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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)



Now that Time cries “Over” and white flannels leave the green, the whistle is blowing for a strenuous season for the striped jerseys, and a harder one still to follow for the “All Black” ones.

I did not see the victorious Poverty Bay team of last season that downed the colours of Hawke's Bay (Ranfurly Shield holders), and gladdened the heart of their selector, “Shag” Thomas, ex-Petoneite and now in the Railway District Office at Gisborne. I saw, however, most of the other provincial teams playing, and also watched club matches in the various centres, and was not surprised at the somewhat inglorious display of the New Zealand team in Australia, nor am I hopeful of the prospects of the coming tour.

The most disheartening feature of present day football is the lack of “football brains” among the inside backs. This was noticeable in club games everywhere last year. Wellington club football was certainly the best in this respect, but this best was a long way behind the Wellington standard of the previous year, which showed such promise that even men over fifty admitted it was hopeful. Outside Wellington the only senior club that showed a glimmering of the proper piercing strategy was the Otahuhu club in Auckland, coached by railwayman Pat O'Hara. While here I must mention that the Mt. Albert Grammar School team in Auckland is being coached by someone who knows how the inside game should be played. While inside back play was disheartening in club football, it was atrocious in the representative games. Not since that terrible display by the New Zealand team against Australia in Auckland, when the referee and Bush saved New Zealand with penalty goals, has such a low-water mark been reached as in the first spell of the Wellington-Auckland game last year. One could understand our “All Blacks” being off colour in that game so soon after their return from Australia, but the display of Kilby, Lilburne, Page and party was beyond all excuses. However, the game did encompass one good object page 62 since it enabled Hedge, of Otahuhu, to play himself into the New Zealand team, and the retirement of Kilby for the second spell did the same good deed, clearly and beyond cavil, for young Sadler, of Wellington. This boy is the best half-back we have seen for a long time, but one would like to see Hedge playing behind him in order to gauge how good Hedge really is. In Auckland club football and in the Auckland representative team he was, I am certain, not seen at his best, but among players of class, like Sadler, I consider Hedge will win a great reputation.

I spoke of playing oneself into the New Zealand team. There are many rumours afloat that it cannot be done unless one plays for the right club team. Joe Dellabarca, the Eastbourne fisherman forward, is an instance in support of the rumour. In the Wellington representative team this player has eclipsed all records ever attained by any forward in New Zealand (and by very few backs) as a dangerous scoring man. He has averaged better than one try per match, and his tries were achieved by honest-to-goodness hard work and almost miraculous (for a hard-working forward) speed and dash, with such sense of anticipation of play as is rare in any player. His try from a break-away at half-way in the Canterbury match, when he outpaced Hart and Co., will surely long remain as one of the great tries of history, certainly I have never seen such a try scored by any other forward. The tries he has paved the way for and handed over on a plate for some of his heavier waiting (very much “waiting” in many cases) conferees to score are more numerous than his own. But Dellabarca, an All Black if ever there was one, cannot play himself even into a North Island team. The fact that Fuller of the same club cannot play himself out of one seems to prove that club influence is not the prevailing factor. Personally, I put it down to the fact that the majority of the selectors were bullocking forwards of the over 14 stone in weight type when they played football.

The only other outstanding feature of last season's play was the devastating attack of Smith, the Hawke's Bay wing three-quarter. Why one should connect him with “bodyline bowling” in cricket is not altogether clear. His play, though fierce to a degree, was absolutely clean and fair as far as one could judge from the line. Certainly it was just as pitiless and effective as “bodyline bowling” proved at Adelaide.

However, we must wait for the tests!