The 2018 club rugby season is fast approaching, with the Swindale Shield and Jubilee Cup the two major titles up for grabs for Wellington’s 14 Premier clubs.
The Championship Jubilee Cup is the most coveted of the two and the major prize that all clubs are working towards at the start of each season. As more than one leading player has said in recent years, “you can’t drink from the Swindale Shield.”
The Jubilee Cup was presented by the Wellington Rugby Football Union in 1929 in recognition of its golden jubilee year and has been played every year since, including during the second world war when a combined Poneke-Oriental team won in 1943 and 1944.
The Swindale Shield was first contested in 1910, after being donated to the WRFU by former Athletic player Mr A.F. Swindale for ‘competition among senior teams’ [the Championship silverware]. Oriental were the inaugural winners, and then Swindale’s former club, Athletic, won it for the next three years and it was promptly retired as was the then custom when a club won something three years in a row.
Some 55 years later the Swindale Shield was ‘found’ in a cupboard under the stand at Athletic Park and from there resurrected as the first round silverware for Wellington club rugby’s Senior A [Premier] sides. For many seasons, the ‘top six’ proceeded to the Jubilee Cup Championship round (since 1929), which became the ‘top eight’ and for the first time in 2018 the ‘top seven’
Since 1969 when the two competitions have been running together, clubs have ‘done the double’ - winning the Swindale Shield and the Jubilee Cup in the same season - on 21 occasions in 48 years.
Petone have achieved the Jubilee Cup-Swindale Shield double eight times, the most of any club. Six of these were achieved between 1969-76 in an era when they dominated Wellington club rugby and won or shared the Jubilee Cup or Swindale Shield or both in nine years between 1967-76.
Since 1977, however, the double has been done 14 times or a little over once in every three years on average.
Marist St Pat’s emerged as a powerhouse club in the late 1970s and captured the first of their six Jubilee Cup-Swindale Shield doubles in 1979. They went close to doing it again the following year but were pipped by Petone in the wet in the deciding Jubilee Cup fixture that year.
MSP next won both titles in 1988, before doing it again three times in the 1990s including in consecutive years in the middle of the decade and again in 1999, the last year that matches were played at Athletic Park.
MSP last achieved this feat in 2008 when they stormed to an unbeaten Swindale Shield season and then shared the Jubilee Cup with Northern United in a drawn 10-10 final with no provision for extra time.
2008 was the sixth and most recent time that one or both of Wellington’s Premier club rugby titles were shared in the Jubilee Cup-Swindale Shield era, the others being 1972, 1978, 1983, 1985, 2009.
The Wellington Axemen have recently regained Premier status after a brief period in the wilderness. They last won the Jubilee Cup in 1987 and before achieved the first and second round title double three times, including 1985 when they won both outright.
In 1972 they got their hands on both trophies but had to share the Swindale Shield with Athletic and the Jubilee Cup with Petone – the only instance that both have been shared in the same season.
Since the turn of the century, winning the Jubilee Cup and the Swindale Shield in the same year has got harder, also reflecting the emergence of clubs such as and Northern United (achieved the double in 2006 and 2010) and Tawa (2013) and the reawakening of Old Boys University (2017).
The period 2000-2005 was the longest time between drinks of one club carrying off both titles, while Northern United won or shared both titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, but could only achieve the double in two of these seasons.
Last season OBU became the first club since 2013 to win both trophies in the same calendar year; will this be achieved again in 2018?
Doing the double – clubs winning the Swindale Shield and the Jubilee Cup in the same season:
1972 Wellington Jubilee Cup shared between Wellington and Athletic and Swindale Shield shared between Wellington and Petone
1979 Marist St Pats
1982 Wellington – Jubilee Cup shared with Petone
1988 Marist St Pats
1994 Marist St Pats
1995 Marist St Pats
1999 Marist St Pats
2006 Northern United
2008 Marist St Pats – Jubilee Cup shared with Northern United
2010 Northern United
2017: Old Boys University