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

Panorama of the Playground — Tennis—A German “Menace.”

page 63

Panorama of the Playground
TennisA German “Menace.”

The high hopes of Australia for the Davis Cup and the English Championships have been dashed rudely to the ground, and the determined play of von Cramm and his team has brought Germany definitely to the front as a world tennis “menace.”

There is, however, another side to the question. The motto “Horses for Courses” has always carried some weight with tennis followers, but this year's play in Europe has clearly shown the necessity for the development of a “standard” court if any true gauging of world tennis leaders is to be arrived at and if there is to be any assurance that the Davis Cup is to be carried off by the best team.

Over two years ago Camille Malfroy stated his belief that von Cramm was the world's best player and the recent Wimbledon tourney showed how close this declaration was to the truth. On the grass courts he played magnificently, and it was not till he met Perry, who came to the contest flushed with success and playing at the very top of his form, that von Cramm's victorious march was arrested in the final of the world's tennis blue-ribbon contest. A month or so before on the hard courts of Germany von Cramm was unbeatable and the German team won from Crawford, Quist and McGrath, the right to meet America in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup. It is very unlikely that the same result would have eventuated if the match had been played on the softer court at Wimbledon. Certainly the Australians were even then showing signs of the staleness and of the disorganisation of their game caused by the changing over to harder courts, which culminated in their debacle at Wimbledon. But even so it is probable that, although von Cramm may have won both his singles, the Australians would have saved the game on courts similar to those they were used to. Crawford's defeat of Perry at Eastbourne revealed the Australian's true form.

It now appears certain that the Germans would defeat the American team in Germany and be defeated in turn by the English holders on the English courts. The point is, however, that a different result would almost as certainly have happened if all the matches had been played on the same type of court. It appears likely that the Germans would beat the English team if the match were to be played in Germany, and I personally still think that Australia would have been victorious this year if all the matches had been played at Sydney or Wimbledon.

Hockey and the Indian Tour.

The tour of the Indian team through New Zealand is still undimmed by defeat, but the games have not always been a case of “Eclipse first and the rest Nowhere.”

The Canterbury team played a fast, bustling game, it is true, when they extended the Indian visitors to their utmost, but I, who saw the game, can assure you that there was less jostling, and, dare I say roughness? in the play of the Canterbury men than there was in that of the Indians. Rup Singh and the tall Fernandez appeared somewhat off their game in this match, but Dyan Chand was still uncanny and he had to exercise all his skill and call on all his reserves to clinch the win in the final quarter. The Canterbury men played a clean, fast game and showed that only a little training and coaching would be needed to mould them into as great a team as their opponents. Curiously enough, the Canterbury team was penalized less often than the visiting one.

The lesson of this game was more than made plain in the Wellington test—that New Zealand hockey players need only a little more training in combination, tactics and strategy, to enable a New Zealand team to be developed that would be quite worthy of the same place in the hockey sun that the Indians now occupy. If, as one is led to believe from recent reports, the present Indian team owe their success to a milk diet, then for the New Zealanders only a few more pints are needed.

It was in this game that the last mistaken belief in the invincible superiority of the Indians was shattered. Bowden and others matched up with the mass of the Indian team, but Eddie McLeod (railwayman and cricketer) matched up with the great Dyan Chand himself. McLeod was playing against the hitherto inimitable centre forward and held him all through the game. To our surprise and delight the New Zealand captain showed us that Dyan Chand was not the sole possessor of some witchcraft or some necromantic stick that raised him above all hockey comparisons, but was only one very good player pitted against his equal or near equal. Considering all the conditions, and remembering his lack of practice with great players, McLeod covered himself with glory.

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.