The third grade Featherston team from 1947. Back row: V. Ruka, S. Houghton, L. Wall, K. Lang, R. Saunders. Middle row: G. Higginson, J. Ward, J. Day, V. Ahipene, C. Anderson, R. Richards. Front row: N. Brown, D. Day, P. Burt, C. Day. Absent: R. Kennard, R. Stuart. PHOTO/WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE
In the 1870s the United States Department of Justice was founded, Levi Strauss patented blue jeans, and rugby was first played in Featherston.
This weekend the Featherston Rugby Football Club will celebrate its 140th jubilee and Old Timers Day.
Jubilee Committee President Neville ‘Lolly’ Taylor first played for Featherston thirds in 1963 and had fond memories of that time.
“The clubrooms consisted of a Nissan Hut from Wellington with a kitchen and shower added.
“On wet and windy nights we used this facility for training and the sawdust floor resulted in a very dusty environment.”
Taylor’s first introduction to senior rugby was when the coach, Ian Cameron, asked him to help out in a pre-season game.
“I was 11 stone and locking with Bob Meadows – I lasted only 20 minutes and I was walking around like a staple having been driven in to a hardwood post.”
The nickname ‘Lolly’ came from Taylor’s former coach, Don McIntosh.
McIntosh played 13 matches for the All Blacks, including four tests.
“Don McIntosh became my coach and the nickname ‘Lolly’ was born – he reckoned my legs looked like lollipop sticks and many of my rugby friends still call me Lolly,” Taylor said.
In 1964 he was promoted to the junior grade, but it was the senior team that produced the highlight of the year for the club.
“That year was a highlight of the club when the senior team, coached by Ian Cameron and Dr Gibb Fraser, defeated Carterton in the final of the championship,” he said.
“The clubrooms rocked that night and we also had a new matai floor to dance on . . . no more dust.”
Taylor enjoyed many games for Featherston and Wairarapa-Bush but said one highlight that stood out was the match against the British Lions in 1977.
He also coached the Featherston senior side for three years and remembers the family atmosphere at the club.
“We had a great team and social life with fellow teammates, wives and partners.
“In 2003, at the 125th reunion, the same team had a re-match with Masterton . . . the score didn’t matter.”
He said the building of the clubrooms was a great asset to the club.
“Many volunteers worked long hours to make the project happen and, at this time, we remember the large number of people who contributed to the building and the amenities we have at the club today.”
The Wairarapa Standard reported the founding of the club on June 1, 1878.
The report stated: “A well-attended meeting of footballers was held at the Royal Hotel, Featherston, on Thursday evening, when it was resolved to form a club.
“It was decided to communicate with Greytown with a view to forming a combination to play a match against Carterton and Masterton combined.”
The combination with Greytown fell through, but the two sides, known as Lower Valley and Upper Valley, met at Carterton on June 15.
Lower Valley won by five goals to nil.
A family club
Peter Sargent is another with a long association with the club and says it felt like family.
“One of my earliest memories associated to Featherston rugby was in 1964 – the only year we’ve won the championship and the old man [Tom] was ecstatic.
“From an early age I was crazy on rugby – I remember tagging along with Dad, we’d drop my sisters off at the pictures then head to watch rugby.”
Sargent was held back from playing rugby to make sure he wouldn’t lose interest in it.
“Dad’s belief was he didn’t want me to get bored with rugby so I didn’t start playing rugby until I was around eight years old.
“My first game in JAB was against Martinborough and I played halfback – I played alongside Terry Tocker and Johnny Allen and kids from all the Featherston schools.”
Sargent said his parents had also been an important part of his rugby development.
“Mum [Mabel] and Dad were on the sideline that day and followed us everywhere, even after I eventually hung my boots up, although that did take a few attempts.
“The old man was one of my biggest supporters and critics – he never pulled any punches and told me straight if I’d played a good game or not.”
Sargent said one of his favourite memories came from a match against Pioneer.
“They put an up-and-under up and Ken Robby caught the ball.
“Two big Pioneer fellas came running at him and so he passed the ball to one of them – after the game he said he would rather them get a try than be tackled by them and it still makes me laugh today.”
He said the club helped to form relationships in the community, and the sidelines would be packed with family and friends on game days.
Children would entertain themselves in the trees or by having their own game, and the players would play for each other, no matter what the outcome.
“It’s been great watching the nephews, sons and now grandkids put on the Featherston rugby jersey and play.
“I coached a couple of the nephews and even played a couple of seasons with my nephews, Ian Sargent and Anthony Yardley.
“For me, when I think of Featherston rugby the words enjoyment, loyalty and comradeship come to mind.”
140th jubilee celebrations
Celebrations will kick off tonight with a mix and mingle.
Tomorrow, JAB rugby will be played in the morning with the senior reserves taking the field at 1pm for Old Timers Day.
That evening there will be a dinner at Anzac Hall, and on Sunday there will be a barbecue brunch.
On Monday, the club will host the Wairarapa-Bush match against Hawke’s Bay Saracens at 2pm.