The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)
Selector and Manager of the “All Blacks” — Mr. V. R. Meredith
Selector and Manager of the “All Blacks”
Mr. V. R. Meredith
Avery famous journalist and author, asked by me for a quick definition of the New Zealander, put his pint slowly back on the club table, reflected deeply and said, “A sort of improved Scotsman.”
Then he rambled on to say that we lacked one of the best characteristics of the race we resembled inasmuch as we had the bad habit of self-depreciation which he had not noticed so prominently North of the Tweed.
Surely this habit of deprecatory self-examination must be the explanation of any critical comment that has appeared on the appointment of Mr. V. R. Meredith as sole selector and manager of our next team of Rugby crusaders. I thought the matter deserved some special attention from this angle and I am satisfied now that my journalist observer was profoundly right.
I have spent two weeks in careful enquiry, thorough research, and voluminous interviews with a score or more of the Rugby veterans, both on and off the field, of our Dominion. They are unanimous that the selection of V. R. Meredith is the wisest and most inspired decision ever made in the history of the game.
A short biography will be useful here. Vincent Robert Sissons Meredith lived at Onehunga as a boy, and matriculated at the Auckland Grammar School. Early in 1895 he was appointed to a cadetship in the Customs Department. This brought him to Wellington, where he joined up with the Wellington Football Club, which had been in existence since 1870. He was playing first grade before he was twenty-one, and it was not long before he became captain of the team. He had shown early promise both at school and with the Onehunga team, which is still remembered for its famous, proud and dignified rooster badge.
However, it was with the Wellington Club that he first demonstrated his qualities of leadership and his organising ability on and off the field. From 1899 to 1902 the team's football was of extraordinary finesse and brilliance. Enthusiasts, with white in their hair, still recall the tries scored by Bonar on the left wing, the centre backs being Meredith, Bird and Parry. Then came “Banger” Row from Sydney and Morry Wood from Hawke's Bay. The latter developed a tactic of combined play with Meredith that was uncanny. I remember sighting them in action for the first time on my arrival in Wellington from the South. They were simply a single, crafty, thinking entity, divided in half by a yard or two of football turf. We show the picture in 1901 of the team as the winners of the local championship, described to me by one very conservative judge as the “Best club team that ever won a championship.” The men of that team, many of them, are still here, and they unanimously ascribe the superlative success of their play to the leadership of V. R. Meredith.
In 1902, he gave up the game, and spent a period of time in Auckland and Dunedin in the service of the Department. His coaching of the Pirates team in the latter city is still remembered.
Wellington Football Club—Winners of the Senior Championship, 1901.
Back row (from left): C. G. Rees, W. P. McLachlan, B. Gallagher, J. Walsh, A. B. Wilson, G. Hutchinson, C. H. Manson, W. Burr, W. J. Leversedge. (Centre row): N. Galbraith, Esq. (Vice-President), J. Longton, F. L. Row, V. R. Meredith (Captain), O. G. Kember, A. C. McIntyre, J. E. M. Burnett, A. T. Bate. Esq. (President). (Front row): C. J. Lovatt, C. E. Bird, F. Taylor. (Absent): M. E. Wood and I. F. Johnson
As a sole selector for Auckland his record is well-known. He has displayed genius of the kind that has always got results, as the history of the Ranfurly Shield performances of the Auckland team definitely show. He combines, with a profound and unsurpassable knowledge of all the points of the game, an acute knowledge of the make-up of men and the principles that generate the team spirit.
In conversation with Fred Roberts, he authorised me to say that “Meredith's management of the Australian tour in 1910 was the best ever, and that there has been nothing like it before or since.” That was the time, too, when the amateur game was in danger in New South Wales, and the tact and eloquence of an Anthony Eden were necessary. Another doyen of the game says that New Zealand has produced two directing brains that stand out in the history of Rugby, and he named Sid. Nicholls and V. R. Meredith.
New Zealand is lucky, indeed, to have the unselfish services of one of its best citizens, one of its most distinguished sons. The decision to appoint one selector is a reversion to commonsense; and to the admitted practice of sound government. In this case, however, such is the combination of qualities found in the one man, such is his record of sterling leadership for over thirty-five years, that there should be nothing for New Zealanders to give themselves but the heartiest self-congratulations.page 59