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The Spike Golden Jubilee Number May 1949

Historical Review of the Men's Hockey Club

Historical Review of the Men's Hockey Club

Since its genesis nearly forty-eight years ago, the Men's Hockey Club has woven a history of more than ordinary interest. The sturdy threads of the Club's progress can be traced through bright, impressive patterns of good years, and sombre apologetic patches of bad years. But the final impression is one of constant unity—a unity generously endowed with the fine sense of bonne camaraderie and enthusiasm which inspired the beginnings of the Club.

A successful launching of the Club in 1901 signalled the existence of the first athletic organisation to be set up in the College. The names of Mr G. F. Dixon, C.B.E., and Col. R. St. J. Beere, will always be affectionately linked with the early beginnings, and some measure of the interest and enthusiasm which they must have displayed then can be gauged from recorded evidence (to be disclosed later) of their sustained and intimate association with the Club ever since. To George Dixon belongs the honour of first proposing the formation of the Club, while Rawdon Beere was his very first collaborator, later to be the captain of the College's First Eleven.

The united efforts of this pair resulted in a gathering of the College's first sports representatives at Karori Park on 18th May, 1909. Though at first only ten members prepared to meet Karori in the Junior Grade Championship, the full complement was happily realized when an enthusiastic spectator joined the band. This war F. A. de la Mare, who has since always been intimately associated with College interests. The full team consisted of: H. E. Anderson, R. St. J. Beere, F. A. de la Mare, G. F. Dixon, P. S. Foley, F. W. Furby, F. Martin, T. Mitchell, A. G. Quartley, H. P. Richmond, H. Sladden.

This team lost all but one game in the first round, but in the second round improved to such a degree that it was able to defeat a hitherto invincible team in Waiwetu and draw with Karori, the ultimate champions of their grade. If success did not attend this team's first season on the field, it was certainly not for lack of enthusiasm. Anecdotes of how the members of the team regularly gathered on a frost-hardened section in Thorndon Quay to practise at six o'clock in the morning testify to the ardour displayed by the players for their sport. And there are stories of the Club's agitation for a Student Society decision as to the College colours to be adopted, their organization of those concerts and dances which had the salutary effects of consolidating the Club and fostering a healthy College spirit among the students.

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In the following season the Club was establishing itself firmly as a live College institution and two teams, a Senior and Junior were entered. Though both teams were outclassed, many of the members were furnishing proof of substantial improvement by being selected for local representative teams. D. Matheson from the seniors and I. M. Batham and B. C. Smith from the juniors represented Wellington in their respective grades. Club spirit flourished as strongly as ever, contributing materially to the social life of the College in the form of the second Hockey Ball held in conjunction with the Tennis Club. Next to the Capping functions, this was the social event of the year.

Notwithstanding the formation of the Football Club in 1903, the Hockey Club maintained two teams. The standard of play inevitably dropped owing to the loss of many accomplished players to the ranks of the footballers, but enthusiasm and effort were sustained in anticipation of renewed strength in the following year. This materialized in the form of three teams, one Senior and two Junior, the Senior team consolidating its status by winning more than half its games and proving redoubtable opponents to all comers.

With the change of the College colours from dark maroon and pale blue to the familiar gorse green and gold in 1905, came further growth in the size of the Club. Four teams were fielded, one Senior, one Junior and two Thirds. The standard by now attained by the players was reflected in the selection of three North Island Representatives from the Senior sides, namely, R. St. J. Beere, J. A. Ryburn and C. H. T. Skelley. Judging from the improvement displayed during this season by all the teams, contemporary reviewers considered that the high-water mark of College hockey had been reached, and predicted that more than one championship would fall to the Club in the following year.

History, however, preferred to record otherwise, and the performances of the four teams of 1906 were lamentable. The Club was obliged to be contented with the furnishing of two provincial representatives in Beere and Ryburn.

In 1907, the earlier hopes were fulfilled to some extent. The 3a team, captained by one H. G. R. Mason (now Attorney-General for New Zealand and Minister of Education), swept all before it and won for itself the distinction of being the first College combination to win a local championship. This, it achieved by winning all except three games which were drawn. The statistics actually record one loss. The truth is that the game had been won by 10 goals to 2 but had to be forfeited on account of having included in the team the Bogle brothers who were unregistered players. 1907 also saw the first inter-collegiate match played against Otago University at Day's Bay, resulting in a draw one-all. This game laid the foundation to a series of annual fixtures against Otago, Auckland, and later, Canterbury, an arrangement which was to develop into the Annual Inter-University Tournament.

The Senior team was atoning for their previous ignominy and finished third in their grade in the following year, indicating that the coveted championship honours were again within reach. The Juniors, captained by S. A. Eichelbaum (who has since been a constant supporter of the Club), narrowly failed in this quest, being the eventual runners-up of their grade. 1909 saw the gratifying addition of a fifth team—Junior B. The Club rejoiced in its healthy state, but while the famous 3a team again excelled themselves by winning their second Championship, this honour continued to elude the 1st Eleven.

Throughout these years of unfulfilled optimism, a mounting list of Wellington representatives was strengthening the Senior team. R. St. J. Beere, who was still captain of the XI in 1908, A. H. Bogle, G. Castle, B. Kibblewhite, C. Skelley, B. C. Smith, were those who represented the province on several occasions while the 1909 Captain, H. W. Monaghan and D. S. Smith were honoured by inclusion in the 1908 Wellington team which won the New Zealand Challenge Shield for the first time at Auckland. D. S. Smith, known by a later generation as the Hon. Mr Justice Smith, a President of the Club, and to the present generation as Sir David Smith, Chancellor of the University of New Zealand, was, in his day, one of the Club's outstanding members.

In 1910, the Club again fielded five teams, a Senior, two Junior and two Thirds, the Senior team providing one A grade and seven B grade representatives. With such a combination, all previous performances were excelled and the Club's long-standing ambition of winning the Senior Championship was at last realized. This team of 1910 which included the consistent B. Kibblewhite and D. S. Smith, and the brilliant G. S. and C. H. E. Strack brothers thus won the distinction of being the first College team in any sport to win a first-grade premiership. The occasion was fittingly celebrated by a dinner at the Grand at which many of the foundation members, including G. F. Dixon and F. A. de la Mare, were present.

The subsequent years reflected the lustre of this notable triumph and the College XI continued to assert itself in the local championship by being very close runners-up for the next two years. The Club itself has gained added inspiration from the consistently fine achievements of the Senior team and by 1913 was fielding four strong and well-performed teams. The Club again won the Senior Championship, this time in easy fashion by seven points. The Strack brothers had reached the peak of their form and with P. Burbidge and Griffiths were the College's Wellington representatives.

By now, Club enthusiasm had reached an unprecedented pitch. The College had played Otago University, winning 3—2, and arrangements were in train for a visit to Auckland in the following page 93 year. The Club began negotiations for the purchase of a shipment of hockey sticks adorned with green and gold bindings especially for Club members and a further successful season was anticipated. The opening of the 1914 season was a gala occasion graced by the presence of the College Professors and their wives. The men, sporting skirts, did battle with the women in a match to signal the transition of the Clubs from College to University status. The Club fielded four teams this season, but the extraordinary inclemency of the weather in this season left nothing for history to record.

Then came the years in which the First World War made inevitable inroads on the Club's playing strength. It will not be possible to list the names of those members who served and died on those other battlefields, but due recognition of their services and sacrifices are more appropriately and faithfully recorded elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the continual drain of manpower resulted in only one team's being fielded by 1916. The incipient feeling of inertia finally gave way to complete paralysis, and in October, 1916, the Club's activities were suspended.

Resurrection was delayed until June, 1919, when B. W. B. Hunt, W. A. Sheat (at present Member of Parliament for Patea), A. B. Croker, L. W. Britton and A. M. Cousins were elected to administer the affairs of the two teams formed. The arduous process of re-establishing the Club extended into 1920 when it became possible to field three teams. In this year something of the Club's former traditions was recalled by the revival of the annual fixture with Auckland University College and by a match against an Old Students' team. The presence of R. St. J. Beere, S. A. Eichelbaum, D. S. Smith and C. H. Strack in this team served as a happy link with the good years before the War. Apparently R. St. J. Beere derived considerable stimulation from this match for he rejoined the Club as a most valuable member of the Senior team and proved that age had not affected the skill and speed for which he had been noted twenty years before.

By 1921, the Club was reconsolidating with four teams in the field. It was a tribute to the Committees of these post-war years that the Club was able to exhibit such a rapid resurgence of strength. A. M. Cousins, in particular, is one to whom the Club is greatly indebted, and much of the success which was to attend the Club's subsequent years was due to his tireless and enthusiastic efforts in these early Twenties. The performances of the teams were not outstanding but the activities which marked the continuance of a healthy Club spirit were notable. The match against Auckland had become a keenly awaited event, resulting in a win for Auckland 4—0. It was the enthusiasm displayed for these inter-Collegiate matches which led to the presentation by G. H. Seddon, who captained the Seniors in 1920, of the Seddon Stick which has become the prized trophy award to the winners of the New Zealand University Tournament. The Club had found a distinguished Patron in the late Professor J. Adamson. A more respected and better-loved figure could not have been found anywhere, and members of the Club of those years will long remember dinners and social functions at which Professor Adamson endeared himself to the hearts of all by his inimitable anecdotes of hockey played in Scotland and elsewhere.

In 1925, the Club had resumed its contact with Otago University, and marked the occasion graciously by losing the Seddon Stick to Otago's XI. Moves were finalized in this year for an annual match against Canterbury College and, in 1926, the stage was set for the organization of the first New Zealand University Hockey Tournament. This was held at Wellington in June, 1926, and appropriately marked the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the Victoria University College Club. Hopes were held of regaining the Seddon Stick, but, although Victoria reached the final, Otago narrowly retained the Trophy. The standard of play in the Club continued to improve, however, and 1927 again saw Victoria contest the final of the Tournament, this time against Auckland University College. Though again unsuccessful, this team provided three members of the first New Zealand University team, namely, B. Massey, J. McDonald and F. H. Paul.

1928 must be noted as one of the most successful years in the Club's history. Five strong teams were entered, Senior A and B, Junior A and B, and Third. In the Seniors, the figurehead was Eddie McLeod, ex-Auckland representative, and ex-captain of the New Zealand team who, as centre-half, inspired the team to brilliant heights. The Junior teams sought inspiration in H. F. Bollard, another centre-half, who was to prove one of the greatest Club stalwarts of the subsequent era. Both Senior teams were Champions of their grades, while the Junior A team narrowly failed in their championship. The Senior team yet again contested the final of the Tournament against Otago and again failed by an odd goal. Simpson, Massey and Fraser won their New Zealand Blues, while these with McLeod, Paul and W. Sykes represented Wellington on many occasions.

The boom of 1928 continued into 1929. With six teams, the Club assumed record proportions, and under the fine leadership of Eddie McLeod, H. F. Bollard and C. H. Hain, Jnr., it had seemingly arrived at an ideal state. The Senior team at last won its well-earned Seddon Stick at the Tournament but, as the fates would have it, was obliged to concede its premiership to Karori in a close finish.

The enthusiasm, loyalty and healthy activity of the Club of 1929 attracted a veritable avalanche of new recruits, and in 1930 the College with seven teams boasted the largest Hockey Club in the Dominion. In 1931 and 1932, with eight teams and page 94 a keen band of some dozen reserves, it gloried in the distinction of being the strongest and largest in Australasia. Although only one Championship (Senior B, 1930) fell to the Club during this period, these three seasons proved to be most enjoyable in the Club's career by virtue of its large memberships and the sustained and vigorous activity of its members. There are records of some athletic excellences, however, which served as inspiring forces in the Club during these years. The Senior team contested two finals in the University Tournaments, and "Charlie" Bollard enhanced his enthusiastic service to the Club by becoming the first Victoria College Hockey player to win New Zealand representative honours. In the same year (1932), L. H. Davis, and the brilliant K. N. Struthers were selected, together with Bollard, to represent the New Zealand Universities.

In 1933, a diminishing College roll had the effect of restricting the membership of the Club, but the year was marked by many notable milestones. The death of Mr C. H. Hain, Sen., who had been a most enthusiastic patron of the Club since 1926, came as a sad blow. The Hain Memorial Stick, to be awarded to the most improved beginner, was presented to commemorate his keen association with the Club. Later in the same year, the founder of the Club, Mr G. F. Dixon, was elected as his successor and presented the Dixon Trophy to the Club to be awarded to the best-performed team of any season. Although elected as a Life Member in 1907, this was Mr Dixon's first election as Patron of the Club, an office which he has never failed to endow with a genuine and active interest in the activities of the Club. As for performances on the field, the Senior team was still successful in producing its share of Wellington representatives (H. F. Bollard, V. A. Stanley and K. N. Struthers), and New Zealand Blues (Bollard, F. L. Newcombe and H. Williamson). It was in this period that the colourful College figure of the late Kingi Tahiwi appeared to fill the role of a tireless Secretary of the Club and an irrepressible and spirited player on the field.

Although the growth of the Club had reached its limit, the momentum imparted by the activity of those earlier years kept it in a constant state of mobility. In 1935, there were six teams, but it had become increasingly difficult to maintain these at full strength. The Club had made a valuable acquisition in the evergreen N. R. Jacobson, ex-captain of several New Zealand teams and an Auckland representative as far back as 1906, who turned his experience and ability to good effect in the Senior team. 1935 saw four members of the Senior team, one McEwan, L. Danby, F. H. Stewart and F. L. Newcombe, selected to represent the New Zealand Universities in the team which toured Fiji. In 1936, applying Norm. Jacobson's sound theoretical knowledge of the game, the Senior team again won the Seddon Stick at the Tournament.

In succeeding years, the membership had found its level at six teams and although a decline in playing standard was experienced, much was done to keep alive the spirit of the Club. There are accounts of field days when matches were played against the "Old Brigade," of bright smoke concerts and the springing up of Social teams notable for the spiritedness rather than the skill of their play. A new generation of players had sprung to the fore. A. B. Dixon, son of Mr G. F. Dixon, proved a keen and capable Club Captain and a valuable player. F. L. Newcombe, W. F. Johnston and S. Braithwaite, won New Zealand University Blues, while D. Beresford, N. Buchanan, G. Shaw and A. Sharp—a former Blue and Rhodes Scholar—found places in the provincial side. The 1939 team, a powerful combination of such accomplished players, suffered a severe but unjust setback by being relegated to the Senior B grade. It was, however, reinstated to its proper grade in 1940. In this year the Club was having to contend with the demands of the Second World War. But with five teams, the Club clung to as normal a routine as was possible and successfully staged the inter-University Tournament. The Senior team again made a bold bid for the Seddon Stick but lost the final to the Massey team which had entered the Tournament for the first time at Christchurch in 1935. G. Whitham and S. Braithwaite won Blues, while H. Scott, together with Whitham secured representative honours. Of the enthusiasts in the Junior teams of this year, B. B. Hands (who won the Hain Stick), K. W. Kiddle and George Marwick were those who were destined to play prominent roles in the years to come.

1941 saw a sadly reduced Club of three teams. The stalwarts of the Club had begun their exodus and with the departure of its Club Captain, George Shaw, early in 1942, it was left to a new but intensely active committee in B. B. Hands, A. C. Ives (from Canterbury University College), K. W. Kiddle, P. O'Donnell, E. Raine and G. Stacey to administer the affairs of three teams. It would not be an exaggeration to state that it was the tireless enthusiasm of this committee, particularly that of the Secretary, Bruce Hands, which ensured the survival of the Club in these difficult years. The weakened state of the Club produced a happy arrangement in the revival of the co-educational scheme of training which had its first successful experiment in 1904 when R. St. J. Beere, G. V. Bogle and P. W. Robertson (at present Professor of Chemistry at Victoria), were the energetic coaches of the then newly formed Ladies Hockey Club. The Hockey Club played a leading role in the organisation of a Winter Sports Ball and in the undertaking, with the Women's Hockey and Basketball teams, of an extremely enjoyable tournament visit to Auckland, The Senior team held its own in the competition, mainly due to the return of "Charlie" Bollard to its ranks for several games. His polished perform page 95 ances at centre-half will long be remembered by the members of that team, and his tragic death in August, 1944, removed a truly outstanding figure in the annals of the Club's history.

In 1943, the Senior team succeeded in winning the Senior Championship, sharing this honour with Fort Dorset. Besides including outstanding players in K. W. Kiddle (Captain, 1941 New Zealand University Blue and Wellington Representative), G. Speight, M. B. Gunn, G. Jones, and A. C. Ives, who was making a come-back, the team was noted mainly for its intense team spirit. Indeed, such a spirit survived in the Club and a successful inter-University Tournament was organized and held in Wellington during the season. The Senior team provided one New Zealand University representative. The following year saw signs of renewed life when the Hockey Club again became the strongest sports Club with six teams, managed by an able and enthusiastic committee. The Senior team had acquired the brilliant Winiata Smiler from Auckland and though it just failed to retain its premiership, the team produced Wellington representatives in Smiler, M. B. Gunn and J. Nicholls. At the New Zealand University Tournament, the honour of a Blue was won by M. B. Gunn. In this year, the annual fixture against Massey College, begun in 1932, was resumed in Wellington and has since been one of the highlights of the Hockey year.

1945 saw a healthy Club of six strong teams. The Senior team made their characteristic bid for Championship honours but again had to be content with being runners-up. The 2b team, which rejoiced in the title of the "Social Team," excelled themselves by virtually winning their Grade Championship after a series of most enjoyable games. Actually, the team finished one point behind the official winners but had played two fewer games during the season. The general excellence of the Club was reflected by its gaining second honours in the Club Championship. The Club was represented at the inaugural New Zealand Winter Tournament held at Dunedin, and produced one New Zealand blue in N. W. Towns.

In the post-war period there have been promising signs of another successful era, 1946 saw a Club of seven teams and the return to its teams of many pre-war members. E. Breach, S. Braithwaite, M. Christie and G. Shaw joined the Senior team, captained by E. Latham and Breach; and Latham, with Smiler, were chosen for the Wellington Shield Challenge team. During the season, H. B. Lawry, who had been an outstanding Massey player before the War, strengthened the Club and later represented Wellington and the North Island. H. Scott resumed playing for the Seniors towards the end of the season and signalled his return by gaining a New Zealand Blue at the Tournament in Auckland.

Apart from Hec. Lawry, many of the older members have ceased to play and the last two years have seen younger members assimilating experience. The Club is in a healthy state and Club activity still contributes to the College life. The Tournament was held in Wellington in 1947 and, in 1948, the Massey match and the Hockey Club Ball were outstanding social successes. The Senior team has figured in stirring duels with Karori for the premiership but again the honours have eluded it. Hec. Lawry has represented Wellington for the last two seasons and in 1948 captained the team which won the New Zealand Challenge Shield from Canterbury. I. Laurenson from the Senior XI was also included in this team, and played a notable part in netting the decisive goal.

It is now left to future reviewers to record whether the present era will be a good or a bad one. The years before have here been reviewed, and though this history may be satisfactorily complete from the point of view of time, much valuable data may have been overlooked and, certainly, much omitted. How and when many Club enthusiasts of the early years were later elected office-bearers; stories of meetings at Karori Park of G. F. Dixon, R. St. J. Beere, Mr Justice Smith and S. A. Eichelbaum, complete with oranges, to cheer on the team of 1942; of Mr Dixon's ever-welcome "Come on Green!" at nearly every game for many past seasons—these are some of the interesting notes which might have been elaborated in the general picture.

However, if some of the colour may not have been sufficiently applied, it is hoped that the patterns have remained definable and that the final impression conveyed will be one worthy of Victoria's pioneer Sports Club.

Ivor Ting