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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1 (May 1, 1928)

Railways And Sport

page 42

Railways And Sport

Representatives for Overseas

General satisfaction was felt by members of the service throughout New Zealand when it was known that Mr. A. W. Mercer, foreman of the car shop at Hillside Workshops, had been selected to tour South Africa as trainer of the “All Blacks.”

At a gathering of his fellow officers of the Locomotive and Stores branches at Hillside Mr. Mercer was the recipient of warm congratulations on the high honour which had been conferred upon him.

Mr. A. W. Mercer, trainer of the “All Blacks.”

Mr. A. W. Mercer, trainer of the “All Blacks.”

Mr. W. J. Munro said that the selection by the Rugby Union of Mr. Mercer was not only an honour to Mr. Mercer, but to the whole Hillside staff, and it was due to them to show their goodwill to Mr. Mercer, and appreciation of the fact that one of their members had been selected to turn out in a fit condition, a team that they hoped would bring back to New Zealand the Rugby “ashes” of the world.

Mr. W. Sullivan stated that Mr. Mercer had joined the railway service as an apprentice at Hillside 27 years ago. He was appointed leading carpenter at Addington in 1924. Whilst at Addington he was in charge of the building of the South Island Royal Train, a work which brought him much “kudos” from those concerned.

Mr. Mercer has been most successful as a trainer, and during recent years has trained some of the most notable athletes of the Dominion. Dr. A. E. Porritt, D. Morgan and Dr. Kingston, of the Otago University athletic team, are amongst the distinguished athletes trained by him. He also trained the Otago University Rugby team during the three successive years in which it won the Otago Rugby championship. Other notable teams trained by Mr. Mercer were the “All Blacks” against the “Springboks” in 1921, the “All Blacks” against New South Wales in 1923, and the Otago Rugby team for several years (including 1922, when they held an unbeaten record). Mr. Mercer also travelled with the South African athletic team during their South. Island tour. On being transferred to Christchurch he was appointed trainer to Canterbury College, there training promising athetes, including the noted runner, E. B. Taylor.

Mr. C. J. Graham, Workshops Manager, then presented Mr. Mercer with a camera and gold - mounted fountain pen as a token of goodwill from the officials. Mr. Graham congratulated the guest on his selection as “All Black” trainer. He had no doubt the New Zealand Rugby Union had made a careful selection and would be sure to pick the best man obtainable.

In the responsible position for which he had been selected Mr. Mercer would prove a credit to himself, to the Railway Department, and to the staff.

Mr. Mercer stated that he realised he was facing the biggest task he had yet undertaken in the training field. He would be a buffer between the manager and the men. He would endeavour to do his best for the team and all concerned, and it would not be his fault if the members of the team were not absolutely fit when they took the field. He thanked all those who had subscribed towards the valuable presents handed to him, but what he valued most was their expressions of good will and wishes for a pleasant and successful tour.

page 43

Mr. M. F. Nicholls.

A large gathering of his fellow-employees at Head Office met Mr. M. Nicholls in the chief accountant's office for the purpose of bidding him farewell previous to his departure with the All Blacks for South Africa. He was presented with a handsome travelling bag as a mark of esteem by the staff.

Mr. James Mason, member of the Railway Board, who made the presentation, said that the railwaymen were proud of the fact that Mr. Nicholls had been selected. Everyone was alive to the fact that South Africa would leave no stone unturned to defeat New Zealand, but the New Zealand selectors had chosen a stalwart body of men who would play up to the best traditions of the game. The railways were also pleased to have other members of the service (Messrs. Mercer and Lilburne) go with the All Blacks, and their movements would be followed with the keenest interest.

Mr. H. Valentine, chief accountant, and Messrs. Porteous, O'Connor, and Boult joined in expressing good wishes towards Mr. Nicholls.

(Photo, Crown Studios) Mr. M. F. Nicholls

(Photo, Crown Studios)
Mr. M. F. Nicholls

In responding, Mr. Nicholls said that he appreciated very much the laudatory remarks made and the magnificent presentation bag. He assured them that the team would do its utmost to win all matches. If beaten, and that might happen if they met a stronger team on the day, he hoped that such defeat would be taken in the best spirit, and they would expect the people of New Zealand to realise that the team had done its best.

Mr. H. T. Lilburne.

Mr. H. T. Lilburne, apprentice boilermaker, Addington Workshops, who sailed with the All Black team, has been described as one of the finest natural footballers who has played in Christechurch during recent years He first played for Canterbury in 1925, but it was not until the last football season that he came into real prominence as a full-back, and he was then freely mentioned as a “possibility” for the South African tour. He subsequently played in the trial matches, in which he greatly distinguished himself. He is a versatile player, and is one of the youngest members of the All Black team.

(Photo, Crown Studios) Mr. H. T. Lilburne

(Photo, Crown Studios)
Mr. H. T. Lilburne