Remembering Ponsonby v Marist Gallaher Shield Final 1993

Sunday the 8th of August 1993 is a day that will be forever etched in the memories of folk from the Ponsonby and Marist clubs for years to come.

The scene was Eden Park, number one field.

Two of the heavy weights at the time of the grassroots competition had successfully progressed to the Gallaher Shield Final – the prized trophy of Auckland club rugby up for grabs.

It was appropriate that Ponsonby and Marist were drawn to meet in the final, an event that had happened on so many previous occasions.

With a break in the International rugby calendar, Marist seized the opportunity to stack their starting XV with no fewer than seven current or past All Blacks, with the addition of four Auckland representative players.

Ponsonby’s head coach, Lin Colling was well known as a deep thinker with an immense rugby brain. Colling pre-empted Marist’s selection policy, so called upon Ponsonby’s several Western Samoan Internationals, plus the one available All Black. The result on paper was a very impressive Ponsonby side.

The blue and blacks played the match at a frenetic pace, scoring five tries in all. They starved Marist of possession, and kept the All Black laden side on the back foot for the full 80 minutes.

Ponsonby scored an incredible 38 points in the match, and did not concede a solitary point.

Prior to this Saturday’s match between Ponsonby and Marist there is an informal gathering at Western Springs which will feature several of the players that took the field that day in addition to speeches by the respective captains. The event will commence at the Western Springs clubrooms at 12.30pm with a complimentary light luncheon.

The bar will be open and everyone is most welcome to attend.


The two teams from 1993 were:


PONSONBY                                                         MARIST

15 Alfred Uluinayau                                        15 Shane Howarth

14 Brian Lima                                                     14 John Kirwan

13 Martin Stanley                                            13 Waisake Sotutu

12 Herati Matipo                                              12 Bernie McCahill

11 Vai’aga Tuigamala                                      11 Terry Wright

10 Darren Kellett                                              10 Paul Doubleday

9  Junior Tonu’u                                                9  Des Allen

8  Ross Thompson                                           8  Zinzan Brooke

7  Milton Froggatt                                            7  Matthew Webber

6  Shem Tatupu                                                 6  Pat Lam/Dylan Mika

5  Jason Chandler                                             5  Stephen Lancaster

4  Daniel Manu                                                  4  Robin Brooke

3  Nick Mantell                                                  3  John Akurangi

2  Mike Turner                                                   2  Rudi Kapeli

1  Peter Buffalora                                             1  Kevin Nepia  





Last Saturday’s second match of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield for Ponsonby saw them journey to Bell Park to tackle a belligerent Pakuranga side.

This contest went right down to the wire and featured a nail-biting final few minutes for both sides, but it was Ponsonby who dramatically snatched the win by 25-22 after trailing by 22-6 at the break.

A trip to Bell Park for a Ponsonby player and fan in recent seasons has not always been a pleasurable occurrence, but to experience such an emphatic come from behind victory is something that will be savoured for a long time. 

The Ponsonby coaching team made a handful of additions to the starting XV plus some positional changes, from that which had been successful against Waitakere City the previous week. Into the side came Conner Halangahu and Presley Tufuga, joining the forward pack, while Cole Garrick was named to start on the right wing. Once again, the energetic loose forward Aleks Dabek captained the side.

Spirits were high in the Pakuranga camp after seeing the two Premier Development sides compete in the curtain-raiser, which Pakuranga took by 50-17. Many felt that this may be the precursor of things to come.

Pakuranga had first use of a strong breeze, and they used it creatively.

Both sides had opportunities to register points in the opening 15 minutes, but errors were made at crucial times. Ponsonby were guilty of lineout throws not being straight, whilst Pakuranga blew a golden chance when a would be try scorer lost the ball from his clutches as he was able to dot down.

It was Ponsonby who were first on the board with a Wiseguy Faiane penalty goal from a handy position.

Pakuranga were the first to score a try, which came midway through the half when centre George Emosi, in his blazer game, strolled through some mediocre Ponsonby defence to score beneath the posts. Hawaii Ahokovi added the extra two points.

Buoyed by plenty of sideline encouragement, Pakuranga looked to be unstoppable. No sooner had they scored their first try, but they were determined to capitalise on their go forward momentum. They set sail down the right hand touch, and again exploited some deficiencies in the Ponsonby defensive pattern. The fullback Sam Shearer dotting down midway between the posts and the corner flag. The conversion in this instance drifted wide of the upright.

Behind by 12-3 on the scoreboard, Ponsonby were not helping themselves. In their haste to record more points they were conceding turnovers at crucial times, especially at lineout time, the breeze causing havoc during the lineout throw.

A few minutes short of the break Pakuranga crossed for their third try of the match, which was duly converted.

Faiane added a second penalty goal before the halftime whistle, but as the half was about to close, Ponsonby infringed and Pakuranga goaled from a handy position. At halftime Pakuranga had what seemed to be a commanding 22-6 lead.

Straight away from the second half restart Ponsonby infringed. Instead of accepting the three points on offer, Pakuranga chanced their arm and initiated an onslaught on the Ponsonby line. This attack lasted just over two minutes, and the blue and blacks emerged with their line intact.

Through the third quarter of the match, with the wind at their backs, Ponsonby tried valiantly to penetrate the Pakuranga defence, but their attempts were fruitless. The turning point in the match came in the 59th minute of the game, when Ponsonby were hot on attack and just metres from the Pakuranga line their left winger decided to disrupt the movement with an attempted intercept of a pass. Referee Angus Mabey deemed this to be a professional foul, and the winger earned himself ten minutes in the sinbin.

The ensuing penalty was drilled to touch, just five metres from the Pakuranga line. From the lineout, the forwards rallied round Willie Uili and he crashed over. Faiane could not add the extra two points, but Ponsonby were now in a position to strike.

Five minutes later Ponsonby looked hot to score again. From an attacking scrum a few metres from the Pakuranga line they constructed a superb move that saw replacement midfielder Sione Fakapelea carve through the defence and score beneath the posts, complete with a spectacular dive. Faiane converted, and Ponsonby were now just a few points behind at 22-18.

The last seven minutes of this match featured a tense spell that tested the nerves of the Ponsonby management and fans alike. This period of play saw Ponsonby set up camp deep in the Pakuranga half. The blue and blacks were masterful in the manner that they maintained possession. They dominated every facet of play for the dying moments of the match. They spent several minutes agonisingly close to the Pakuranga line, and attempted the ‘pick and go’ method on countless occasions, but the home side were equalled to the task. One side would inevitably crack. With time in the match virtually up, Ponsonby looked to be over the line, but Angus Mabey blew his whistle ruling a penalty in Pakuranga’s favour. Pakuranga were jubilant. They believed that they had the victory. But time was not up. From their line they cleared to touch and formed the lineout just shy of the 22 metre mark in their territory. But, they failed to win their throw to the lineout. Jamie Lane went high, stealing their feed. The ball went wide, and with a clever move by William Talataina-Mu, Ponsonby were in space and Freedom Vaha’akolo sailed through a gap to the line. An eerie silence reigned across the ground.  The sizeable crowd had been very vocal for the previous 79 minutes, but they were stunned.

Faiane converted the Vaha’akolo try, and Ponsonby had a 25-22 advantage.

All eyes were on the referee, expecting fulltime to be called.

But there was time to run. Pakuranga launched a last gasp effort on Ponsonby, but it was in vain.

Ponsonby had pulled off a Houdini act, and had the last say in the titanic tussle.

 They will now turn their attention to next week’s third round match against Marist at Western Springs Stadium. Marist started the competition in style with a nine try, 56-10 flogging of Otahuhu, but last week in the second round were brought back to earth when they went down to Eden by 47-15. Ponsonby played Marist on one occasion in 2017, with Ponsonby emerging from a tough encounter at Dunkirk Road by 23-21.


Tries: Willie Uili, Sione Fakapelea and Freedom Vaha’akolo

Conversions: Wiseguy Faiane 2

Penalties: Wiseguy Faiane 2



1 Conner Halangahu; 2 Steven Savali; 3 Herman Huch; 4 Jamie Lane; 5 Motieva Ngauamo;

6 Matt Foote; 7 Aleks Dabek; 8 Presley Tufuga; 9 Morrison Siliko; 10 Wiseguy Faiane;

11 Noah Mataia; 12 William Talataina-Mu; 13 Tili Puloka; 14 Cole Garrick; 15 Freedom Vaha’akola;

16 Willie Uili; 17 Brice Schilling; 18 Wilson Lavelua; 19 Tipolo Jr Faalogo;

20 McCarthy Cocker-Filikitonga; 21 Tatsuya Hamano; 22 Sione Fakapelea;




The Premiers kicked off their 2018 Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield competition last Saturday afternoon with a 58-3 win over Waitakere City. The blue and blacks scored ten tries in the demolition of the West Aucklanders and whilst the match was not always vintage rugby, the coaching team will be satisfied with the result and the five competition points.

The underfoot conditions would always be a factor in the match due to heavy rain leading to kick off. The inclement weather did subside before the opening exchanges, greatly aiding ball handling throughout the match.

Ponsonby were always going to have too much pace for the Waitakere City side, and the visitors cause was not helped when they lost a man to a ‘red card’ offence in just the sixth minute of the match. To their credit, they rallied on and played an expansive game, defending gallantly and disrupting Ponsonby’s game-plan regularly.

Ponsonby opened their scoring account in the third minute of the encounter when an attempted clearing kick by Waitakere City failed to find the touchline. Freedom Vaha’akolo, who was to become a dynamic attacking force from fullback in this game, gladly accepted the kick and took play deep into the visitor’s territory. Some good support followed and eventually space was created for Noah Mataia to stroll over in the left hand corner. The try went unconverted.

Vaha’akolo was a key in Ponsonby’s second try, when from an attacking scrum on the visitors 22 metre mark play went right and with an incisive break from the fullback, John Cooper was able to dot down in the right hand corner. This try also went unconverted.

Both playing ranks on the field were evened up midway through the first spell for ten minutes when Ponsonby lost Steven Savali to the sinbin for an infringement. During this period neither side was able to gain any ascendency, despite some promising attempts.

It wasn’t until the return of Savali to the onfield XV that Ponsonby were able to complete an assault on the visitor’s line. A driving maul to the line saw the skipper for the day, Aleks Dabek, emerge with the ball amidst a mass of bodies. The unconverted try saw the lead move to 15-0.

A few minutes later Vaha’akolo again was a key component in an attack on the visitors line. He made an incisive break down the right hand touch, freeing Cooper to score his second try of the afternoon.

Ponsonby’s one man advantage on the field was gradually becoming evident, as almost immediately another try scoring opportunity came, finished off by the lock Moteiva Ngauamo.

The sides turned at the break with Ponsonby leading by 25-0, having scored five unconverted tries.

Just one minute into the new half Ponsonby extended their lead further. From the restart by the visitors, an extensive interchange swept up the field. The move featured a clean break through the midfield by Tili Puloka, in addition to the handling and support of most of the forward pack, the 70 metre move was eventually finished off under the posts by Morrison Siliko. Cooper added the extra two points.

Ponsonby’s seventh try was scored by replacement hooker Willie Uili. Jamie Lane dragged the ball down from the lineout a few metres from the Waitakere City line. A rolling maul ensued, and as he has done so often in the past, Uili skilfully eased the maul to the line and crashed over. Cooper again converted, stretching his side’s advantage to 39-0.

The eighth try was finished off by the winger Cooper, who was enjoying the opportunity to run in the open spaces. A deft break by William Talataina-Mu, scything through the defence, and in support was Cooper who had come to the left hand side of the field to score his third of the match. The try went unconverted, and Ponsonby had now raced out to a 44-0 lead.

With 12 minutes to go, Waitakere City was awarded a penalty 30 metres out from their line. Rather than attempt a five or seven pointer, they opted for the three points on offer.

Talataina-Mu displayed his pace and skills when he sprinted down the right hand touch as one of the key contributors in his side’s ninth try. The extended move was completed under the posts by replacement tight forward Tipolo Jr Faalogo. Cooper added the additional two points, and the blue and blacks now lead by 51-3, and Cooper had bagged 21 for the match.

With time almost up, Ponsonby were awarded a five metre scrum, and as the scrum drove toward the line a Waitakere City forward saw the opportunity to disrupt the promising move. Referee Angus Mabey saw no option but award a penalty try.

Ponsonby will be encouraged by the 58-3 hiding of Waitakere City, and will be buoyed by the exciting talent in the 2018 ranks, which may see a selection headache or two for the coaching team and management. They will now focus their attention to next week’s opponent, Pakuranga, which is to be played on their home ground at Bell Park. Pakuranga had a satisfying 50-8 win on Saturday over East Tamaki at the East Tamaki Domain. Ponsonby did battle with Pakuranga on two occasions in 2017. The honours in the first encounter in April, played at Pakuranga, were taken by the homeside by 31-13. In the second, played in July at Western Springs, Ponsonby were the victors by 37-19.


Tries: J Cooper 3, N Mataia, A Dabek, M Ngauamo, M Siliko, W Uili, J Faalogo. Penalty try.

Con: J Cooper 3


1. R Cobb; 2. S Savali; 3. H Huch; 4. M Ngauamo; 5. J Lane; 6. W Riedlinger-Kapa; 7. M Foote

8. A Dabek; 9. M Siliko; 10. W Faiane; 11. N Mataia; 12. W Talataina-Mu; 13. T Puloka;

14. J Cooper; 15. F Vaha’akolo; 16. B Schilling; 17. C Halangahu; 18. W Uili;

19. T Jr Faalogo; 20. M Cocker-Filikitonga; 21. T Hamano; 22. S Fakapelea 


The 2018 season started positively for the Premier side when they successfully claimed the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup last Saturday afternoon, edging a belligerent Eden side in the final by 34-30. Ponsonby’s path to the final saw them trounce Manukau Rovers by 70-14 in the opening round back on the 17th of March, then a week later in the semi-final they overcame University in a thriller by 27-20. Eden were always going to be a tough opponent for Ponsonby, and they had progressed to the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup final with impressive victories over Suburbs and College Rifles.

Played at Fearon Park in Mt Roskill, Eden had first use of a blustery westerly breeze, and for much of the first spell they used it creatively.

But it was the blue and blacks that registered the first match points when Connor Halangahu barged over in the second minute.

Eden responded within minutes with a converted try. An attempted Ponsonby clearing kick from their 22 metre line was charged down by Eden first five eighth Adrian Lole, who successfully pounced on the ball before it drifted over the dead ball line.

Eden further extended their lead to 13-5 with a two penalty goals and with the advantage on the scoreboard and the wind at their back Eden were showing some tremendous determination.

However a miscued pass during an Eden attack saw possession shift Ponsonby’s way, and the result was a gem of a try. The ball bounced off the legs of an Eden tight forward into the arms of the Ponsonby midfielder Sione Fakapelea who placed a well-timed kick ahead for the speedsters to chase. The winger Johnny Cooper displayed some blistering pace to beat the covering defenders to the line for the try, which went unconverted.

Jamie Lane was a dominant figure in the lineouts, and he neatly claimed the restart following the Cooper try. A superb passage of play which extended some 50 metres ensued, including some excellent work by the livewire flanker Aleks Dabek. The entertaining move was finished off by Taina Fox-Matamua who touched down alongside the posts. Cooper added the extra two points, putting Ponsonby back in front on the scoreboard at 17-13.

Shortly before the break Jamie Lane was shown a yellow card, which allowed Eden to capitalise. They crossed in the right-hand corner, which the fullback Max Leaana converted with ease from the sideline.

Early in the second spell Eden further extended their lead to 23-17 with another Leaana penalty.

As the spell progressed Ponsonby started to gain some ascendency over the very physical and resolute Eden side. It was not until the 15th minute of the half that Ponsonby were able to crack the Eden defence with a well worked try from a five metre scrum. Play went wide to the unmarked replacement Noah Mataia who crossed for the five pointer.

Eden held onto their slender 23-22 advantage approaching the ¾ mark in the match, and a missed penalty goal at that time from a handy location was to prove costly.

William Talataina-Mu joined the team from the bench in the final quarter and immediately added some impetus. A superb break freed Patrick Tausie for a well-constructed try, which Cooper converted, giving Ponsonby a 29-23 lead with ten minutes to play.

In the final moments of the match Wiseguy Faiane placed a clever crossfield kick behind the defence for Cooper to run on to. The right winger once again outpaced his opposites, and pounced on the ball in the right-hand corner.

Eden managed to cross for a late converted try, but Ponsonby had successfully done the hard work and secured the 34-30 win in emphatic style.

Ponsonby will now turn their attention to the opening round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy which commences next Saturday afternoon at Western Springs Stadium. Based on the exciting talent that will be wearing the blue and black hoops in 2018, Ponsonby’s fixture against the first up opponent, Waitakere City, is sure to be an entertaining match.



Tries: Johnny Cooper 2, Connor Halangahu, Taina Fox-Matamua, Noah Mataia and Patrick Tausie

Conversions: Johnny Cooper 2







Falcons Logo.png

NZ Falcons are seeking passionate and self-motivated Coaches for the 2018 season. Applications are now open for dedicated rugby people willing to make a contribution to New Zealand's only gay and inclusive rugby team. We are looking for inspirational people seeking a rewarding experience who can meet the challenges of coaching or managing a diverse and wide ranging group of players.

Formerly known as the Ponsonby Heroes, the NZ Falcons were established in 2013. They currently play in the Auckland Rugby Union President’s grade but have strong ambitions to play at a higher level.

In June, The NZ Falcons will be sending players to the biennial Bingham Cup held in Amsterdam, which hosts inclusive clubs from around the world.

Desirable candidates will be able to demonstrate:

  • A proven coaching record with evidence of developing players across a range of abilities, including those who are new to the sport.
  • Innovative and current coaching methods
  • Excellent organisational and communication skills
  • The ability to create a positive and enjoyable environment
Falcons Team.jpg

Remuneration package is available and will be dependent on the coach’s skills and experience.

For more information regarding the NZ Falcons head to

Applications close Saturday 31st March 2018

Please forward expression of interest and CV to:

Nathan Kemp - Director of Rugby                             Email:


NZ Falcons seek Manager


Falcons Logo.png

The NZ Falcons are seeking a passionate and self-motivated team manager (or managers) for the 2018 season. We are looking for dedicated, friendly people who are keen to contribute to New Zealand's only gay and inclusive rugby team. 

The NZ Falcons were established in 2013. In 2018, they will play in the Auckland Rugby Union First Grade for the first time as they seek to drive and develop themselves. 

Each year they contest the trans–Tasman Purchas Cup against three Australian clubs. However, in June 2018, the team will travel to Amsterdam to compete for the international Bingham Cup, which is an exciting milestone for inclusive rugby in New Zealand.

We are looking for inspirational people who are seeking a rewarding experience. Desirable candidates will be able to demonstrate:

·         Excellent organisation and communication skills

·         The ability to create a positive and enjoyable team culture and environment

·         Relatability, patience and a willingness to go the extra mile for the team 

Remuneration is available to reward your commitment and passion for our team. 

For more information regarding the NZ Falcons head to


Applications close Friday 16th March 2018

Please forward expression of interest to:

Nathan Kemp - Director of Rugby                             

NZ Barbarians Golf Day

BB Glof.jpg

NZ Barbarians Golf Day is being held to raise funds for NZ Rugby Foundation which supports our severely injured rugby players (our VIP’s).

The fundraising Golf Day will take place on Friday 16th March at the prestigious Akarana Golf Club on so you can be certain the course conditions will be superb.

For registration detail or Sponsorship opportunities please contact  - Ken Baguley, Secretary, NZ Barbarian Rugby Club at -

Senior Preseason Fixtures

For all senior preseason fixtures, please head to our club events page which will be updated regularly.

Saturday 3rd March:

  • Senior Men vs Massey & East Coast Bays @ Massey RFC 1.30pm

Saturday 10th March:

  • Senior Men & U20's vs North Shore @ Takapuna Grammar School 12pm
  • Under 85kg's vs Karaka @ Karaka RFC 1pm

Saturday 17th March:

  • Waka Nathan Round 1 - Premiers v Manukau @ Waitemata RFC #2 3.15pm
  • Premier  Developent & U20's vs Takapuna RFC @ Hato Peterea College, Northcote 12pm
  • Under  85kg's 10's Morrinsville Tournament @ Morrinsville RFC

Saturday 24th March:

  • Waka Nathan Round 2 - Premiers & Premier Dev vs TBC
  • U20's vs Massey @ Massey RFC 12pm
  • Under 85kg's Champions Cup @ Patumahoe RFC 12pm

Saturday 7th April:

  • Waka Nathan Round 3 - Premiers & Premier Dev vs TBC

Saturday 14th April:

  •  Fillies vs ECB @ East Coast Bays RFC 12pm



Senior Men training

Due to Western Springs Outer Fields being unavailable until the end of March, Senior Men's training will be at various venues. All trainings start at 6.30pm

  • Tuesday 27th February & 6th March: Meet at Coyle Park near the toliet block (Pt Chevalier Beach)
  • Thursday 1st March & 8th March: Cox's Bay Reserve (Field #3 which is around the corner)
  • Tuesday 13th & Thursday 15th March: Western Springs Stadium Field
  • Tuesday 20th & 27th March: Ponsonby Tan (indoor training facility at WS)
  • Thursday 22nd March: Mt Albert Grammar School (bottom fields)

All training returns to Western Springs Outer Fields on Thursday 29th March.

Our U20's have their first trial game tonight against an Argentinian U19 team 7pm at College Rifles (33 Haast St, Remuera). All players wanting to trial need to meet at College Rifles at 6pm. Please bring all playing gear and mouth guard,

Play Restricted Rugby! Join our Under 85kg Rugby teams now

If you are close to 85kg and are keen on getting back into rugby, learning the game or possibly challenging for a position in the 2017 ARU champions team the 'Hustlers'  then get in touch with Nathan Lawrence 021 876491.

In 2018, Ponsonby Rugby Club aim to have two teams in the Restricted grade so will need plenty of players.

The first preseason trial is 10th March vs Karaka @ Karaka Rugby Club. 

A squad will be chosen to compete for the Champions Cup (see info below)

85 Champs vs Champs (002).jpg

Preseason for all Senior Players

Preseason starts Tuesday 23rd January 6.30pm at Western Springs Outer Fields. Trainings are every Tuesday and Thursday evenings thereafter. Trainings are open to all senior players (both men and women). Please bring a water bottle, trainers and rugby boots.

Ponsonby Rugby Club Map.png

2018 preseason fixtures (times to be confirmed0

  • Saturday 3rd March vs Massey & East Coast Bays @ Massey RFC
  • Saturday 10th March vs North Shore @ Takapuna Grammar School

Following these trials a squad of 28 players will be named for the first Waka Nathan trial game on the Saturday 17th March. 

Sir Bryan Williams

Most of this tribute was penned for the new book, Passion and Pride Continues. But with the announcement of the New Year knighthood for Sir Bryan Williams, the ending changed a bit.


Writing about Bryan Williams is an unavoidable part of writing about Ponsonby, and also an enjoyable feature. Anyone who has ever spent time at the club will have seen Williams there, probably had a chance to have a chat, and most likely has felt the urge to buy the legendary ‘Beegee’ a beer. You doubt anyone ever emerged from those encounters disappointed, and certainly many a young player will have been given sound advice about both rugby and life - delivered in such a way that it will never be resented, and never forgotten.

            Williams was, deservedly, given a chapter to himself in Passion and Pride and the claim was made then that if he hadn’t been around, the club most likely wouldn’t have had a 125th Jubilee. I have never heard a single person argue to the contrary – almost unique in a rugby club environment, where opposing opinions are almost mandatory on any topic.

            Since that book was written Williams virtually doubled what was already a colossal service to the game of rugby. He has been an international coach, a coach in the professional environment in this country, a coach involved at club and school level for years, a trustee of the club who was heavily involved in its financial restructuring, the Director of Rugby at Ponsonby, involved with Mt Albert Grammar’s rugby programme, no doubt a whole bunch of other things at school, club, provincial and national level, a Trustee on several other rugby bodies including the New Zealand Rugby Foundation that does so much for seriously injured players, a tour leader, a sought-after speaker, a man who was often contacted for a quote, and one who has a deserved if unofficial ranking as one of the game’s wise men. That standing was only reinforced when he was asked to stand Patron of the Barbarians Club, an esteemed position with a club that he has had a great deal to do with for 50 years or so and which does a great deal for rugby in Auckland.

Eventually forgiven (although he had nothing to be forgiven for) by the administration that had cold-shouldered him a dozen years earlier when he was coaching Manu Samoa, Williams reached the highest off-field pinnacle available to any rugby man in this country – the Presidency of the New Zealand Union. Many felt there could be no more appropriate figure to head the national body in the World Cup year of 2011 than Williams, whose service to the game was, after all, international. By any measurable criteria, Ponsonby’s favourite son was also as good a candidate as there was available anywhere in New Zealand. Needless to say, he did the job proud and proudly.

            Because he’s given so much to the game, trying to decide which of those contributions was the most significant is extremely difficult. Different people will look at different things. But any Ponsonby person will argue long into the night that it has been the dedication he showed to his one and only club for half a century and more that tops the rest.

            No-one, except perhaps Lesley Williams, would have any idea how many thousands of hours Bryan has poured into the club. He was paid for some, but most were donated. He could have earned many times whatever the club paid him by putting his services on the open market, but he never showed any interest in going down that route. For an international star of the first magnitude, he always remained a quintessential club man at heart.

You will often hear people say, ‘We’ll never see another like him / her / that again,’ even if the claim sounds exaggerated when it’s made, but in this case it will, most likely, prove to be true. There weren’t many club stalwarts like Bryan Williams even in the days when the local rugby club was a big thing in the community, far bigger than most are now. To have a man of Williams’ playing accomplishments give so much for so little to a club is a throwback to a different, simpler time. Not necessarily a better time, but a different time. The world keeps changing, and the rugby world with it. But Bryan Williams’ loyalty to Ponsonby never flickered, not even for a second.

            For his many and varied rugby services, Williams is deservedly famous. Playing skill became coaching skill, and he became famous to another generation. All the legal work that was done on the club’s behalf – and plenty of it was arduous – was welcomed and greatly appreciated. But both those things, rugby and law, were what he had trained for since he was a boy in the first case and a young man in the second.

            Therefore I’m going to exercise a writer’s privilege and push forward those hours of agonising over the books, staring at frighteningly large figures in red ink and wishing they would go away, trying to find ways of exercising some magical transformation that would change red into black, trying to squeeze another day or two out of an increasingly dry bank account in the 1990s and time spent on the club’s behalf as a Trustee of the funds realised by the almost-too-late sale of Blake Street as his greatest achievement.

That was not something he had trained for; it was something he learned on the fly and it was never less that exceptionally difficult – a task to make a trained money man head for the hills. It was also a task that couldn’t contain mistakes, for there was no time to recover from them. It had to be done right, first time, every time. The fact Ponsonby is still here and on the downhill run to its 150th Jubilee is testament to how well that incredibly onerous task was carried out. It wasn’t Bryan alone, of course, but his name is the one that crops up most often, on most committees, wherever the fight to survive was at its toughest. He was the rallying point for the whole club.

It’s fitting that one of the most prized trophies in the club, for the Premier team Player of the Year, should be the Beegee Williams Cup. And it’s appropriately named, too – not the Bryan Williams Cup, or the B.G. Williams Cup, but as it is, since that’s how everyone at the club knows him.

Williams must have come mighty close to a knighthood in 2013, especially as a number of leading players, coaches and administrators were being recognised around that time in the wake of the World Cup success, but a CNZM (which he was awarded) is not to be sniffed at no matter that people may have felt it was still one step down from what was really merited.


Now that ending changes. Many people felt the ultimate recognition still needed to be made and, in the New Year List for 2018, it was. A lot of people around the world will feel satisfaction that justice has been seen to be done. Among them will be rugby people, the Pacific community, New Zealanders in general and everyone who likes to see good guys get what they deserve.

The Ponsonby Club offers its sincerest congratulations to Sir Bryan and Lady Lesley on this well-deserved honour. To us you’ll always be Beegee, but we’re mighty proud of Sir Bryan.


Sir Bryan is the tenth All Black to be knighted; the list is:

Henry Braddon (NZ 1884) for services to Australia during World War I

Harcourt Caughey (NZ 1932-37) for services to health administration

Wilson Whineray (NZ 1957-65) for services to sport and business management

Brian Lochore (NZ 1963-71) for services to sport and the community

Colin Meads (NZ 1957-71) for services to rugby and the community

Fred Allen (NZ 1946-49) for services to rugby

John Graham (NZ 1958-64) for services to education and sport

John Kirwan (NZ 1984-94) for services to mental health and rugby

Michael Jones (NZ 1987-98) for services to the Pasifika community and youth

Bryan Williams (NZ 1970-78) for services to rugby


Joe O'Leary and the overlooked Life membership

 Joe O'Leary

Joe O'Leary

At the recent Ponsonby AGM the story of Joe O'Leary and his forgotten election to Life Membership was told, after it had unexpectedly come to light 102 years later. It's a fascinating tale, so here it is:


Joe O’Leary was not only a significant figure in Ponsonby rugby in the immediate pre-World War I years, but he was also a significant figure in New Zealand rugby. He captained the 1913 All Blacks at home against Australia and was, for almost 100 years, the only man to lead an All Black test team from fullback; Mils Muliaina was the next player to achieve the honour.


O’Leary was elected a Life Member of Ponsonby in 1915, but his name is missing off the Honours Board and it’s not too hard to work out how that happened.


His nomination and election came after he announced his retirement from playing; as was the norm back then, he made that announcement at the AGM.


The 1915 AGM took place on 8 April. Just over two weeks later, before the rugby season had even kicked off, the Gallipoli landings had taken place and New Zealand was, not surprisingly, rather distracted.


The 1915 rugby season was chaotic as huge numbers of men joined the Army, and any influence O’Leary hoped to have in a coaching capacity was lost.


From 1916 to 1918 the game was restricted to boys under call-up age (20), and Ponsonby struggled for numbers in Senior, although lower grades were strong. Still, the club was not operating as it had been and only George Nicholson and Thomas Aitken played significant off-field roles in those dark years.


By the time the War was over, after the 1918 season, O’Leary had returned to Masterton. He spent the better part of his later life there; it was also where he had grown up. Therefore he wasn’t around the club through the 1920s as a number of the early Life Members were, and the club’s records were destroyed in two fires in the middle of the decade; whatever the 1924 fire missed, the larger blaze in 1926 burnt.


The club also had a problem keeping track of its Life Members; both Aitken (1930 and 1938) and Ernie Matthews (1934 and 1955) were both elected twice. Given that 21 years passed between Matthews’ two elections one may be forgiven for not remembering the first, but Aitken’s were only eight years apart.


O’Leary died in December 1963 at Masterton, having played little part in Ponsonby rugby for nearly 50 years. The Honours Board was prepared not long after he had died, but given that he hadn’t been around for half a century it’s not surprising that his election was forgotten. The other Life Members, to a man and woman, had been around almost permanently for decades.


O’Leary was clearly highly regarded; his election as the club’s second Life Member – a year after Nicholson and 15 years before Aitken – says that. He had been a strong figure in rugby’s camp during those years when a real battle for supremacy was going on with rugby league, and for much of the time the 13-man game looked as if it was winning. Men like O’Leary, an All Black captain and widely regarded as one of the country’s best players, did a great deal for the union game simply by staying in it when they could have made big money by shifting their allegiance.


That was almost certainly the reason (unstated) why he was voted to a Life Membership. Ponsonby had taken a string of hits since 1910 – that great 1909 side was shorn of half a dozen leading players by 1911 for a start, and more were changing codes all the time – and having a strong man stay with the club was a significant thing. Nicholson’s Life Membership, awarded in 1914, was strongly dependant on the same factors; he had only joined the club in 1907 and back then, when Life Memberships were seldom awarded, nobody in the normal course of events got one for seven years’ work.


O’Leary had joined Ponsonby in 1909 after a significant career with Wairarapa; he made his debut when only 16 and had captained Wairarapa-Bush against the 1908 Anglo-Welsh team when aged 24. Therefore he had six playing years with the club and not even three championships would qualify him for Life Membership if it was just his on-field record that was being considered.


Still, it is clear from three separate sources (New Zealand Herald, Auckland Star and The Observer) that he was elected to a Life Membership of Ponsonby in 1915.

Akira Ioane becomes Ponsonby's 46th All Black

When Akira Ioane made his All Black debut against the French XV, he became the club’s 46th All Black and briefly extended Ponsonby’s advantage at the head of the list of most All Blacks from any club to two – until flanker Dillon Hunt joined him on the field moments later, giving Otago University its 45th national representative.


The Ioane brothers are the second sibling set from Ponsonby to both win All Black honours, after the Solomons of the 1930s. Like the Solomons, who were born in American Samoa (Frank) and Fiji (Dave), the Ioanes were also born in different countries as Akira first saw the light of day in Japan and Rieko in New Zealand.


Akira has been tipped for top honours since his schooldays, when he was a star at Auckland Grammar and, soon after leaving school, for the New Zealand Sevens team. He has made all the national teams going, joining a small group (Adrian Cashmore, Christian Cullen, Caleb Ralph, Dallas Seymour and John Timu are the only others in the club) to represent New Zealand at Schools, Colts, Sevens, Maori and All Black levels. Akira can also claim honours the others cannot, as he has represented New Zealand at sevens in both Commonwealth Games – which some of the others did – and Olympics, which none had the chance to. Short of winning Heartland XV honours, there’s not much left for him to achieve in terms of national teams represented.


He was the 53rd Auckland Grammar School Old Boy to make the All Blacks, extending that school’s lead over all its rivals, and the first Ponsonby player chosen as an All Black loose forward since Mark Brooke-Cowden just over 30 years ago.


Akira is All Black No 1166. His selection also completes a rare and possibly unique achievement for the family, as now both brothers as well as parents Eddie and Sandra are all international players in the 15-a-side game.