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Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World

Days of Glory, 1909–14

page 299

Days of Glory, 1909–14

We now sketch the years down to the outbreak of war, concentrating on new developments and further ‘days of glory’. The 1909 winter ended with one such day, the soccer team's winning of the Taranaki championship (Star, 30/8/09). Their path to victory was poorly recorded in the press, but ‘Our Own's’ (13/9/07) report of the celebration social tells us:

In referring to this year's performance [Club President, Dr Maclagan] stated that the A team had scored 35 goals against 5 goals. In the last four matches 20 goals were scored, and not one goal against them. Each of the team was presented with a photograph.

Several other of these ‘days of glory’ came from the appearance of a new sport, hockey. Peter Matheson was a hockey enthusiast and encouraged the game at the school as one that both girls and boys could play. As early as 5 August 1905 the Kaponga School girls played a Saturday hockey match against an Okaiawa team on Victoria Park. A Ladies' Hockey Club was formed at a meeting in the school on 27 April 1910, with Mrs Maclagan as president and Peter Matheson as a vice-president and also on the three-man selection committee. The club went through the usual process of raising funds by concerts &c, and building its strength by steady practice. At its

Kaponga's Atahua Te Kaha Hockey Club team, Taranaki ladies' championship winners, 1912.
Standing: I. Swadling, J. Melville, A. Symes, M. Hartley, E. King. Seated: R. Whitcombe,
A. Law (captain), G. Faull, N. Signal. In front: G. Wills, N. Wills

page 300 first AGM on 31 March 1911 only women were elected vice-presidents (Mrs Matheson being one) and Peter Matheson was the only man on the selection committee of four. In 1912 the Kaponga team won the Taranaki women's hockey competition. A complimentary social had already been arranged for the soccer team, which had again won its Taranaki championship, so this was now extended to include the Ladies' Hockey Club, and a memorable evening was spent celebrating Kaponga's holding of the soccer cup and the women's hockey shield.20 On 12 September 1912 Kaponga rugby had a little boost when John Kissick played for Taranaki, which defeated Canterbury 7–0 at Stratford.

The rifle club had already given Kaponga another day of glory on 9 March 1911, when 23-year-old rifleman Douglas Roots won the Trentham championship and brought home the Ballinger Belt, which had been to Taranaki only once before, back in 1880. Roots was welcomed home in the Athenaeum where the congratulatory speakers included A. H. Guy, Bramwell Scott, William Swadling and the Hon W.C. Carncross, MLC. Both Guy and Scott (who claimed Guy as one of his flock) made a feature of an incident in the final shoot of the contest. Another competitor put a bullseye on Roots's target, which he would have been quite at liberty to claim. Though under strong challenge Roots ‘honourably refused’ this advantage. Roots joined the New Zealand team to shoot at Bisley later in the year and won further honours at Trentham over the next year or two.

There was considerable jubilation in the ‘Little Mountain Town’, ‘Our Own’ (13/9/13) reported, when in September 1913 local cyclist T.J. Sheppard won the round-the-mountain race against strong New Zealand and Australian competition. A public reception in the Athenaeum was enlivened with appropriate music from the band and speeches by Charles Betts, who was on the committee controlling the race; the county foreman, who was Sheppard's boss; and A.H. Guy, now Town Board chairman, who

… referred incidentally to the list of triumphs which had been pulled off in recent years by Kaponga residents, individually and collectively—no mean record for the size of the community, and possibly without parallel in the Dominion. In addition to the valuable prizes Sheppard brought home with him, he was the recipient of a handsome gold medal, suitably inscribed, indicating Kaponga's appreciation of his win.

The women's hockey team continued to earn recognition. In 1913 it had four players in the Taranaki team, and Kaponga were joint runners-up in a new departure for Taranaki, a ladies' hockey tournament at the end of the season. In 1914 Kaponga won the cup for this tournament.21 Meanwhile Kaponga's men had also taken up hockey and by 1914 were in contention for the district championship. A play-off between Kaponga and Hawera at Kaponga on 2 September ‘resulted in one of the most exciting and strenuous games ever witnessed on the local ground’. At full time the score was 3-all. In four further spells of 10 minutes and two of five minutes neither team page 301 could score, so a further play-off was agreed to at Hawera on 10 September. Again there was a draw (2-all) at full time. When neither team could score in a 20-minute extension they decided to share the championship.

Meanwhile in the premier sport of rugby Kaponga had been going through hard times. At the 1909 AGM Okaiawa club representatives attended to ask that Okaiawa be allowed to throw in its lot with Kaponga. This was agreed to, and Jeremiah Crowley captained the Kaponga A team for a fairly satisfying year. But in 1910 Okaiawa resumed its own club, which flourished under Crowley's captainship, winning the Taranaki championship in 1911. The Kaponga club's morale was then low for several years and it had financial difficulties. By 1914 it was making a comeback and on 13 July as runner-up made Manaia fight hard for the championship. But Kaponga rugby's great days still lay in the future.