1972 U16 Southern States Schoolboys Tour to New Zealand

This was the third tour that a Southern States U16s Schoolboys team had undertaken, and the touring party consisted of three Moorabbin players, to the best of our knowledge they were the first of the club’s home-grown international representatives. 

The Southern States team was originally proposed by Ronald Williams of South Australia in the early 60s. He argued that to improve junior rugby in the southern states that a team should be chosen from the annual Australian Schoolboys Championships and this team would tour the following year as U16s.

Thus, it was 1971 and at Manly Oval where the Victorian Schoolboys found themselves playing against NSW Country, Sydney, Queensland County and Brisbane as well as the Southern States in the annual schools’ tournament. Some matches were also played at Warringah.

Moorabbin had 4 Players in the 1971 U16 Victorian team (Alan Cook, Jeff Hutchison, Gary Jarvis and Paul Wilkens) that found themselves playing in Manly. The team was coached by Scotch College teacher Roger James, described by Jeff and very much a blazer man!! Towards the end of the tournament Jeff Hutchison was approached by Ronald Williams an asked if he could go on the New Zealand tour the next year because he would be chosen as Captain of the team.

In 1972 Moorabbin was developing as a club, it had 2 senior teams, colts and juniors down to U12s. Many of the juniors came from Aspendale Technical College where under the coaching of Ken Lemon they played in the schools (VSRU) competition as Aspendale Tech then on Saturdays turned out as a Moorabbin underage team in the VJRU competition. See the previously published story “Aspendale Tech to Moorabbin Marlins”.

The Southern States team was announced at the end of the tournament and three Moorabbin players were included in the team. Jeff Hutchison, Alan Cook and Paul Wilkens, all went to Aspendale Tech. together and lived in the Edithvale area. In all 7 students from Victoria were chosen in the touring party for the following August.  Our three plus Peter Ellis and Mike McGonegal from Box Hill and Frank Poulton and David Clutterbuck from the Balcombe Army Apprentices School were the other Victorians chosen.

Of note, Matthew Hassall from Box Hill Rugby Club was selected in the Australian Schoolboys team to tour the UK at the completion of the tournament.

Ken Lemon commenced fundraising with raffle boards at the school and rugby club, the club also donated money to the three players.

Communication was via the mail, 1972 pre-dates email, facebook and Instagram. Players received a training regime in the post with exercises and drills to complete. However, with club rugby training and rep. rugby training for the Victorian team little notice was taken of this correspondence!!!!!!

The planning for the tour was meticulous and was undertaken by Ronald Williams. Sadly, he died of leukemia about 3 weeks before the tour commenced. His management role was taken by John Suckling from Western Australia. If you read the attached document, you will see a tribute to Ronald on page 3.

The WA players arrived on the overnight flight into Melbourne to meet the Victorian players and the Tasmanian players, due to a stuff up the Tassie players arrived the evening before and had to sleep in the Airport!!! This party now flew to Sydney on TAA (Trans Australian Airways… anyone remember them?) to collect the SA players. Here, they introduced themselves to each other and then hopped on a flight to Christchurch. Bussed to Ashburton and finally arriving at 9.30pm in Fairlie for overnight accommodation.

A long day for all especially the players from WA who took the red eye overnight from Perth to Melbourne and the Tassie players who slept in the terminal the previous night.

To read about the tour in detail please read the attached document (link below) kindly supplied by Jeff Hutchison This tour was before computers, mobile phones, faxes and social media. Hence it consists of typed pages from a typewriter (youyoungies can google what a typewriter looks like!), the report has multi coloured pages for the different sections.

Link for 1972_Southern_States_Tour_Report

NOTE: All three players went on to play senior rugby at Moorabbin.

Alan played senior rugby for Victoria commencing in 1974 and he played in the 1978 Dewar Shield Premiership teambefore joining the Army and then playing for 4 years in the Australian Combined Services team. He returned to Moorabbin in 1988 and played in the 1988 Dewar Shield Premiership.

Jeff Hutchison played a season in 1974 and joined the Army and went on to play for Australian Combined Services before moving to England where he played for Ealing, then returned to a new job in Tasmania where he played for Riverview in Launceston.

Paul played seniors for many years. During pre-season training in 1978, the year Moorabbin won its first Dewar Shield premiership, while the squad was running laps of the field there was a frequent cry of “Wilkens, don’t cut corners” from coach Barry Ross.

Paul Wilkens was never a good trainer!!!!

Thanks to Jeff Hutchison, Alan Cook for the stories and reminiscing.