1950 to 1959 - The Fall Before the Rise

As everyone tried to get back to 'normal' after World War II, the realisation dawned that ‘normal’ no longer existed. It was time to start a fresh page, in almost every walk of life. Perhaps the one area where normal could have, with some benefit, been changed, was 6 o’clock closing and the licensing laws in general, but that took another decade and a half before common sense finally took over there.

Ponsonby Rugby Club, like almost all sporting bodies, found themselves in a period of unprecedented growth. Old clubs boomed, new ones sprung up everywhere as cities expanded to allow the young married couples to establish themselves in suburbia, and with little else to do the clubs became social hubs. In New Zealand that growth period lasted longer than it did in many parts of the world; it took years before we ever felt there was too much rugby – even the awful-to-watch stuff served up by so many teams under the prohibitive playing conditions of the time.

Almost every club, new or old, felt the need to house its ever-growing membership in up-to-date facilities, and around this time a large percentage of rugby clubs began admitting lady members. Ponsonby had been at the forefront of storming that particular bastion in the 1940s, and those stalwarts of the Ladies’ Committee from wartime became drivers on the Building Committee of the 1950s.

Not surprisingly, because it was a go-ahead place, Ponsonby DRFC had big plans for its new facility. It wasn’t until the 60s that the money and land to complete that vision were in place, although an upstairs social hall had been added during the early 1950s. However it was a vision that never wavered even if, at times as the decade drew to a close, it looked as if it may never get off the drawing board. If a few Band-Aids had been stuck on the old shed until such time as the rebuild was possible … well, club members put up with that as a trade-off for the brave new world that they hoped awaited.

On the field Ponsonby experienced one of its leaner decades. Talent was widespread throughout Auckland and, in boom suburbs of which Otahuhu was the best example, the local rugby club flourished. University, school Old Boys and Marist clubs were also strong across the country; it was probably the collective heyday of these organisations. Ponsonby was in the mix every year for the first half of the decade, winning a Gallaher Shield in 1954 after a few near misses, but then inner city decay – a normal urban cycle – began to affect an area that was already 100 years old.

The club battled on in the face of heavy odds for a while, but it was clear something needed to be done, and done urgently. The suburb was aging, the membership likewise and there wasn’t a lot to attract youngsters into what was now a tired area of Auckland. By the end of the decade Ponsonby was teetering on the brink, as it could only field the bare minimum three teams in senior grades, and the elderly men who had been running the club for years were now getting tired. It was almost time for revolution, and younger members heard the call. Without it, the big dreams of the decade's middle years might become the unfulfilled ones of a club that was consigned to memory.