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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]

The Progress of Sport

The Progress of Sport

In the five-year period since Spike was last published the standard of sport at Victoria has fluctuated almost as much as the Capital City's climate. We have scaled our Everests in some fields and closely examined our Mindanao deeps in others. Immediately post-war, with an influx of ex-servicemen and the consequent general raising of the average age level of the student body, there was a brief boom in University sport. This boom was shortlived, however, and when the Jubilee year of the College came in 1948 the slump was really setting in. Nineteen forty-nine and 1950 witnessed a slow but scarcely exhilarating improvement and not until 1951 did a few signs of better days ahead become at all apparent. But in 1951 even the most ardent supporters of Victoria in the field of sport could scarcely have been prepared for the success that was to greet their gladiators within the next two years.. Rugby, with an invaluable transfusion of new blood, gave birth to the renaissance and the Athletics, Harrier, Cricket, Defence Rifle, Soccer, Women's Hockey, Miniature Rifle and Swords Clubs, to mention but a few, all responded to the lead and reached heights to which they had not aspired for some years.

The success our clubs have met with in open competition—if not in inter-Varsity to the same extent—over the past two or three years has been most gratifying and has done much to stimulate greater public interest in and appreciation of the College. It seems that after the instability of the post-war years the sports clubs have now reached a stage where a much greater consistency of performance can be expected. It can be expected, but whether or not it will actually be received will depend to a large extent on the competitors' mental approach to their respective sports. The mental and physical lethargy which intermittently besets even the most successful Victoria teams, no matter what page 34 the sport, must be the bogey of every man and woman who have undertaken coaching a Vic. club. From observation Victoria is not the only University thus afflicted, but we are not concerned with our fellow colleges here. On rare occasions a combination of brilliant natural talent happens along, for example the senior Rugby XV of the past two or three seasons or the current harrier team. But these occasions are widely dispersed and in the intervening periods something other than outstanding natural talent must provide the basis on which to build match-winning teams. Success is vital to the existence of any club. It is vital to the University itself, for sport is one of the few grounds on which the public of Wellington and the University can meet in common. No one can doubt the tremendous public relations value of Victoria Rugby over recent years, while on the other hand many brilliant scholars, some of them world recognised, have regrettably passed unheeded, or at most regarded only as some-thing distant and intangible, by the body of the public. Most University sportsmen and their followers tend to pride themselves on their approach to sport, maintaining that so long as they play attractively and in the "true spirit" of the game-whatever that may be-everything is as it should be. Whether they win or lose, succeed or fail, is merely secondary, and consequently in the general run of things they frequently do not come up to expectations. Regrettably perhaps this "the game is the thing" concept of competitive sport went out with the Edwardian era, whether we like to admit or not. Why do New Zealanders revere the 1924 All Black team? Because they were successful, not because of style of football, about which very few of us know anything.. If the bright open methods of playing a sport beget the results then let us adhere to them by all means. But let us show that we are made of stern enough stuff' to be to knuckle down and fight out a pitched battle when the need arises, and let us give of our best all the game and all the season. No one wishes to advocate success at any price, nor envisage eight green-jerseyed forwards cutting a swathe through the opposition with fists pumping like pistons, or benzedrine stimulated athletes burning up the tracks. But it is possible to play hard and yet to play fairly, decently and attractively. Our clubs, more specifically their senior teams and outstanding athletes in open competition, must appreciate that Victoria expects them to be successes firstly, crowd-pleasers secondly, and both whenever circumstances permit. We have built up a good record in the past two years and gained much ground in many sports. Let us not slip back now due to half-heartedness and let us not remain satisfied with our performances to date but always strive to improve.

In the Jubilee issue of Spike, J. B. Trapp wrote of a decline in Rugby at V.U.C. following on the championship success of 1946. This trend continued through to 1950 without much improvement in the standard of performance other than an occasional display of the quality of football e one hoped to see the senior XV play regularly. Once again in 1951 the club finished in a lowly position on the championship table but although it was a disappointing year from the club's point of view there was considerable satisfaction to be gained from the outstanding exploits of R. A. Jarden, Victoria's first All Black since E. T. Leys (1929). Firstly with the New Zealand Universities team in Australia and later that season with the All Blacks in the same country he built page 35 up a record of performances which has made his name legion throughout the country ever since. Nineteen fifty-one was the season in which he rose from relative obscurity to become headline news and although he has been a tower of strength to Victoria, Wellington and New Zealand football ever since and has become sounder in defence and more of a craftsman on attack, it is doubtful whether he has ever surpassed the football he produced that year for sheer vitality and effervescence. These days, when Ron Jarden is taken much too much for granted, players and public alike tend to regard his talents as something totally inherent—as something that only required the environment provided by a paddock and two sets of goalposts to produce one of the finest All Black wingers—completely overlooking the years of intensive training and practice which this player put in to develop his abilities to the fullest before he gained representative honours. His is an example which any athlete who wishes to succeed would do well to remember. Even to the most gifted success comes only after regular and diligent training with much sacrifice of leisure time.

Apart from Jarden, two other V.U.C. men toured Australia with the N.Z. team that year, W. H. Clark and J. B. S. Hutchinson, a very capable all-round athlete. Clark was to make a name for himself in later years as a flank forward, firstly with the Wellington Ranfurly Shield team of 1953 and later with the New Zealand team which toured the British Isles and France in 1953-54, However, as far as forwards were concerned, the success of the 1951 season was J. G. Smith, who represented the North Island in the North v. South match that year and who must have only narrowly missed higher honours. His omission from the N.Z.U. team that year caused much bewilderment in the V.U.C camp as to the standard required by the selectors for inclusion in the Universities side. G. P. Nola—a name which during Waikato's tenure of the Ranfurly Shield in 1952-53 was to become almost as widely known as that of Jarden—was also in the Victoria pack in 1951. Indeed, the forward strength was the best the club had had since 1946 but the backs scarcely matched the vanguard in quality. C. J. Loader was one back who was perhaps a cut above his fellows. He too gained All Black honours in later years, although by then he was no longer playing with V.U.C. Nineteen fifty-two produced a windfall of new arrivals, including the 1919 All Black half, L. T. Savage, the 1951 All Black live-eighth. B. B. J. Fitzpatrick, and the Otago representative five-eighths, J. T, Fitzgerald. This gave the club a back line which numbered four past, present and future All Blacks amongst its complement. This back combination, coupled with a forward pack of outstanding merit, presented a formidable line-up on paper and proved equally formidable on the field. Few who witnessed the opening match of the 1952 season when the college team trounced Poneke, the playing-through champions, to the tune of 37-0 will ever forget that day. It marked the opening of a true golden era in Victoria's Rugby history which culminated with the winning of the Jubilee Cup in 1952 and 1953. Much has been written elsewhere in praise of the teams which represented the college throughout those two seasons. Once, they were described by a prominent former All Black and administrator as the greatest club team he had ever seen. It must be a great strain for a team to play and to live up to praise such as that and to maintain over such a prolonged period the crowd-pleasing football—often in unfavourable page 36 conditions—which the public expected of them. Full credit must be handed to the club therefore for the sustained quality of football and the results produced. Perhaps we would have liked to have seen a little more tactical inspiration from a backline which often stood figuratively head and shoulders above the opposition and perhaps greater readiness to adopt the type of football played to the vicissitudes of Wellington's climate. At times an almost uniform weakness in defence and an occasional lack of "devil" when it was most urgently required detracted from otherwise excellent performances, but all in all when credits and debits are viewed dispassionately there seems no doubt that in 1952 and 1953 we had at Victoria probably the finest XV the college has ever fielded in its 56 years and probably one of the best club sides ever seen in Wellington. In 1953 six members of the back line in L. T. Savage, A. J. Henley, B. B. J. Fitzpatrick, J.. T. Fitzgerald, R. A. Jarden, and B. W. Battell found places at one time or another in the Wellington team, which for the latter part of the season held the Ranfurly Shield, while the seventh, P C. Osborne, was the reserve full back for most of the season. In the forwards W. H. Clark was a regular member of the provincial side, while the captain of the senior XV, I. E. Stuart, was a reserve throughout the period of Wellington's Shield tenure. New Zealand University representation over this period was gained by J. G.. Smith, L. T. Savage, W. H. Clark, R. A. Jarden I. E. Stuart, J. T. Fitzgerald, P. C. Osborne, J.. B. S. Hutchinson, B. B. J. Fitzpatrick, and A. J. Henley. Indeed, the Rugby Club has done much for V.U.C. in recent years both in the field of public relations and as inspiration to the remainder of Victoria's sporting fraternity.

The athletics world at Victoria has not been such a rosy one, however, over this period with the exception of the 1952-53 season, when the senior inter-club championship was won by V.U.C. Otherwise results have been disappointing from a club which once commanded as much glamour as is now associated with Rugby football at Vic, and which in its time has numbered nearly forty national champions among its members. Athletics has been Victoria's Achilles heel at Easter tournaments for some 25 years now and the average tournament goer is fully justified in demanding some drastic effort on the part of this club to remedy the situation. It is not solely the fact that we have failed to win the tournament athletics once since 1929 that matters so much as the consummate ease with which V.U.C. has acquired the Athletics Wooden Spoon in the vast majority of the years since that now almost legendary success. Admittedly Tournament is first and foremost a social occasion but perhaps the club could pay a little more attention to the secondary matter of sporting prowess. The Easter Tournament copy of Canta—the C.U.C. student paper—was headed "Nobody loses all the time". Oh no?

These remarks apply with equal force to the Swimming and Women's Basketball Clubs, whose performances at Tournament over the past five years have, with one or two individual exceptions, failed to excite boundless enthusiasm amongst their ever-hopeful 'Tournament team-mates. However, although Tournament Athletics have not been a strong point with Victoria we have nevertheless produced one or two athletes of quite considerable merit since 1948. It is to be regretted that such men as G. I. Fox, the club captain for most of this period, have not seen greater results for their efforts in raising the page 37 reputation of the club to its present high level in Wellington. In 1949 D. R. Batten took the national 220 and 440 yards titles, establishing new figures of 21.2 secs, in the former event, and went on to the Empire Games where he was placed third in the 440. Miss Helen Burr was placed in the national women's high jump the same year and also in the two succeeding years, gaming an N.Z.U. Blue in each season as well. Batten was successful in the 220 again in 1950-51, and the following season I. Lissienko took the national discus title. Places were gained in the discus and hammer throw by Lissienko and D. D. Leech respectively in 1952-53, but last season the cupboard was bare except for an N.Z.U. Blue gained by G. R. Stevens for an excellent 3 miles at Tournament. Let us hope for the future and for something more than the occasional outstanding individual performance.

The fortunes of the Cricket Club since the war have closely followed, in pattern anyway, those of the Rugby footballers. Following on the championship success of the 1945-46 season and the subsequent slump, the senior XI battled around in the lower half of the championship table until it met with well-merited success in the 1952-53 season, only to slump again in 1953-54. Throughout the period since Spike last appeared, with the exception of 1949-50, Victoria has possessed quite the most formidable batting strength of any club in Wellington but has sorely lacked attacking strength. Worse still, those few on whose shoulders the attack has rested have frequently failed to receive the support to which they are entitled in the field. In fact, this club is one of the best examples in the College of how disappointingly a team with more than adequate natural talent—on the batting side in particular—may fare through lack of a sufficiently determined and aggressive approach to the game. Such an approach is probably more essential to success and more difficult to achieve in cricket than in any other sport, for here it must be almost entirely mental—it can rarely be expressed physically—and must be sustained for longer periods. Only once has this been achieved in the seasons of the period under review, and that was the year in which the Wellington Cricket Association's coach, J. R. Reid, was allotted to the club. Although of no outstanding material value with bat and ball, he nevertheless managed to imbue the XI with a certain purposefulness and to sharpen up the bowling and fielding to the extent necessary to gain the outright wins essential for the championship success which eventually came their way. It was very disappointing to see the old lackadaisical attitude creep back into the team's play last season, when Reid was no longer there, with the consequent lost opportunities of outright victories and subsequent slump to eighth in the championship table. Next season, perhaps, the club will show us the brand of cricket of which it is capable, and which it should be producing consistently. Despite the generally disappointing results in the W.C.A. championship since 1949, V.U.C. has not wanted for representative honours. R. A. Vance, a delightful bat when in form, has represented Wellington continuously since 1950 and was captain of the Plunket Shield side in 1953-54, while D. S. St. John, another stroke-player of rare quality, has been a member of the same XI since 1951-52. In the following season P. M. McCaw and W. R. Perkins, together with Vance and St. John, gained representative honours, while the 1953-54 season saw Vance, Perkins and J. C. Thomson in the Wellington XI. New Zealand University Blues were awarded to D. H. page 38 McLeod (1951), the best wicket-keeper we have had since the war, and to P. M. McCaw in 1952, while N.Z.U. caps were gained by D. H. McLeod, R. G. O'Connor, K. M. Phillips, P. M. McCaw, W. F. Smith, W. R. Willis, D. S. St. John, W. R. Perkins, J. C. Thomson, and J. M. McEwen.

For a club which has never been particularly strong in numbers, Soccer has performed exceptionally well over the last few years. Not only have they played their way into the Senior A grade in Wellington football but through sheer merit and hard work have made their presence in that grade felt in no mean fashion. Their success has been due to hard training and good teamwork, with E. A. Harris, A. Preston, C. Richardson and J. Y. Walls standing out from their contemporaries. Preston and Harris are both N.Z.U. Blues, the latter also captaining the N.Z.U. XI in 1953 and both have represented Wellington, as also did Richardson. Preston seems likely to gain even higher honours.

The Swords Club has recently produced its first international in B. P. Hampton, who has been selected to represent New Zealand at the Empire Games in Vancouver this year. This is a great honour for a club which has always been one of our best performed teams at Winter Tournament, and a fitting reward for one of its most enthusiastic and hard-working members. Several times an N.Z.U. Blue, he has been one of those instrumental in building up the club to its present high standard and strength. Other well-performed fencers in recent years have been W. Stevens, and E. Flaws, both of whom gained N.Z.U, Blues on more than one occasion and who also distinguished themselves in provincial company.

Both the above clubs have served the College well at Tournaments and with them in consistency of performance may be bracketed the Miniature Rifle and Defence Rifle Clubs. Shooting has been one of the stronger sports at V.U.C. for many years now and rare have been the Tournaments when our teams have not acquitted themselves with distinction. The names of B. J. Perry, many limes an N.Z.U. Blue, A. T. S. Howarth, D. V. Henderson and I. M. Henderson are particularly well known in University and other shooting circles.

The harriers have lately struck a golden patch in their history and well served are the honours which are now coming their way, for few clubs at V.U.C. have a better record of efficient administration and organisation both on the athletic and social sides of their sport. It was not until 1953 that the club won its first trophy in open competition but since then they have progressed from strength to strength. In 1949 and 1950 R. Hunt was quite the most outstanding V.U.C. harrier, winning the N.Z.U. cross country championship that year and gaining an N.Z.U. Blue. J. Mahan was similarly successful in this event in 1953, while much is expected of G, R. Stevens in the coming season, but overall the club's greatest asset at present lies in team work of an encouragingly high standard.

Tennis has travelled from a stage in 1949-50 where the top men and women in the club were players in their later years of competitive tennis who had served Vic long and well—such men as Roly Ferkins, J. Y. Walls and B. O'Connor—to the current position in which the leading players are compaartivcy young people with their best tennis ahead of them. This latter group includes B, R. Boon and D. L. Robinson, who in recent years have both page 39 performed with considerable merit in University and open tournaments. Misses A. Walker and J. O'Brien are the two outstanding ladies of this period, the former being an N.Z.U. Blue and titleholder while the latter had her biggest moments in junior national and provincial tennis. Victoria tennis, with its foundation in the "Old Clay Patch," now the site of the present courts and the product of much labour on the part of some of the most famous of Victoria's early sporting figures, has a fine record behind it. Since 1948, however, the club seems to have earned a certain amount of disfavour both in University and outside circles, apparently due to a certain slackness in administration. It is to be hoped that this condition is not chronic and that the club will speedily remove any doubts in this direction. Some ground seems to have been made up last season.

Other well-performed sportsmen and women since 1949 not mentioned above have been: Men's hockey, R. O'Connor, G. Coates, L. Gatfield, A. Cryer; women's hockey, Misses B. Young and L. Holland; boxing, R. Street, J. Hutchison, J.. Donald and B. Brown; rowing, O. Weenink, I. Vodanovich, D. B. Horsley, and L. Smith; swimming, L. B. Piper, D. Dowse and J. B.. S. Hutchinson; men's basketbal, S. Moral. Some of these clubs have flourished, others languished but these people have all been outstanding in their particular fields.

Something which puzzles most V.U.C, athletes is the very minor role the women play in the sporting life of the College. There can be no denying that in sport they show up in an abysmally poor light—especially at Tournaments—and the reason for this is very hard to deduce. It is not to be found in lack of numbers for there are four to six hundred of the fair sex on the books of the College. Admittedly we have no physical education school to draw from as have Otago, but then neither have Auckland nor Canterbury. Our record has been so uniformly poor since the war that it seems the trouble must lie in a lack of spirit as much as anything. Perhaps we have not had sufficient athletic talent among the ladies to produce match-winning teams with any regularity but at the same time the only women's sport in the past five years which has come through a season with credit in club competition and at Tournament has been the Hockey Club, which was successful at Winter Tournament 1951. That is the only occasion in the last five years on which any V.U.C. women's team has risen much off the bottom of the ladder, and during that year the Hockey Club's XI trained enthusiastically and diligently throughout the winter with Tournament in view, with the consequence that their spirit, determination and fitness were all that was necessary for them to carry off the honours. Other sports besides women's hockey might well take this example to heart.

Several new clubs have sprung up since 1948 and are now thriving. Golf, women's indoor basketball, and badminton are three of these, while skiing has boomed to such an extent in recent years that the club has launched a scheme which, once the funds are raised, will ultimately provide V.U.C. skiers with their own hut on Ruapehu. The club is to be commended on its enterprise, as also is the Rugby Club, who have now almost reached the target for their projected gymnasium.

In conclusion we should pay tribute to those men who have passed on in the last five years and who in their lifetime did more for Victoria sport than page 40 present-day athletes can possibly appreciate. Men such as George Dixon, Sir Thomas Hunter, the Hon. Justice Cornish, Mr. Seigfreid Eichelbaum and the Rt. Hon. Sir Humphrey O'Leary have in their passing left a void in our sporting life, quite apart from their other interests in and influence on the College, which it will be difficult for us to fill. Let us hope that on and off the playing fields our efforts and performances will show respect for and appreciation of their work.

K. M. Phillips