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.

Silverdale 7's Tournament

Our Ponies 7's and U20's 7's team headed out to Silverdale United Rugby Football Club for their final tournament of 2017 on Saturday 18th November. Both teams did exceptionally well making the finals in both grade with the Premier Men winning and unfortunately the U20's losing narrowly!

Well done to all players and management!

Ponies 7's Results:

  • Mahurangi Won 24-7
  • Waitakere Won 26-5
  • QF's vs Manurewa Won 24-19
  • Semi vs Silverdale Won 31-26
  • Final v Northcote Won 26-21

U20's Results:

  • Northcote Won 24-5
  • Liston College Lost 12-22
  • Massey Won 17-12
  • Silverdale Won 33-5
  • Finals vs Massey Lost 19-26

Premier Management team for 2018

Ponsonby Rugby Club is happy to announce that for the 2018 season Pete Leulusoo, Kevin Senio and Tani Fuga will return as the Premier Coaches and Jess Jones as the Premier Team Manager. They have done an outstanding job as a management team so far and the club are confident in their ability to inspire and grow the team into a Shield-winning side.

Information regarding the Preseason programme in 2018 will be announced shortly. 

Premier Contacts:

 

 

 

Seniors Off Season Training Block

Ponsonby Rugby will be running a 3-week training block pre-Christmas for any and all Senior players (both Men and Women) wanting to kick-start their fitness for the 2018 season. Trainings will be inside Western Springs Stadium on the No. 1 field. Sessions start next Tuesday 21st November 6:15pm – 7:15pm and will be every Tuesday and Thursday from then on. Bring a water bottle and trainers.

100th anniversary of Dave Gallaher's death

Dave Gallaher.jpg

Dave Gallaher

One hundred years ago today, on 4 October 1917, one of the great figures of New Zealand rugby was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele. Dave Gallaher also holds a special place in the history of the Ponsonby District Rugby Club – he was the first clubman selected for the All Blacks.

Starting in 2005, when the Lions tour coincided with a revival in interest about the 1905-06 Original All Blacks to Britain, Dave Gallaher has finally enjoyed the general recognition that his sterling feats of 100 years ago deserved. To rugby people he had long been one of this country’s great figures but the passage of time had dimmed the legend as far as the wider audience was concerned, and it took something special to rekindle the flame. As a result of the doings of last 12 years, it will probably never burn low again.

Ponsonby’s first All Black – he was initially chosen in 1903 – had already packed a fair bit into his life before winning national selection at rugby. The Gallaher family emigrated to New Zealand from Ireland when David (born in 1873) was just a little chap and eventually settled and farmed in the Katikati area, where his mother also became a teacher.

The family moved north in the early 1890s, Dave eventually joined Ponsonby and soon became one of the club’s leading players. He was in the championship-winning 1897 team and was first chosen for Auckland the year before, but he didn’t have a particularly storied career at either club or provincial level; that was the only championship success he tasted with Ponsonby and while he played in the first Ranfurly Shield match of all, his Auckland career didn’t even run to 30 matches.

Gallaher had been interested in military matters from a young age and, growing up as he did, was introduced to what were then the basics of army life (riding and shooting) while still little more than a boy. He signed on for the Mounted Rifles who went to South Africa in 1901 and was there for two years; his replica medals, in the committee room, show five clasps on his QSA medal where one was awarded for each campaign (Cape Colony, Transvaal and Orange Free State, as well as the years 1901 and 1902) he fought in.

His rugby fame really rests on the three years immediately following his return from South Africa. Originally a hooker, Gallaher found wing forward suited him better – he was taller than the average front-rower, and his rugby skills and ability to read play were far more suited to the rover role – and he quickly became regarded as the best in New Zealand. Not only opposing players considered he had won that recognition; the selectors agreed and he went on the Australian tour, during which New Zealand played its first test match, and Gallaher was in the All Black side that day.

He was chosen for the first test New Zealand played at home (in 1904 against Great Britain) but was not part of the reduced All Black team that played three matches in Australia in 1905; he had been chosen for this mini-tour but withdrew before the team sailed. When the side returned to New Zealand and played matches against provincial sides Gallaher only took part in the last, against Wellington, but he did lead the side instead of Jimmy Hunter, who had been skipper before then.

On voyage to England his appointment as captain was challenged by several team members and Gallaher offered to stand down. Billy Stead, his vice-captain and probably the favoured replacement among the dissidents, immediately stepped aside as well and after some negotiations Gallaher won the team vote, if only by a small majority. It didn’t matter; from then on he was the undisputed boss.

 He was a dominant figure on the field, and the focus of much British ire as they had never seen a player who was ‘a back but who claimed the privileges of a forward’, as the wing forward seemed to do. The big difference was a regulation that applied only in New Zealand so the rover, who was not allowed past halfway of the scrum until the ball cleared at home, was free to move forward alongside the ball on tour. Gallaher, big, fast and clever, needed no second invitation to create mayhem among the always under-pressure local backs.

He felt the British habit of killing ruck ball was a bad influence on the game, he wished the Welsh matches had come earlier in the tour when everyone was fitter and less knocked about (although some members of the touring party were probably over-played, so selection was something of an issue), and he wasn’t best pleased with the treatment he got from the Welsh crowds although ‘I will do my best to forget it,’ he wrote later.

He and Stead combined during the tour to write ‘The Complete Rugby Footballer’, an instruction manual that was years ahead of its time and not outdated a century on. It’s also on most collectors’ wish lists, but good original copies (there have been more recent facsimile reprints) are very hard to find and pricy once located; you’ll need somewhere between $500 and a grand to make it your own if you can find one.

Gallaher was recognised as an outstanding leader of men on that tour and, as the captain of the team, received a steady stream of civic honours. He had a dignity about him that one would expect a man in his position to have, but unlike most British amateur captains it wasn’t because he or his family was well-connected. Gallaher was by then a middle-class but from humble origins and most of his working life was spent with the Auckland Farmers Freezing Co-Operative (AFFCO), the meat people; his personal demeanour was something that had developed considerable strength over his lifetime; from a young age he had to support his younger siblings, and because he was the man he was.

He retired from active rugby after the tour, except for one time he pulled on an Auckland jersey when the provincial side was desperately short of numbers on tour, and turned his hand to coaching and selecting at club and provincial level before moving on to the national selection committees. Not surprisingly he proved very able, and teams under his control had a great deal more success than most.

He had no need to enlist for World War I – in fact he was well over the call-up age – but a desire to avenge two brothers killed in battle led him to join up and head off to another war. He must have been the oldest man in his regiment, and by far the most famous, but he still took a full part in the fighting as and when it fell their lot. He, along with far too many others, was killed at Passchendaele in the middle stages of yet another bogged-down offensive in the middle stages of the war.

Gallaher is buried in the Nine Elms Cemetery at Poperinge in Belgium. The grave itself has become something of a shrine for young New Zealanders on their circuit of World War I sites, and is often visited by All Black teams when on tour, especially if an Armistice Day test against France is on the horizon. Sean Fitzpatrick visiting Gallaher’s grave was the opening sequence of the 2017 television programme ‘Behind the Black’ and captured a lot of the emotion felt by rugby people at the site.

In 1922 a group of admirers presented the Gallaher Shield to the Auckland union, to be awarded to its champion senior team of the year. It’s a trophy that has a special place at Ponsonby, as Gallaher’s own club has won it far more often than any other and a cabinet, with the years of victory listed on the front, awaits its return each year. The club commissioned and paid for the fine statue that stands outside Eden Park by the main Walters Road entrance, where the 1.5 times life-size figure looks over the crowds with an unmistakable air of command; the statue itself is very similar to a famous photograph of Gallaher preparing to throw to a lineout, which he did as well as feeding the scrums.

In the last 20 years or so Gallaher has been inducted to several Halls of Fame, both rugby and New Zealand sport, and the ground at the Letterkenny RFC, the closest to his Ramelton birthplace, was renamed the Dave Gallaher Memorial Park. The 2005 All Blacks attended the unveiling of a plaque at the ground, and the opening of the renovated park was done by another Ponsonby stalwart and President of the NZRU, Bryan Williams, in 2012.

Dave Gallaher’s position in New Zealand rugby is secure for ever; he is now recognised as the first great All Black captain although his nearly-forgotten predecessors, especially Tom Ellison, had already set a very high standard. Because Gallaher led a touring team to Britain that conquered almost everyone it came across (one loss in 35 matches), because of its incredible scoring feats (976 points to 59, and that with tries worth three points) and because of that test against Wales, the 1905-06 Originals are, without much argument, the most famous rugby team of all time. Their leader, therefore, will always have that reflected glow as well as any recognition of personal merit.

Gallaher showed Britain that a leader did not have to be high-born, but leadership could be in the power of any man and its exercise was one of its greatest skills. He was tough; as Ernest Booth noted upon hearing of his death, ‘To us All Blacks his words would often be, 'Give nothing away; take no chance.’’ Booth described him as someone who paid attention to detail and a ‘man of sterling worth, slow to promise but always sure to fulfil … He was a valuable friend and could be, I think, a remorseless foe … He treated us all as men, not kids.’

Gallaher is regarded as the man who set the standard for All Black captains, and he set the bar high. A quick cast down the list of names that have followed over 100 years and more show that tradition has been worthily maintained by every man who has ever taken up the mantle. Although few say so publicly, it’s certain that each and every one has learned the story of Dave Gallaher, and has been inspired by it. That’s a huge legacy for one man to have left New Zealand rugby.

David Gallaher

  • Ponsonby, Auckland and New Zealand
  • Born 30 October 1873 at Ramelton, Ireland
  • Died 4 October 1917 at Passchendaele, Belgium

First-class playing record

  • Auckland (1896-1909) 26 matches
  • North Island (1903-05) 2 matches
  • New Zealand (1903-06) 36 matches, including 6 tests
  • Gallaher scored six tries and one conversion in first-class rugby.

Sevens Management Appointments

Ponsonby Rugby Club are excited to announce that Tony Koonwaiyou has been appointed Ponies 7's Head Coach, Jason Payne as Fillies 7's Head Coach and Cam Kilgour as our U20's 7's Head Coach.

Tony or "Koons" played 59 times for Ponsonby Premiers and was a regular member of the Ponies 7's squads that toured internationally. He has played NPC for Auckland, Northland and Southland and was apart of the Crusaders squads from 2004-06. He has also represented NZ in both Sevens and age grade rugby. 

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Tony will be supported by Ricky McCamish a former Ponsonby Premier player and Cook Islands 7's representative and also Morna Pulevaka. Jody Wong will manage the team.

Cam Kilgour currently heads up the sevens programme at Alfriston College and has recently been named as the manager of the NZ Barbarians Schools team. He has extensive experience working with Super Rugby franchises, Cook Islands 7's and a variety of schools across NZ. Cam will be supported by current Ponsonby U20's coach John Tetini.

Training for both sides commences Tuesday 19th September, 6.30pm on the inner fields at Western Springs Stadium.

Jason Payne returns to the role after successfully leading the Fillies to the Auckland 7's final in 2016. Jason has vast experience coaching particularly in USA where he worked with various USA Age Grade teams and also ran successful Women's representative programmes including USA South Women's All Stars and Atlanta Harlequins Women's. 

Injured Fillies and Auckland Storm player Shannon Leota will manage the team.

All women are welcome to join club 7's trainings every Tuesday and Thursday night however Fillies 7's training officially starts Tuesday 3rd October 6.00pm on Western Springs Outer Fields.

Ponsonby Rugby Club would like to thank Jack Huch for his outstanding service to our Sevens programme for so many years. Jack will continue to be a resource coach for both the Sevens and Senior Club.

Coaches and Managers Wanted for 2018 Season

Be a part of Auckland's oldest, largest and most successful rugby club!

Applications are now open for dedicated rugby people willing to make a contribution to New Zealand's most famous rugby club. We are looking for inspirational people seeking a rewarding experience who can meet the challenges of coaching or managing one of the following club teams. 

* Premiers                             * Under 20’s

* Premier Development     * Under 22’s (grade TBC by ARU)

* Premier Women               * Women’s Development (10 a side)

* First Grade                         * Under 85kg Restricted

All of our coaches and managers will be given the opportunity for further development and support through ongoing courses run by the club and Auckland Rugby Union.

Please forward expression of interest and CV to Nathan Kemp - Director of Rugby  

Email: nathan@ponsonbyrugby.co.nz      Phone: 027 3982288 

Applications close Friday 29th September 2017

Sevens Coaches and Managers wanted for 2017 season

Ponsonby Rugby Club are looking for committed people to drive a professional sevens programme. We are currently entered into the following competitions:

·         Sat 14th Oct        Patumahoe Ray Pilcher Memorial 7's     

·         Sat 28th Oct        Pakuranga Club 7’s         

·         Sat 4th Nov         Auckland Club 7’s            

·         Sat 11 Nov           Glenfield 7’s        

·         Sat 18th Nov      Silverdale Invitational 7's  

For more information please contact Director or Rugby nathan@ponsonbyrugby.co.nz

 

 

           

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U13-U15 Girls Rugby

The ARU are kicking off the new and exciting pilot initiative -  AUCKLAND RUGBY U15 GIRLS CLUB RUGBY COMPETITION

This will be a club based U15’s competition designed specifically for girls who are wanting to try it out or are currently playing but would prefer to play with girls of a similar age.

Ponsonby Rugby Club will be looking to enter at least one team possibly two into this competition. The aim is to grow the girls game through fun training and playing opportunities.

There will be no cost to the girls and rugby jerseys will be provided for the games.

Trainings are Monday and Wednesday nights inside the stadium on the #1 field starting at 4pm.

OVERVIEW

·         Club based U15’s sevens / 10’s competition

·         Ages 13-15 as of the 1st January 2017

·         A 4 week compressed competition - Playing on a weekly basis at a centralized venue on a Saturday starting Saturday 9th September.

For more information please contact Director of Rugby nathan@ponsonbyrugby.co.nz

 

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Ponsonby Junior Girls

Our Junior Girls have been training hard for this Saturdays Girls Rippa Competition held at East Coast Bays Rugby Club on the North Shore. This competition is part of the NZ Women's Invitational Tournament.

They will compete in the Under 9 and Over 9 grades with games at 2pm and 2:40pm.

This is very exciting as we are aiming to build Girls Rugby within the Club. Huge thanks for Siu and Carly for putting the effort into coaching and coordinating the Girls team.