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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)

The “All-Blacks.”

The “All-Blacks.”

Now that the All-Blacks are on their long sea voyage it is possible to settle down to a calm review of the team and its prospects of playing the great football that is naturally expected of a New Zealand representative team.

page 64

The failure of Killeen in club matches to show the form that he is capable of showing was the feature of the football season that had most influence on the selection of the team. This failure made it impossible to consider him for the key position among the backs, and the selectors could have had only Oliver or Pollock in mind when looking for the experienced strategist that is necessary if a touring team is to be moulded into a great combination. No fault can be found with the selection of Oliver, although I personally feel that the marked distinction that was accorded the two members of the Christchurch Club, Oliver and Hart, by their early selection, was a flattering commentary on their many displays I have watched in club football last season and this, and on the games they played in the South Island test at Christchurch. Charley Oliver is an experienced and able player; he is very popular both on and off the cricket and football arenas, and all railwaymen are pleased to congratulate one of their number on the great distinction he has won. He is the first who has earned the double “All-Black” cap as a member of both a cricket and football team on an English tour, and his selection as Vice-Captain is only the natural result of the fact that he is looked on as the most important member of the team, the strategist, key and pivot of the backs.

Since the selection, the only occasion of seeing a near All Black team in action was the Auckland v. North Auckland rep. game. The Auckland team included Corner, Solomon, Caughey, and Brown, of the All Blacks. The first five-eighth was Hedge and the full-back Bush, both of whom must have been very close to selection, and Currie played on the opposite wing to Brown. The forwards were fairly equally matched, so it would be expected that the Auckland team would simply annihilate the opposition. Nothing of the sort occurred, and, as the game went on, the face of Manager and Selector Meredith was a delightful study. His court experience stood him in good stead, but the Sphinx-like expression that deepened on his face as the game progressed was just as revealing as a frank expression of his concern and dismay would have been. The one point he overlooked was the fact that he was sucking at an unlighted pipe for most of the second spell.

The trouble was that Hedge dominated the whole game. The whole Auckland team looked to him, and not in vain, for all the tactics and genius among the backs. Bush played one of the best full-back games that has been seen in big football this season at least, and the All-Black members, despite occasional flashes of pace and ability, played only the useful club football type of game.

The only tragedy in the selection of this All-Black team was the omission of Hedge. His play in club football last season and this was so far above that of any other five-eighths in New Zealand that his unaccountable display in the tests should have been overlooked. Those of us who have followed Tindill's play during the last three seasons in Wellington know full well that he can play a brilliant five-eighths game, although he is a better half, but he has not the physique for a strenuous tour or for the hard games towards the end of the tour in a country where replacements are not allowed.

I, personally, have no complaints against the selection of Solomon. He is not a great attacking inside back, but his defence, kicking and physique, are all irreproachable, and he will make an excellent substitute for Gilbert, the full-back. I would indeed not be surprised if, as the tour progresses, he should displace Gilbert at full-back in the crucial games. Hedge will certainly be sorely missed, and either Corner or Page, and preferably Corner, should not have been selected. The great weakness of our football at present is in the two five-eighths and in the centre three-quarter positions, and it was more than foolish to lose the opportunity of strengthening this line by the selection of Hedge. In Auckland he was enthusiastically boomed as the best five-eighths in New Zealand, and for once an Auckland boom had the goods behind it. Mr. Meredith should have been able to dispel the natural suspicions of the other selectors regarding the subject of an Auckland propaganda campaign.

For the rest, Hart and Brown both appear to me to be lucky in being selected to play on the wing in this team. Hart was lucky in the South Island test in that he played alongside his club mate, Oliver, who fed him on every possible and impossible occasion to the unfortunate exclusion of Morrison on the other wing, who showed promise, and in that the opposing full-back, Nolan, was another club-mate. Hart certainly scored two tries, but he just as certainly gave two to the other side by his weakness in defence. Another point is that his football ambitions will probably be satisfied by his inclusion in this team, and that his business ties will prevent his assisting New Zealand against Australia and South Africa in the next two seasons. Brown may improve on the tour, but at present he is not All-Black class. The selection of Smith would have been of benefit to the team and Wright is a better left-winger than Brown. Smith and Wright are both young players who will be in the New Zealand team next season, and the experience of an English tour would have been of great benefit to them and to New Zealand in the next two seasons.

The forwards are a great team. I was pleased to see Lambourne included and feel sure that if the English referees are as strict as they are reputed to be on the rules of the scrummage, Lambourne will be the centre man in the front row in the big matches. The only criticism that can be made against the forward selection is to deplore the absence of a couple of loose forwards of the type of Dellabarca, who, by the way, was not available for selection. Deavoll should possibly have filled one of these gaps, and Wordley, of North Auckland, played a great game against Auckland recently. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that my football memories go back to the days before any of this team were born, the days, say, of Bernie Fanning and Jimmy Duncan, despite all this I am inclined to look on this as the best forward team that ever left New Zealand.

Any comment regarding the Manager and Selector, Mr. V. R. Meredith, would here be somewhat superfluous. I will only say that the team is exceptionally well-served in this respect, and that I unhesitatingly agree with Mark Nicholls, who, in an article elsewhere, declared that the selection of teams for the various matches of the tour should be placed in the hands of the Manager when, but only when, that Manager has the unreserved confidence of every unbiassed football player and follower in the Dominion in his ability to act as sole selector, and that Mr. Meredith has amply earned that confidence all through his football playing and governing career.

As for the results of the more important games of the tour, I think they can be won only if the game is kept tight and the forwards relied on to bottle up the opposing backs. The forwards can be so relied on, and Sadler is the ideal half-back for such a game. In these facts and possibly in the fact that Tindill is an excellent drop-kick, and that a potted goal adds four points to the score lies the only chance if the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish teams are any improvement on the last British team to tour New Zealand.