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Wai-Bush stalwart Hannam dies


Keith Hannam with the William Webb Ellis trophy. PHOTO/FILE


Keith Hannam has blown his final whistle and bowled his last bowl.

A life member of the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union, life member and patron of the Wai-Bush Rugby Referees Association, and a life member of Bowls Wairarapa and the Masterton Bowling Club, Keith Hannam passed away on June 16, at the age of 88.

Keith dedicated more than 60 years of his life to sport, immersing himself in playing, refereeing, green keeping, administration, and voluntary work.

Like many from his generation Keith, in the words of Wai-Bush Rugby Referees chairman Graeme Reisima, he was “an incredibly loyal person who told you how it was — no sugar coating or soft diplomacy.”

Keith first took up the whistle in 1966, when he joined the Wairarapa association, which later amalgamated with Bush.

Keith loved refereeing college rugby and in his early days had the experience of refereeing Kuranui College and the lightning fast Grant Batty. Kuranui won 108-0 with Batty scorching in for many of the tries.

He refereed at club level for many years, and attained his representative blazer in 1981 after completing the required five games. In his eulogy, Reisima highlighted one humorous incident in a game between Wai-Bush and King Country.

“At a lineout there was a knock on by Wai-Bush but the sharp-eyed referee Hannam played some advantage to King Country. All of a sudden there was a booming voice that yelled “ what about the knock-on?” Keith immediately blew the whistle to some comments of ‘ can we not have the advantage” – “no,” says Keith, “Mr Meads wants a scrum.”

Keith refereed well into his 50s, having controlled 215 Senior A games. He finished up with the college juniors where he had begun and enjoyed so much.

Keith then commenced many years of coaching and assessing where he established a well-known reputation of telling it as it was, but at the same time he would lavish praise if it was warranted.

In recent years, Keith and good mate, the late Baden Whale [also an accomplished referee], would be seen on the sidelines enjoying the game they loved.

Away from rugby, Keith was an avid bowler.

He was a foundation member of the now defunct St Stephen’s Indoor Bowls Club, and had more than 60 years involvement in the sport.

Keith also had 40 years or more involvement with lawn bowls, winning four centre titles, in pairs and fours, and 14 Masterton Bowling Club titles. He had 20 years involvement in green keeping and was chairman of the Wairarapa Greenkeepers Association for many years. He was also a qualified coach, and held various administrative roles, including Masterton president and Bowls Wairarapa president in 2002-3.

Keith was born in Levin the youngest of four boys – Gordon, Rex, and Bruce to Ellen and Kenneth Hannam. He lived on farms at Levin before moving to Kahutara and then Masterton. He attended Wairarapa College where he held the boys under-15 110 yards record for many years.

After leaving school Keith joined his brothers in engineering, completing a fitter and turner apprenticeship. He worked for Rondo, later known as Sliderite, for 30 years until he retired.

Keith loved fishing and even designed and built his own alloy boat. He was also an avid gardener known for producing outstanding vegetable crops.

Keith met his wife Jean in Masterton where she was a nurse and they were married in Hawera in 1957. In the next six years they produced three boys Stephen, Iain, and Peter. Their house at 141 High Street was built in 1958-59 and is still the family residence today.

Keith was a dedicated family man, who enjoyed, with his wife Jean, the interests and sports of his sons, grandchildren and their children.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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