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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 7 (October 2, 1939)

Panorama of the Playground

page 54

Panorama of the Playground

Sport in Wartime

Twenty-Five years ago, the youth of New Zealand–and, of course, some of its greatest athletes–answered the call to the colours. Once more the call has come, and one consequence, of course, is that sporting fixtures will suffer serious dislocation.

But for all its horror, war does not put an end to sport. Even in the darkest days of 1914–1918 the authorities realized that the morale of the troops and civilians must be maintained and arrangements were made to stage divisional championships in various athletic events. From these championships came some of New Zealand's greatest sportsmen—men who might never have been discovered had they not been under a rigorous physical training scheme.

Perhaps the greatest Rugby team ever to wear the Silver Fern of New Zealand was developed during those dark days. All honour to the 1905 All Blacks, “The Originals,” and to the 1924 All Blacks, “The Invincibles,” but greater honour to the New Zealand Army team of 1919.

Here was a team recruited from the members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces—men who had answered the call, fought the common foe and yet found time to play Rugby football.

Behind the lines, often within range of enemy artillery, members of that great team had played New Zealand's national sport. The crown and anchor board would be put aside as impromptu matches were played and then the men would go back to the trenches. Some of them would not return … but the games went on.

With the signing of the Armistice the men found more time for sport and the regimental and divisional teams were combed to find material for the New Zealand Army team, His Majesty King George V. having presented a cup for competition in the services. Teams were entered by the Mother Country, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Royal Air Force and New Zealand. With each team having met the other teams the Mother Country and New Zealand had tied, New Zealand having lost to Australia by 5 to 6, and the Mother Country having gone down to New Zealand by 3 to 6.

The final was played at Twickenham, where New Zealand triumphed by 9 to 3 in a torrid forward struggle. In this match New Zealand produced the type of forward play that had made the All Blacks famous, a type of play that has been allowed to lapse in recent years.

The King's Cup was presented to Jimmy Ryan, captain of this great team, by His Majesty on the occasion of New Zealand's match against France and is now a treasured possession of the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Subsequent to its tour of Great Britain, where 38 matches were played, for 33 wins, 2 losses and 3 drawn, with a total of 547 points for and 107 against, the team journeyed to South Africa on its way back to New Zealand. In South Africa, Charlie Brown, nowadays selector for Taranaki, was captain, and Jimmy Ryan was second-in-command. Fifteen matches were played for 11 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw. A total of 170 points were scored, with 69 being scored against.

The best side fielded by the New Zealand Army Rugby team is generally claimed to have been the combination that faced England: J. O'Brien; P. Storey, J. Stohr, J. Ford; J. Ryan, W. Fea; C. Brown; M. Cain, E. Hasell, J. Moffitt, J. Kissick, A. Wilson, E. Belliss, A. West and A. Singe.

* * *

In the track and field section, New Zealand produced one of the greatest relay teams the world has ever seen. With Dan Mason (half-mile), Jimmy Wilton (quarter-mile), Harry Wilson (furlong) and Jack Lindsay (furlong) New Zealand had a mile-medley relay team that beat the best and set world records.

Fielding the smallest team of all at the Inter-Allied Games, held at Pershing Stadium, Paris, in 1919, New Zealand won the half-mile with Dan Mason, who defeated the celebrated American champion, Earl Eby, in record time. Harry Wilson and Gerald Keddell did well in the hurdles but Jack Lindsay, who had beaten many of the finalists, was hurried to the mark, due to a misunderstanding, and failed to show his true form.

Peter Munro, another New Zealand Army representative, won an important shot-putting event when he was placed first in the British Empire-America meeting at Stamford Bridge, sending the shot out to within a few inches of the world record.

On the water, too, New Zealand won fame. The Inter-Allied rowing championships were held on the River Seine and, in an exciting contest, New, Zea- page 55 land's eight-oar crew triumphed over America by a few feet. In this crew were two oarsmen later to make their mark in the rowing world.

Clarrie Healey, who stroked the crew, later coached the New Zealand rowers at the Olympic Games in 1932 and last season rowed in the Union crew that won the N.Z. championship eights and the Inter-provincial championships.

The second oarsman to win fame was Darcy Hadfield, who, by defeating Alfred Felton, won the world professional sculling championship.

Hadfield and Wilson were included in the New Zealand team for the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, Wilson placing in the finals of the 120yd. hurdles and Hadfield placing third in the single sculls.

In the boxing rings, too, New Zealand was worthily represented by such champions as Jack Heeney, Des Lawless, Denny Boreham, Syd Fitzsimmons and Harry Gunn. Some of these men participated in the greatest international boxing tournament ever staged, but the class was too good. Such famous boxers as Jimmy Wilde, Jim Driscoll, Pal Moore, Augie Ratner, Johnny Basham, Harry Greb, Mike O'Dowd, Eddie McGoorty and Digger Evans were contestants and they fought for honour and glory instead of large purses.

(Photo, courtesy “Evening Post,” Wellington.)A recent view of the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition Buildings at Wellington. The Exhibition opens on the 8th November, 1939.

(Photo, courtesy “Evening Post,” Wellington.)
A recent view of the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition Buildings at Wellington. The Exhibition opens on the 8th November, 1939.

Twenty-five years after New Zealand's manhood answered the great call, another clarion call is sounded. Already New Zealanders have been among the casualties. At the time of writing, Laurie Edwards, Cedric Whittington and Bruce Clifford-Jones, all from Taranaki, have been reported missing while on patrol duties with the Royal Air Force.

Two fine sportsmen—I knew them both—Laurie and Cedric were in England with the Royal Air Force; Bruce Clifford-Jones was one of New Zealand's most promising tennis players.

Visiting Fijians.

When it was announced that a team of Rugby footballers was to come from Fiji to play against minor unions in New Zealand there was little public interest shown, but the performances of the native footballers have made them exceptionally popular and regret has since been expressed that the team was not given more games against major unions. In defeating Auckland–and it was a truly representative Auckland side that went down—the Fijians really accomplished something. Next time a team comes from the Islands the public will demand that stronger opposition be provided these latest recruits to Rugby football.

Women's Hockey.

For many years Poverty Bay held supremacy in women's hockey in New Zealand—I will never forget seeing the Maroons defeat the touring English team in 1914—but later the mantle fell on Ruahine, that great combination from Dannevirke which had Mr. Luxford Peti as its driving force. Later still the honours went to Eastern (Southland) where Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton have maintained keen interest in the sport. But this year a surprise win was secured by Canterbury—Eastern suffering its second defeat in nine years and its first for five years. Those who have seen women's hockey being replaced by basketball are now satisfied that there is room for both sports and both have gained additional adherents.

page 56