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A very festive 50th bash

Wairarapa-Bush celebrate winning the Meads Cup in 2006. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES


Wairarapa-Bush will celebrate 50 years as an amalgamated union this weekend with a festival of rugby, the launch of their museum and a golden jubilee dinner.

The celebrations were originally planned for 2021, but the covid-19 pandemic forced their postponement to this year.

The Wairarapa and Bush unions merged in 1971, ending more than 15 years of discussion over a possible amalgamation.

However, melding the two unions was no easy task, with much suspicion evident on both sides, according to the Wai-Bush centenary book.

To help lessen travel, teams from the extremities of the merged union were drawn to play at central venues. Masterton won the inaugural combined championship. The representative team played 10 games, winning six, and had one All Black, Sir Brian Lochore.

Much of the history of the union will be displayed in the new Wairarapa-Bush History Museum set up in the southern room at the union rooms at Memorial Park. It features memorabilia from the early days of rugby in the region, including trophies, blazers, programmes, photographs, and other collectibles.

Wai-Bush life member Bob Francis will cut the 50th anniversary cake. PHOTO/FILE

The museum will be officially opened as part of tonight’s mix-and-mingle at the union rooms. The anniversary cake will be cut by former international referee and life member Bob Francis, and life member and patron Eric Kenny.

Wairarapa-Bush chief executive Tony Hargood expects about 70 people for the mix-and-mingle. He said about 180 to 200 have registered for Saturday’s anniversary dinner at Wairarapa College hall.

Former All Blacks – NZ Rugby patron Ian Kirkpatrick and former NZR president Bill Osborne, and current NZR president Max Spence, who will be the MC, are the guests of honour for the dinner.

Radio host Brent Gare will run question and answer sessions, with Kirkpatrick and Osborne, as well as Heartland championship-winning hooker and 2017-20 coach Joe Harwood, Francis, and life member and former chairman Dave Galvin from Pahiatua.

On the field, the finals of the Under-11 and Under-13 grades will be played on the Trust House Memorial Park artificial turf tonight.

On Saturday, the action starts at midday with the Wai-Bush and Wellington Centurions Under-18s playing on the artificial turf. At 12.30pm, the Wai-Bush Barbarians take on Wellington Maori on the No 3 ground, and a Wai-Bush Legends XV play the Parliamentarian XV on Memorial Park No 2.

The latter is a fundraiser for the Robert Algie Trust. The game was originally planned to celebrate the 30 years of the trust, which was established in 1990 in memory of Featherston’s Robert Algie, a 1986 Commonwealth Games silver medal-winning wrestler.

Robert Algie Trust chairwoman Barbara Playle said Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty, former MP Kris Faafoi, and former All Black Piri Weepu and his brother will line up for the Parliamentarians, while local rugby personalities James Bruce, Nathan Riwai-Couch, Richard Carroll, and Dean Goodin are in the Legends side.

Playle said that the trust had distributed some $250,000 to 1500 children over about 30 codes to help them achieve at a high level. However, in recent years there had been more discretionary funding to help children whose parents cannot afford sports equipment, boots and the like, as well as travel costs.

The big game tomorrow will be the Heartland Championship match between Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua-Kapiti, kick-off at 2.30pm.

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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