This year has again been both busy and productive for the club.
On the field
We played in three matches in June. On Queen’s Birthday weekend, we put out an over-35 team against a Ponsonby Invitation XV to celebrate that club’s 140th jubilee. A fortnight later, we put out a team to take on the Blues in Whangarei. The team was largely comprised of players and coaching and management staff from Northland. And a week after that we put out a South Island-based team against the Highlanders in Invercargill. One of our Southland-based members, Leicester Rutledge, capably managed that team. All of these games upheld the club’s traditions of enterprising rugby and good sportsmanship.
The 25th annual primary schools’ Fun Day in late May was again enjoyed by 40 teams of players, their parents, teachers, coaches and managers and supporters and a large number of member volunteers and helpers. Thank you to our member, Peter Thompson, and Barfoot & Thompson for their continued sponsorship of this event and to the RNZ Navy for the use of the Ngataringa Bay facilities. The weather was fine and Ron Williams led a great team of committee members, member volunteers and helpers. Thanks to them and also to our members, Richard Fry, manager, and Sir John Kirwan, coach, for ensuring the attendance of the Blues. The kids lapped it up.
The second Bay of Plenty Fun Day was again held at Paengaroa for 20 teams. Again, the event was well supported by members and volunteer helpers. The Chiefs turned up to make the day special for the kids. Thank you to Barbarian and Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman.
These days are true examples of communities working together for the common good.
Secondary school rugby
In September and October, we were involved in our secondary school programme. We supported the NZ Area Schools team, who played against a Harlequins selection as curtain-raiser to an ITM Cup game. Those players are from far-flung country areas of New Zealand. They expressed their delight and gratitude to our club for giving them an experience of a lifetime. In early September, we sponsored the Top 4 schools and co-ed schools championships in Rotorua. The tournament culminated in a great final between Scots College of Wellington and Hamilton Boys’ High which produced a 26-26 stalemate and a shared title.
In early October, the secondary schools international tournament took place at Porirua Park in Wellington. We were very well represented by the NZ Barbarians Schools team who opened their account with a convincing win over Australian Schools and then defeated Fiji narrowly on the final day. This team displayed a lot of talent and the players and management expressed their delight at being given this opportunity to play at this level. Instead of just having 24 players and one coaching and management team involved in the NZ Schools team, our sponsorship allows another 24 players and coach and management team to gain international exposure as well.
Off the field
We inducted into the club another 26 new members. The club continues to encourage all our members to make use of the wonderful facilities that the club has.
In August, we were involved in organising a reunion of the 1960s All Blacks and Wallabies. It was wonderful to see Wallabies like Dick Marks, Peter Johnson, Jules Guerassimoff, David Crombie (Australian President) and mates alongside Sir Colin Meads, Ian MacRae (NZRU President), Keith Nelson, Chris Laidlaw, Earle Kirton and mates. The club hosted a number of functions for the reunion.
In late October, we organised a golf tournament alongside the NZ Rugby Foundation with all proceeds going to the foundation. A great day resulted in about $20,000 being raised to support our severely injured rugby family members who will spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair. Thanks particularly to Ben Sturmfels (Jarmo) and golf professional Marcus Wheelhouse and his wife, our member, Melodie Robinson (who MCed the after-match prizegiving).
All this activity requires a lot of work behind the scenes. Thank you to our committee for all your hard work. To our sponsors, Barfoot and Thompson, thank you sincerely for supporting our initiatives, particularly the fun days and the Northland game. To the community trusts which have supported our work, notably Four Winds Trust, NZ Community Trust, Infinity Trust and North and South Trust, thank you sincerely.
I would particularly like to thank two people: firstly, our hard-working and efficient secretary, John Cresswell, for his invaluable work to assist all of these initiatives over some 15 years. John has indicated his intention to retire from the role at the end of this year. A huge thank you, John, for your dedicated service to the club. Secondly, to mine host Dean Paddy, who goes way beyond the call of duty to make all our members and visitors so welcome at the club. These two epitomise what being a Barbarian is all about.