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Wellington’s “Ghost” Rugby Clubs Part 11: Wadestown RFC

Jubilee Cup Premier | 15 January 2019 | Gordon Noble-Campbell

Wellington’s “Ghost” Rugby Clubs Part 11: Wadestown RFC

Photo above: Soon to be selected All Black, Neven McEwan in 1955, left, with Australian sporting great, Ken McGregor.

A MOST VALUABLE MEANS OF CIVILISING YOUNG MEN

“The Wadestown Club”

On 10 February 1910, the then Mayor of Wellington, Dr Alfred Kingcome Newman, remarked when opening the new Wadestown clubrooms on Pitt Street that, “a club in suburban life was one of the most valuable means of civilising young men.” The Club (originally formed in 1895) had a membership of between 40 and 50 with Charles Joplin, the Headmaster of Wadestown School, its elected President.

Originally located in a small room near Wadestown School on Weld Street, the Club was a focal point for the local sporting community, with the new tramway to Wadestown (which opened the following year), also anticipated to grow its membership. Newman noted, in his support for the objectives of the new premises, that “if one’s boys were at the club among one’s own friends, it was better than being in the hotel with somebody else’s friends.”

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Sport had been a big part of Wadestown community life as early as September 1896 when the Wadestown Club, which had established a cricket ground near the Crofton Railway Station, joined the Wellington Cricket Association.

In April 1897, supporters of Association Football established a team on a practice ground near the current Kaiwharawhara railway bridge on the Hutt Road, but it was not until March 1912 that the Wellington Rugby Union first affiliated the Wadestown Club and admitted a Third-Class team from the suburb.

The foundation of the new team was built on ex-pupils of Wadestown School, which played in the Wellington Rugby Union’s Schools Competition, with Frank and Arthur Joplin (both sons of the Headmaster), among those who were members of the inaugural Wadestown Club team. The 1912 team played in blue and black stripes with white shorts, and attracted former school pupils from around the region, including a former Porirua and Old-Boys Club player, Dan (“Dick”) Hay, a renowned Wellington cricketer.

In their first match of the 1912 season on 29 April, the Wadestown side was defeated by the Selwyn Club by 9 points to 5 at Anderson Park in Thorndon, (where the Club was to play most of its matches). However after their inauspicious start to the season, Wadestown went on to win four consecutive matches against Victoria College, Athletic, St. John’s and St. Patrick’s (by default).

While Oriental eventually won the grade in 1912, the Wadestownians would have been pleased with their maiden season. The season culminated with Arthur George being selected in the Wellington Third Grade Provincial Team which played home and away fixtures against Marlborough in September of that year.

The 1912 side comprised Dan Hay, Frank Joplin, Arthur Joplin, B. Walker, Standidge, Walter Lambert, Arthur John George, Lowe, Roberts, Thomas Lomas, McLeod, William Frederick Jenner, Leo Blake, Tarr, Scott, James Hanratty, and Mitchell.

The 1913 season started with a repeat loss to Selwyn in the opening round, with consecutive losses to Athletic, Wellington B and St. Patrick’s College early in the season. In the final wash-up of the year, Oriental successfully defended their Third Grade Championship Title. Among members of the 1913 team were a trio of brothers: Warner (2), Gordon (2), Frederick Larkin, Leonard Larkin, Mahoney, W Lambert, Thomas Lomas, Joplin, Richard Kaywood, Milne, Roberts, Leo Blake, Herbert Holmes Ashworth, John Canty, McLeod, Lowe and Andrews.

1914 saw the outbreak of World War One, with many smaller clubs going into recess as a consequence of players enlisting to serve the Crown. Over 100 former Wadestown School students enlisted to fight, with 14 losing their lives.

The former Wadestown School pupils playing Rugby Union were among those who stepped forward, with the Club going into recess owing to a lack of playing numbers. The Wadestown Club itself unceremoniously went into liquidation in 1930.

However, perhaps Wadestown’s greatest claim to Rugby Union fame may have been former Wadestown School “Standard 2” Teacher, Neven McEwan, who is pictured above with Australian tennis great and West Adelaide AFL player Ken McGregor.

McGregor visited Wadestown School in 1955, the year that McEwan was first picked for the All Blacks (as a Reserve). McEwan (a lock forward) who went on to play over 50 games for New Zealand and McGregor were invited by the Evening Post to jump and compete for the ball in the air much to the amusement of Wadestown School’s pupils.

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