furthermore allow the Drama Clubs to stage more ambitious productions than has been possible with a necessarily limited Tournament cast, and thus answer a long-felt grievance of the drama followers in our universities.

Once this festival has been established on a firm footing it would then be possible to consider with a more kindly eye the entry of new sports into the Tournaments. While the practical difficulties of staging a separate festival may appear insurmountable, it is believed that the experienced organisation now existing in every college to deal with the present Tournaments is fully capable of dealing with the extra work involved if this idea was put into practice. The time for the consideration of such a proposal as this is now"—we cannot afford to let the present problems increase until one college finally finds itself unable to cope with the ever-growing burden that comes from being the host college to the University Tournament.

V.U.C. and Tournament

V.U.C. Tournament teams have remained for many years an enigma to their supporters. They have, to misquote Ken Phillips (Spike, 1954), scaled their Everests in one year and explored their Mindanao deeps in the next. But never, as far as can be ascertained, has any team descended so low as that which represented Victoria at the 1957 Easter Tournament. Our team scored six points (made up as follows: Cricket, 3 1/2; tennis and boxing, 1; rowing, 1/2) compared to the 44 1/2 points gained by the winners, Otago University.

We have quite a record at winning the wooden spoon at Easter, and, no doubt, there are many apologists who have defended their home team against the verbal onslaughts of fellow students from other colleges and other days. I trust that I may be excused if I use this space to reiterate two of the arguments offered in the past by our Easter Tournament teams and examine their validity.

Probably the favourite is "it's just the bottom point of a cycle, next year will see us at the top." It must be obvious by now that this procrastinating argument has never, and will never, bear any fruit. Can supporters of this theory explain away, without reference to Toynbee, a cycle that has continually brought Victoria to the bottom? The second popular excuse is "lack of adequate facilities""—one which is an old favourite of the Athletic Club. No one would doubt that this College has been singularly unfortunate in not having a training ground of its own, but will the new Te Aro Park prove to be the panacea of all their ills? We cannot say page 47 at this stage what measure of success may be attained by our athletes in the future"—but I believe that something more is necessary in all our sports clubs if they are to climb up out of the depths into which many of them have foundered in the past"—and not only climb out, but slay out.

It is probably a truism to state that no sports club, or for that matter any organised body at all, can operate successfully unless it can satisfactorily comply with two main necessities"—support from club members and a leavening of that indescribable element, club spirit. The question may well be asked, how many sports clubs at Victoria have either of these in any large measure? Some have the first but not the second and others vice versa, but in practically every case it is from a small bunch of club stalwarts that the support and spirit comes. Club support is founded, to a large degree, on the numerical strength of the club and on the extent to which every individual is encouraged to give his best to the club, both in performance and in a co-operative capacity. Every club must first set out on an active plan of recruitment. Does your club publicise its activities so as to bring them to the notice of new students? Do you make personal contacts with intending students, informing them of the opportunities that exist inside your club and the university sporting community in general? Have you made any concrete arrangements in the past for specialised training by reputable and recognised coaches? These are all important points; having members is obviously the first requirement for having a club; having many members, all sharing in the activity of the club, would then be the lead to a greater corporate life. Linked very closely with the numerical strength of the club must be the feeling of belonging held by every member. In at least one major sports club in this College there is evidence that there is some kind of social distinction between senior and junior players. The elders drink and mix together while the newer and younger members are forced to make their own social life. How can any club achieve the important elements of a corporate existence, feelings of mutual support and a vibrant club spirit while such conditions prevail? I would urge that all officers give greater care to the organisation of social activities in which all club members can participate.

I would never claim that the points made above will win the Tournament for Victoria next year or in any year. But the ingredients of personal ability and experience, hard training and fitness, good coaching and wise personal discipline, added to the firm basis of numerical strength and a club spirit, would produce a far more palatable mixture than the burnt offerings of the past.

Rugby in the University

It was not unnatural that eventually the New Zealand University Rugby Football Council would become so powerful a body that it would dictate to the New Zealand University Students' Association terms on which N.Z.U. Blues would be awarded to N.Z.U. Rugby players and on the eligibility of its teams for both national and international matches. Rugby, being as it is the national pastime of the majority of New Zealand males and therefore financially rewarding to the bodies which control the sport, is big business. When last year the N.Z.U. team played the Springboks it was believed that the acme of high places had been reached. When, however, they succeeded in defeating this formidable touring side nothing more could be said to praise the brilliance of the players and the foresight of their administrators in arranging this match.

page 48

The result of this rise to power was to make N.Z.U.R.F.C. laugh in the face of a request by N.Z.U.S.A., officially the controlling body of university sport in this country, that the eligibility of N.Z.U. Rugby touring sides should be the same as for Winter Tournament. This year, in view of the proposed N.Z.U. Rugby tour of Australia, the question is of more than academic importance. The basic question to be answered is this"—are N.Z.U. Rugby players to be treated in any way differently from the rest of the University sportsmen in this country?

Action must be taken by N.Z.U.S.A. to prohibit the sending away of an N.Z.U. Rugby touring team which includes players who are not at present studying at a university or university college. The New Zealand Rugby Union, following questioning on this matter from Mr. T. Pearce of the Auckland Rugby Union, met with the executive of the N.Z.U.R.F.C. We don't know what the results were of this meeting, but we can conjecture that the Rugby Union members have been convinced that N.Z.U.R.F.C. were in the right. A letter from N.Z.U.S.A. informing the New Zealand Rugby Union that it does not consider a team which inclures non-students as a bona fide representative team would be in order at this stage.

In spite of their financial position and their national support, the New Zealand University Rugby Football Council must not be allowed to run rings round N.Z.U.S.A. That body has a duty to its other members to take action on this matter.

E. A. Woodfield