DOB: 9 June, 1985
- All Blacks, 101 Caps
- Chiefts, 52 Caps
Te Rapa RFC 50th Jubilee Life Member
A Brief History of Te Rapa Rugby 1961 to 1980
by Grant Turner
I would also like to thank the Jubilee organizers for their efforts as we celebrate 50 years as a club or is it? First mention of a Te Rapa Rugby Club was actually in 1899 when Flax Cutters working in the area decided to start a rugby club which they named Te Rapa. In 1900 they had moved on to harvest flax in other areas so there was no club in 1900 but they returned in 1901 and played under the Te Rapa banner for that year.
There was no further mention of Te Rapa Rugby until 1960 when a group of local parents whose children were members of the Te Rapa Athletic Club decided it would be a good idea to also form a local rugby club for the children. Led by Russ Moroney, Ron Patterson, Joe Mitchell and Duncan Murray the club was formed and the Te Rapa Combined Club started rugby in 1961 and that is what we celebrate this weekend.
Based at the Te Rapa Primary School which then was on the corner of State Highway 1 and Te Kowhai Road (Now the Northern end of the Base Shopping Centre) the club began to grow and adult members began to look for a game. As a result Te Rapa Rugby affiliated with members of the RNZAF stationed on land now known as The Base Shopping Centre. The Te Rapa Sports Club was accepted into the Hamilton Union in 1963 sponsored by Eastern Suburbs and Teachers (Now University). The club said the new colours would be light red and blue.
With senior players involved it was necessary to establish club rooms so the Te Rapa Sports Club made the supper room of the Te Rapa Hall home. This was across the road from the Te Rapa School (The current Placemakers' site) where teams trained under a single 60 watt bulb. The hall became a popular venue after games but as other functions were often held here time was restricted and players often finished their evening at the other ranks club at the air force base.
1964 saw Te Rapa get their first official on the Hamilton Rugby Union when HW Hill joined the Junior Advisory Board from the club. In 1966 Te Rapa provided their first representative player when Alan Oakes was selected for the Hamilton Junior (U23) team. This was also the year that Hamilton Clubs voted to join other Waikato sub union teams to play in a Waikato wide completion from 1967 and Ron Patterson replaced HW Hill as our representative to the Junior Advisory Board. Ron would go on to represent Te Rapa on the Hamilton Union for many years to come.
Te Rapa was not involved in the Waikato wide senior competition at first and it was not until 1969 after tying and eventually winning the senior reserve subsidiary competition on count back from Melville and Karamu that they were admitted along with Melville to the second division of the Waikato Senior competition for 1970 where they finished a credible 5th out of 16 teams.
We celebrated our 10th year 1971 with a number of firsts. It was my first year at the club where I joined from Old Boys one game into the season after considerable pressure from club founder and neighbor Duncan Murray. I joined the club’s first age group team, the fifth grade or as they would be today the U17s. This team included sons of the clubs founders, Colin and Alan Mitchell, Mark Moroney, Keith Patterson and others that would go on in the club such as Owen Gibson who would later coach Te Rapa Seniors. The club that year also fielded a second U17 team who performed well to finish 3rd in a Waikato competition that took in all but South Waikato. This team could not however beat the team I had the privilege of being part of and our record for the season was if memory serves me correctly played 17 won 15 Drew one Lost one and the loss was in an end of season secondary tournament.
Te Rapa had their first Waikato Championship winners and I was hooked to the club from then on.
This was not the end of celebrations in Te Rapa. 1971 also saw the club provide their first Waikato A representative in Bruce Munro. Bruce a 6’10” lock with the air force regretfully on the advice of those in Waikato management left Te Rapa and joined Hamilton (Fairfield) United from where he played for Combined Services.
The following years saw the U17 players move through the age groups usually finishing in the upper half of their competitions and the Senior Team becoming more reliant on the civilian population as air force personal became very transient as operations were wound down at the Te Rapa base. We would have a bit of resurgence from the air force in later years at U21 level. 1973 and 1974 saw us languishing near the bottom of what was now Division 3 of the Waikato Senior Competition after the two divisions of 16 had become 3 divisions of 12 with many of us age group players playing two games on Saturday to ensure the club retained Senior status.
It was in1974 that it was decided the club needed to look at an alternative facility for a club room to the Te Rapa Hall supper room. A move was made to facilities in the Vardon Road shopping centre although training continued at the Te Rapa School. Many a party was held here with regular Sunday schools and after training sessions all under the watchful eye of our volunteer barman Jack Mills a retiree from across the road that gave many hours and asked for nothing in return.
In 1975 we as U21 players decided to join force with those Senior Players that remained and once again Te Rapa had good numbers for the Senior Team. While it may not appear a great result coached by Joe Mitchell this team improved from 11th the previous season to 9th. While this may not seem remarkable most of the team could still play U21 and we were competitive with all teams played.
In 1976 plans were drawn up for building our own club rooms on St Andrews Park and fundraising began. For many years the club had run raffles at the Te Rapa Tavern and these continued along with raffles for cars, holidays and other items that saw me and others regularly in town outside Centre Place on a Friday night selling tickets. The majority of the money though came through the building of spec. homes. Duncan Murray took the savings we had and invested them into building a house on land he had developed. By the time we were ready to start Duncan had built 4 spec homes for the club and his builder was to oversee the building of the club rooms although Bruce Bertram was to do the finishing work.
The Waikato Savings Bank was approached for a loan for the balance of the funding required and this was granted subject to us including 2 squash courts in the plan. Then squash was a rapidly growing sport and it was believed that through squash we would be able to fund the repayments. The City Council came to the party and funded the downstairs changing facility and development of the grounds and in 1978 we were all ready to go. Just as with the building of the deck there were many hours of voluntary work put in along with support from many local businesses. I note Firth Concrete came to the party again with the deck.
While this building was going on club playing strength continued to grow with the Senior team finishing 5th in division 3 in 1978 and the addition of a good U21 team that featured the likes of Craig Brunt and Grant Wills. Grant was selected for Waikato U18 that year.
There was much to celebrate in 1979 when Te Rapa won promotion from the Senior 3rd Division to 2nd Division for the first time, age group representation in the club continued to grow and the $240,000 club rooms at St Andrews Park were nearing completion. The Senior team won the top 6 competition in Waikato Senior Division 3 and the celebrations went on well into the night in partially finished clubrooms.
The new club rooms while actually completed in time for the 1979 club prize giving were officially opened in 1980 and regretfully the Senior team was relegated back to Division 3. Despite this there was a feeling of optimism within the club that it would not be long before Te Rapa started taking some higher honours on the playing field and we now had a place to call home. A lot had been achieved in 20 short years and a good foundation had been laid for the club to develop in future years but that is someone else’s story and I am still hooked.