No one is exactly sure when the talk about Moorabbin touring New Zealand began but it was probably sometime in 1980. Almost certainly the discussion started at the bar in the corner that Ronnie Pearce camped in over many seasons. We had won our first Premier Division flag in 1978 and had been runners up in 1979 so the next step in the maturation of the club would be an overseas tour and a preseason tour prior to the beginning of the 1982 season was targeted.
A small organizing committee was initially set up consisting of Brian Tunnicliffe and myself (Ian Ray). After a meeting with all interested members it was decided that we would fundraise for a full year with a view to raising a large pot of money to go towards each player’s costs.
1982 Inaugural NZ Tour committee minutes
(Click HERE for a large version)
Our 1st grade coach at the time was Peter Newson and he had a brick cleaning business. It was easy for him to take on extra work, typically new factories being built, where we could bring a number of members to the site on a Sunday and with many hands making light work clean a large factory in a single day. There were many factories that we all cleaned on a Sunday morning with hangovers after a big Saturday night!!
The typical approach was to start on site at 10am with gloves, hoses, brooms and acid flying all over the place. At about 10:45am Terry Sullivan would announce that he’d get organized for our BBQ lunch due at noon so he’d disappear to find wood, paper etc and you wouldn't see him again until about 11:30am when he would reappear to fire up the BBQ.
One working bee was to demolish a house in Black Rock for Graham Blair. This of course led to many of the boys playing out their fantasies by running through closed doors, smashing walls down and waving chainsaws in all directions at once. Of course it is always risky to have so many players swarming over a site and ultimately a large wooden beam was dropped onto the head of Graeme Ray. It meant a quick trip the club’s favourite hospital's emergency room, Sandringham, to get a few stitches inserted in his cranium.
From a rugby point of view it was decided that the clubs we were to play should have the following criteria: one, that the clubs would be “stronger” than Moorabbin but not so strong that we’d be pumped and not learn anything from the match and two, that the Moorabbin club had to have some connection to the NZ club.
1982_NZ Tour Itinerary
(Click HERE for a large version)
We chose Northcote Rugby Club on the North Shore of Auckland with connections to Peter Newson, Whangerai Old Boys (Mike Budd), Rotorua High School Old Boys (no Moorabbin connection although some boys had played with Ngongahta), Greerton Rugby Club (John Slight) and Morrinsville Rugby Club (Brian Tunnicliffe) who were our host club for the tour.
1982 Letter from Rotorua HS Old Boys RFC
(Click HERE for a large version)
Sponsorship was sought. I wrote to many companies seeking such and was met with limited luck. One company that did lend a hand was Peerless and they agreed to sponsor our jerseys, shorts and socks for the tour. This was very exciting and saved us a substantial sum of money. The jerseys came with a large Peerless sign on the back above the number. Shortly after securing this deal it came to light that the VRU had also signed up with Peerless as a gear supplier and then things took a slight turn for the worse when the VRU was informed by Peerless that the cost of the Moorabbin kit would be deducted from the total VRU sponsorship. Understandably the VRU were very dirty on Moorabbin and some have speculated that this was when our relationship with the VRU started to sour?! The VRU then advised us that we could not play in the jerseys with the sponsor’s logo on them (remember, this was the early 80's). So Jennifer Ray and Janice Brooke spent the evening before we departed hastily running up patches and sewing to cover the jersey logo to square off with the VRU. Sadly, despite Jennifer and Janice's fantastic work, the patches "fell off' after the first game in New Zealand.
In addition to the jerseys the team had nylon Puma tracksuits provided through a great deal from our neighbours over the road. They were black with a white stripe down the pant leg.... high fashion indeed for 1982.
We engaged a bus for the two weeks of the tour and arranged for the driver that drove for the Victorian Team on the 1981 NZ tour to drive. Bob Lloyd, who worked in the travel industry took care of the accommodation. We did not know until were arrived in New Zealand that he had booked us in as the Moorabbin Social Club at all the hotels and motels because he didn’t think he’d get accommodation if he booked the team in as a rugby club.
On departure, at Tullamarine, we had our photo taken for a Sunday paper which was quite a thrill for us all.
1982 Rams NZ Tour - Newspaper article
(Click HERE for a large version)
We arrived in Auckland on Saturday afternoon and played Northcote Rugby Club on the Sunday. We lost 28-32 after being well behind at half time. The team stopped the following day at the warm springs at Waiwera for rehab on the way to Whangarei where we played on the Wednesday. Mike Budd had returned to Whangarei after a couple of seasons at Moorabbin and on the day he played a half for each team.
The highlight for me was being "sent off" for the first time in my rugby experience. The send off rule was already in place in NZ and was to be introduced in Australia for the 1982 season and in those days you had to stand under the posts at the defensive end of the ground. I'd like to add that it was also the only time I was sent off in my career. We won 10-6.
More hot springs for recovery on the way back through Auckland to Rotorua for game three against Rotorua High School Old Boys. This was played on a very muddy track with a 20-9 win. So after a quick shower we all headed down into a large set of hot spring baths with the Rote boys. By this time we had a number of family members of the Moorabbin players following the tour. To see family following the tour to watch their sons, grandsons and nephews play rugby with their “Aussie” family was a wonderful thing.
After the three matches a couple of lay days were scheduled at Mt Manganui. We stayed right on the beach so we could could surf and recover. For a bit of a change we arranged a handicap race from the base of The Mount to the top. Gazza and I set the handicaps for the players. Terry Sullivan and Bill Every were off 10 minutes, Gazza was off scratch and I was off 30 seconds before him.
Pommie, aka Alistair Watt, won the bottle of top shelf liquor of his choice for being first to the top of The Mount. There was a crush of players closing in on the top so the handicaps were pretty good. Mind you I had never seen Alistair push himself so hard. He never ever trained like that while he was at the club!!!
Thursday night saw us play a night match against Greerton Rugby Club. We were Greerton’s first match in their centenary year and we won handsomely.
On to our host club at Morrinsville for the Saturday match which we won and then a long night in the club rooms followed. It was onto the bus at 2am the next morning to drive through the dark for an early morning flight out of Auckland. Not a pretty sight at all on the bus and a very quiet flight back to Melbourne.
So, our pre-season tour was over. Did it do us any good? We went through the home and away season with only 3 losses and went on to win the flag 21-4 against Quins. More importantly, it brought the club together as a singularly focused group and laid a foundation for more good years of rugby ahead.
There are many other stories associated with the tour. One involving the Gents toilets in Tokoroa. Murray Martin comes from Tokoroa and after the Greerton match he, Gerry Craig, Bill Every and Terry Sullivan left the tour to visit Murray’s home town. There was apparently some confusion regarding the accommodation arrangements for their sojourn and several of the lads slept the night in a Gents toilet in Tokoroa. They all managed to get back to join the team in Morrinsville for the Saturday match, but arrived after team meeting. Coach Newson was not impressed and Murray and Gerry, despite their condition, were required to suit up and play against Morrinsville. I was in the second row partnering Murray, and Gerry was my prop. Clearly I had to carry both of them in the scrums for the match as well as play my usual fine game.
I had a fun visit to the Rotorua Hotel. While out looking for team members who had headed off to meet family, I wandered into the front bar of the Rotorua Hotel to be met with a deafening silence. I found myself not only the only Pakeha in the bar but the only guy carrying a man-bag as well. The place was very quiet and all eyes followed me as I walked in through one door, very quickly across the room and straight out the other door. Suffice to say I didn’t find my teammates in that bar!
There was also the story about the rafting trip in the Kiamai Ranges... but you can ask Pat Drennan about that one.
No doubt more tales from the tour will eventually find their way to the website.
The touring party was:
|Kevin Te Kiri
The following players played all five matches:
Joining up with the team in NZ for the occasional match:
Brian Tunnicliffe and Wayne Marino both had returned to NZ from Australia. As previously mentioned Mike Budd managed to play one half for each team in the Whangarei Old Boys match.
Thanks for the reminders and friendly memory nudges must go to:
Paul Gascoigne, Murray Martin, Pat Drennan and Gerry Craig.
- Original tour minutes - including some very 80's specific fund raising ideas... Phone book delivery (remember those?) and a "Video!" night to name a few
- Tour itinerary
- Rotorua Old Boys letter
- Puma sponsor’s letter
- Tour newsletter - late 1981, including itinerary, team dress code and rules
- Newspaper article - Sunday Telegraph
- Photo: Butch Owen and Gerry Craig vs Rotorua Old Boys and the same photo in a newspaper clipping from The Daily Post, Rotorua
- Original press information about the club and players - forwarded to NZ clubs.