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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 3 (June 1, 1939)

Panorama of the Playground — Scrum Formation

page 63

Panorama of the Playground
Scrum Formation

Will the New Zealand Rugby Football Union convince the authorities in England that a universal adoption of the 2-3-2 scrum formation will solve the great problem of illegal scrum work in the 15-a-side game? Even in New Zealand, where the traditional formation once was unanimously voted to be the only method worth using, there is divided opinion.

Much has been made of the success of the hookers in the 1905 New Zealand team in Great Britain and Ireland, but few remember that the 1905 team was the first to use men in specialised positions. Other teams packed a scrum on the basis of “first up, first down.” The first forwards reaching the spot where a scrum went down, would pack front row and the others would “attach themselves.”

So it must be admitted that the comparison of success in 1905 is not a sound one. Better is it to study what has happened since other countries adopted a set scrum formation and specialised in positions.

It is a rare occurrence when a New Zealand team wins possession from the majority of set scrums. New Zealand's international successes—and they have been relatively few since 1925—have been won by virtue of superior back divisions. Men of the calibre of Mark Nicholls, Bert Cooke, N. P. McGregor, George Nepia and Jimmy Mill have made the wins possible, following on excellent loose forward play by forwards of the class of the Brownlies, Richardson, Parker and Porter.

Does it not all boil down to the fact that too many alterations have been made to the rules bearing on scrum work? A test film was made in England recently and it was discovered that the rule on hooking could not be worked. The film showed that if the ball were placed in the scrum according to the rule, and the hookers hooked according to the rule, the ball would pass out the other side before the mental reaction of the hookers would permit them to hook it. In other words, a ball truly put in must go right through before the hookers could get their feet in a position to hook. The suggested remedy is that the referee should place the ball in the scrum to avoid any suggestion of unfairness.

Another “Mile of the Century.”

America seems to be developing the habit of staging a “Mile of the Century” each year. The memorable meeting between Jack Lovelock, of New Zealand and Glenn Cunningham and other American milers, will be in the minds of many when Sydney Wooderson, holder of the one-mile and halfmile world records, meets Cunningham and other American milers at Princeton, New Jersey, on June 17th. Wooderson will have youth on his side and should be favoured to win, but I have never been enthusiastic about his performances—his best runs have been made in special paced efforts—and if Cunningham is in form I would prefer him to beat the Englishman.

Much has been said—and more will undoubtedly follow—about the Englishman's task of beating a team of Americans who will be working together. I think this suggestion too puerile to warrant serious notice. Lovelock found the Americans were keen to score an individual victory—in marked contrast to what happened thirty years ago—and won on his merits.

Wooderson's lack of class competition in regular competition, his “spoonfeeding” in paced races and the experience of the American milers in hard racing will all act against the bespectacled Englishman, who, lacking Lovelock's uncanny judgment of pace, will have a most difficult task to perform if he is to win the “Mile of the Century—1939 Edition.”

Wrestlers on Tour.

Next to the staff on the railways, few people in New Zealand travelled as many miles in 1938 as did Lofty Blomfield, New Zealand heavyweight wrestling champion. In the space of five months, and ignoring air travel, Blomfield covered approximately 17,000 miles by rail to honour wrestling engagements in New Zealand. The wrestlers are great users of the railways and know considerably more about New Zealand, its time-tables and geographical lay-out, than do most New Zealanders.

This season will be an exceptionally big one for the wrestlers and the arrival of Earl McCready this month will see the already keen interest further intensified. Later, Jim Londos, world champion, is expected. With his arrival New Zealand will have champions from Canada (Meehan), South Africa (Forster), Australia (Steele), New Zealand (Blomfield), the British Empire (McCready, page break
The road to the glaciers, South Westland.

The road to the glaciers, South Westland.

and the world champion (Londos) in action. Surely the greatest collection of wrestlers ever assembled in any one country?

Wrestler and Engineer.

Rollend Kirchmeyer, one of the American wrestlers at present in New Zealand, is an engineer by profession and is particularly interested in bridge construction. He has asked that arrangements be made for him to see the Mohaka Viaduct, on the Napier-Gisborne railway section. Kirchmeyer's request was a spontaneous one; he had heard of this mighty structure when in America and although the viaduct is off the beaten path—as yet—he is making arrangements to travel through from Napier on the first available opportunity.

Joe Louis to Meet Galento.

This month will see another bout for the world's heavyweight boxing championship. Joe Louis will fight Tony Galento, who has been referred to as the “Fighting Falstaff.” Galento, who is said to resemble a beer barrel in build, has been establishing a record of knock-outs, although some of his bouts have not been treated seriously. There has been an outcry over the matching of these two men, the feeling being that such a match is making a travesty of the sport. Galento had to undergo a special medical examination a few weeks ago before a permit would be issued for this match. This is said to be the first occasion on which such an examination has been ordered. Due, no doubt, to Galento's serious illness—he contracted pneumonia a year ago when ready to meet John Henry Lewis—the commissioners were chary about permitting him to meet such a powerful puncher as Joe Louis. The bout will take place on June 28th.

Cecil Matthews Again in Training.

Cecil Matthews, British Empire three-mile and six-mile track champion—has made a fine recovery from an operation for hernia and is looking forward to the 1939–40 track season with keen anticipation. In form he is capable of winning an Olympic title, but there are many who feel that the operation will have cost him valuable form. To this view I do not subscribe. I have in mind
(Thelma R. Kent, photo.) Clay cliffs near Omarama, Lindis Pass. Ahuriri River in the foreground.

(Thelma R. Kent, photo.)
Clay cliffs near Omarama, Lindis Pass. Ahuriri River in the foreground.

the improvement made by Randolph Rose after he underwent an abdominal operation and also the knowledge that Matthews did not wait for the hernia to undermine his health before undergoing the operation. Cecil, who is a son of a Railway employee, reports that he has never felt better and will now settle down to strengthening exercises preparatory to commencing the track season. I predict that the coming season will find him better than ever and that his inclusion in the 1940 Olympic team will be hailed with approval from all sides.

Prospects for Centennial Track and Field Meetings.

Indications are that New Zealand will be extremely fortunate if it secures overseas athletes for Centennial track and field meetings. The Olympic Games, to be held at Helsinki, Finland, in 1940, means that most of the world stars will be concentrating on that great international gathering and will not jeopardise their chances by travelling to New Zealand. America, although it has hundreds of athletes right up to Olympic class, is jealous of its track and field reputation and looks with disfavour on sending any but the best on tour. For that reason it seems certain that no Americans will come. An English team is out of the question, a South African team would be welcomed, but the Olympic Games will be the mission there and too much travelling time is avoided in these days. So, no matter how sympathetic the other nations may be toward our application for tours, it seems certain that we will have to resign ourselves to an atheletic feast of “bread and cheese” instead of a “champagne supper.”