Club History: Jack McDavitt

Jack was a Taranaki Lad, born in 1926 in Waitara, just north of New Plymouth on the west coast of the North Island in New Zealand and this is where he started school.

He was one of four boys. Jim was the eldest and he joined the Air Force as a young man where he had many overseas tours (England, Fiji, Singapore) and was rarely back home. He was the Royal Attache to Queen Elizabeth II for her visit to NZ in 1955. Jack was the second born. Peter was next and he trained as a teacher and eventually ended up training teachers for much of his working life at Teachers College in Wellington. He was also an international referee, blowing the whistle in a number of Test Matches, as well in September 1972 refereeing the Australian Southern States U16s vs Scotch College and Athletic Club combined team which included 3 Moorabbin junior players (Jeff Hutchison, Alan Cook and Paul Wilken…….there is another story for me to tell!). Patrick was the youngest and he became an accountant in Taranaki.

Jack’s dad Francis worked in the Post Office at Waitara and in 1936 was promoted to postmaster at the nearby Rahotu.

The 3 youngest boys played together at primary school in Rahotu, while Jim was away with the Air Force.  Then followed Stratford High School and eventually Jack and Patrick played 1st Grade together at Clifton Rugby club. Jack also rowed for the Clifton Rowing Club.

Jack was a good boxer, with the famous story of a fight that he had as a 20yo when he knocked out his opponent with the first punch. In 1946 he won the Ted Morgan Challenge Cup. This Cup is named after NZ’s only Olympic Gold Medal winning boxer Ted Morgan (1928 in Amsterdam) and it's a welterweight trophy that was awarded by the Wellington Boxing Association.

After school Jack worked locally in Taranaki as a farm hand and he managed a shearing team for the Scotty Kilpatrick Company while he played rugby, boxed and rowed.

Two members of the Clifton Rowing Club were selected to row at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne so Jack and another mate decided to follow them over to support them.  The decision by Jack to leave NZ wasn’t lauded by the whole McDavitt family and brother Peter thought the Jack was “throwing it all away to follow his mates to Australia”. History now shows that the Moorabbin Rugby Club and it's subsequent members would think that this was a fantastic decision by Jack!

In Melbourne he lived in a flat in Armadale and had a job delivering briquettes.

He played rugby for St. Kilda and represented Victoria on several occasions as a tight head prop and hooker, touring to South Australia for the Southern States Carnival in 1960.

   1956 St Kilda RUFC - Jack seated front left
(click HERE for large version)

1958 VRU newsletter
*1958 VRU rugby report
(click HERE for a large version)

*1960 Victorian Rugby Team - Jack standing far left middle row
(click HERE for large version)

Jack also coached an U18 school team at McKinnon High for a number of years from 1960. This team played on a Saturday in the VJRU competition and along with Box Hill High School, coached by Patsy McGoldrick, as the only two school teams in the competition.  Several long standing Moorabbin players came from the school team, via St. Kilda, including Ken Dowman and Rob Morley. All three are original Rams.

He came out of retirement for one season in 1963 to play in a grand final and by 1964 he had retired again and was President of St. Kilda RUFC.

Jack met Janice at a dance in St. Kilda; she was the youngest of 7 siblings and came from Warracknabeal . They married back in Warracknabeal in 1960. They eventually had 2 children, John and Dianne.

In 1963 they move into East Bentleigh just a five-minute walk from WD & HO Wills in East Boundary Rd where Jack worked the afternoon shift from 4pm to 1am as a breakdown mechanic.

Additionally, Jack leased land in Clayton and grew mostly onions but he also grew potatoes and pumpkins. Older members will remember Jack’s old white ute with the removable canopy that was always filled with boxes of seedlings.

By the late 60s Jack was helping to coach junior teams with Richard Rossington, typical parents, both had children playing in the junior teams.  Richard was Treasurer of the club but eventually took up a position in the Wodonga area and moved away with the family.

Son John started playing in the U10s in 1971 and remembers that on Saturday mornings Jack’s ute would be cleaned out and filled with players to go to matches. He remembers that the record number of players in the back of the ute was 13. John went on to play 1st grade for 9 seasons including several Dewar Shield premierships in the early to mid 1980s.

*1972 Moorabbin U10s - Premiers
(click HERE for a large version)

Daughter Dianne, also stayed connected to the club and married Clive Honeck, a good kiwi lad who played about 6 seasons of 1st grade at Moorabbin including many premierships.There are grandchildren for Jack and Janice from both Dianne and John and they are involved in sports just like their grandfather was.

Jack was President of the St. Kilda Rugby Club when they folded in 1964 and was part of the process that saw St. Kilda pass on the club’s assets to the newly formed Moorabbin club for their 1965 debut season.

He was Moorabbin President from 1972-1981 and along with his committees of this period set the framework and saw the development of the club to field 4 senior grades and a full complement of junior grades. The club won promotion from second division to Premier Division (Now The Dewar Shield) in 1975 and they won their first Premier Division Premiership in 1978. This was the first of many Dewar Shield Premierships over the next 41 years.

Moorabbin RUFC - 1978 Victorian 1st Grade PremiersMoorabbin RUFC's inaugural 1st Division Premiership Team
(click HERE for large version)

Jack lobbied the Moorabbin Mayor, Don Bricker, to obtain training lights and new club rooms to replace the old tin shed. The pair became somewhat friendly and Jack and Janice were invited to The Moorabbin Mayoral Balls. Jack made the inspired call of inviting Cr. Bricker to be Patron of the club which he happily accepted.

The new club rooms were completed in 1978 finally doing away with the very smelly thunder-boxes that really were not usable and the old tin shed (Mr. Cat’s Cottage) was relegated to a storage shed. It took many years for the beer smell to fade away in that shed!

Amongst the 1978 committee documents still in hand are the designs for the bar including the beer dispensers, along with hand written notations. Going over the notes this was probably one of the more hotly discussed topics around the new club rooms……after the toilets! Once built, the club applied for its first alcohol license and thus was legal after 13 years of trading.

In the 1980s Jack finally gave away afternoon shift and worked day shift managing the Leaf Processing plant. John remembers visiting his dad at work one afternoon and seeing a shovel standing against a wall and written across the back of the shovel was:  “J. McDavitt Pacifier”..., well he was also the Union rep.

Alongside his commitment to the Moorabbin Rugby Club Jack spent many years on the committee of the Victorian Junior Rugby Union, including a number of years as its President.

Sadly, Jack died in December 1998.  To commemorate Jack's tireless work for Moorabbin, the club established a Jack McDavitt Trophy that was awarded to the best player afield when Moorabbin played Kiwis Rugby Club in Moorabbin’s home match each season.  After Kiwis dropped out of the Dewar Shield Competition the “Trophy” was converted to a medal that was awarded to the best player afield when the club celebrated “Jack McDavitt Day” with a President’s Lunch at the club rooms.

Jack McDavitt medal - Moorabbin Rugby Club

When the club rooms were renovated and increased in 2005 it was named the Jack Mc Davitt Pavilion in further recognition of Jack’s contribution at Moorabbin Rugby Club.

(click HERE for a large version)

A small mystery to finish on.
While writing Jack’s bio one item popped up that we couldn’t find an explanation for. John found an Australian Junior Rugby Union blazer in Jack’s cupboard and no-one can remember why Jack had this blazer. Was he involved with the Australian Junior team? In those days there was an Australian U16s team and an Australian Schoolboys team. Perhaps he just scored the blazer it because he was on the committee of the VJRU?  If you know the answer please contact me?


*Photo Notes:

Photo: 1958 annual report, listing Jack in various Vic teams for the year, also in these teams were Ken Lemon and Bill Capstaff both original Rams like Jack.

Photo: 1960 Southern States Team with Jack, also in the team is Ron Saunders father of Ross Saunders from Box Hill that many people will know.

Photo 1972 U10 team.  With Jack and Richard Rossington coach and manager.

  • Standing at the right hand end is John McDavitt who went on to play many seasons of first grade rugby in the 80s.
  • Sitting on the right hand end is Craig Clarkson whose father John was first grade Captain in 1972.
  • On the ground on the right is Michael Ephraims who played many years of first grade rugby in the 80s. Michael was also a champion cricketer.