Kiwis and Moorabbin over the years

Over the years Kiwis and Moorabbin have had a strong and respectful relationship between themselves; the clubs have come in and out of each other’s orbit and I’ll try to tell the story of this relationship...

Moorabbin was established in 1965 and Kiwis had a hand in the creation of Moorabbin, see the Genesis story, previously published, for the intimate details.

Kiwis Rugby Club was formed in 1923 by a group of ex-patriot Kiwi servicemen who played rugby league along with Melbourne, St. Kilda, Melbourne Uni, Navy and RAAF.

These teams joined the VRU (est. 1909) in 1926.

Most of the clubs played on several grounds in Middle Park and shared club rooms nearby. This continued until the late 1960's. In the 70's Kiwis and other clubs moved to the Olympic Park Ovals.  These ovals faced Olympic Blvd. and now form part of Rod Laver Arena. Kiwis moved their club rooms to Queens Lane, St. Kilda. The lane is between Queen’s Way and St. Kilda Rd., St. Kilda, north of the Albert Cricket ground.  It was often difficult to find a park after a game to go to the their club rooms.

Also, it was often more difficult to find your car after you left the club rooms some hours later!!!

In 1964 Kiwis was a struggling rugby club as was St. Kilda Rugby Club, they played on adjacent fields and shared a set of club rooms.  There was a proposal by both committees to fold both clubs and establish a new club in the southern suburbs (Moorabbin or Mentone).  This didn’t eventuate in totality, St. Kilda folded, Kiwis walked away from the arrangement and shortly after Moorabbin was formed.  Several Kiwi players and administrators joined Moorabbin in 1965.

Moorabbin’s first President was Len Baggott, he was Kiwi’s President in 1964, Jim Matheson was secretary and also from Kiwis and Jock Duffy came from Kiwis to Moorabbin.  Jock was a player and also a teacher at Aspendale Technical College where he coached schoolboys; he was also involved with the Moorabbin Marlins a junior team that Jock and Harold Caterson ran. Both Harold and Jock are listed in the meeting minutes as from Marlins.

The Marlins is a story in itself and has been published. Other members of Moorabbin’s first committee came from the former St. Kilda Rugby Club.

Kiwis and Moorabbin didn’t play against each other until Moorabbin was promoted to First Division in 1975.  We played Kiwis on two occasions in 1975, they had two Wallabies in the team John Meadows (prop) and Doug Osborne (wing) as well as seven other players who played for Victoria that year. Incidentally, one representative was Ken Todd, the father of Brendan Todd, former Moorabbin First grade captain.  The Kiwis were a formidable side to front up against.  Kiwis finished top of the ladder and Moorabbin second bottom in 1975.  However, Kiwis were defeated in the Preliminary Final by Melbourne.

In 1977 Moorabbin First XV finished second on the ladder to Kiwis.  We had developed as a club with three senior teams and a full complement of juniors. Our Second grade team finished third and our Third grade team finished fourth.

All three Moorabbin teams were rolled in the finals with the Firsts being defeated in the preliminary final by Powerhouse 16 to 9, the other teams were defeated in the first semi-final.

The 1978 season brought Moorabbin its first Dewar Shield (first grade) premiership when we defeated Powerhouse 10 to 4; Kiwis were defeated in the first semi final.  Our Seconds and Thirds were both defeated in their first semi-finals.

We had been playing Kiwis for four years and we were developing a strong competitive relationship against them.  This was a respectful relationship due to the similar culture of both clubs; both clubs had a working class base and largely filled with ex-pat Kiwis.

We lost the 1979 First Grade grand final to Kiwis when late in the second half Moorabbin gave away a penalty about 25m out and George Timms, the Kiwi fullback, slotted an easy penalty kick to sink our hopes of consecutive premierships. Kiwis by 12 to 10.

At the end of the 1980 season the wives and girlfriends of the Kiwi and Moorabbin players played a match at Moorabbin one Sunday afternoon.  The Kiwi ladies won comfortably.

 (Click HERE for a large version)

Standing: from left: Unknown, Janice Brooke, Marion Tunnicliffe, Jan Budd, Wayne Gordon’s wife, unknown, Jan Gascoigne, unknown, Jennifer Ray, Stella Dallison
Middle Row, from left: Dianne McDavitt, Janice Brooke’s sister?, unknown, unknown
Front Row: Sharon Pearce

However, the ladies from both clubs had the last laugh.  After the match they retired to their respective change rooms to have a drink and a shower to celebrate with their teammates.  All the blokes were marking time outside the change rooms ready to go; then the ladies advised their beloveds that now that they were showered they needed to have a drink with their opposite number on the day as is traditional in rugby…………more tapping of feet by the blokes all still waiting to head off some where else.  After about 2 hours of socializing the ladies had made their point and all headed off into the darkness.

Over 11 years from the late 70's Moorabbin and Kiwis dominated the competition with Moorabbin winning 8 Premierships  (78, 81-86, 88) and Kiwis two (79, 80). We defeated Kiwis for the premiership in 1983, 84 and 85. Kiwis finished in the top four for most of these years. Sadly, we lost the 1987 premiership to Powerhouse 21- 19.

Joe Sellick stopping Paul Gascoigne the quick way
(Click HERE for a large version)

Over these years Kiwis moved grounds, when Rod Laver Arena was built in 1981 they moved to Como Park to play with their club rooms still back in St. Kilda Going back to have a drink with your opposing number was mandatory and many of the players from both teams played together in the Victorian team so while fierce opponents on the field they were friendly off the field.

Typical post match functions would involve seeing whether in total both teams could drink more beer than at the last match. The record consumption was seventeen 18 gallon kegs at Moorabbin in the mid 80's.

In 1987 Kiwis joined with Hawthorn Rugby club (read Old Scotch Rugby Club for the really old people) as Kiwis were essentially being pushed off Como Park and Hawthorn was struggling but had a home ground at Burke Road Reserve in Glen Iris.

The Burke Road club rooms were very small but we all made do with them for after match functions. In 1992 Kiwis moved to their current location in Auburn Road, Hawthorn; perhaps the best location to watch rugby from in Victorian club land with the field being in the base of an old quarry and you watch from upon high and have a bar close at hand.

Again the clubs wrestled each other with Kiwis beating Moorabbin for the Premiership in 1993, by 26 points to 12 and Moorabbin turning the tables in 1995 by 8 points to 6.

The City of Melbourne hosted the World Masters Games in 1995, Kiwis entered a team in the over 45 competition known as the Old Kiwi Warriors and two Moorabbin players played in this Gold Medal winning team, Steve Barber and Ian Ray. Many Moorabbin and Kiwi players played in the over 35 competition with the Melbourne Vikings team, which also won a Gold Medal.

After Jack McDavitt died in 1998 the club committee decided to honour Jack’s legacy at Moorabbin by having our home game against Kiwis nominated as Jack McDavitt Day and a trophy would be struck for the best player afield in the First Grade match between Moorabbin and Kiwis. This was a highlight of the Moorabbin year with a President’s Lunch held before the game.

Scott Baker & Fili Leato with the Jack McDavitt trophy
(Click HERE for a large version)

In 2004 Kiwis Rugby Club was struggling and the VRU was reviewing the criteria for eligibility to play in the Dewar Shield Competition for season 2005. Towards the end of the 2004 season a Kiwi committee, led by Ken Todd and a Moorabbin  committee, led by Ian Ray met on several occasions to see whether there could be a merger of the two clubs.  This did not eventuate and in season 2005 Kiwis were relegated to 2nd Division and they changed their name to Boroondara Rugby Club to better reflect their geographical location. Now they are known as the Redbacks because they have incorporated some red on their jersey as a nod to the Old Scotch/Hawthorn heritage.

Sadly, we have not played Kiwis since.  

A number of well known Moorabbin players have pulled on the jumper for both clubs including, Eric Tom Snr, Eric Tom Jr, Ray Strong, Andrew Matuku and Simon Waaka. There have been two Father and son relationships, Ken Todd (Kiwi Capt.) and Brendan Todd (Moorabbin Capt.) and Willie Ashton (Kiwis) and son Che (Moorabbin)

This year (2020) a pre-season match against Kiwis to revitalize the Jack McDavitt Trophy was arranged, however, as we know life has changed.

Thanks to: John Woodhouse for the use of his detailed book “From Kiwis to Redbacks” and Ron Caterson for the coat hanger photo



1979 Southern States Team
(Click HERE for a large version)

Notes for the 1979 Southern States team:
  • 13 of the team (of 20) were from Moorabbin and Kiwis.
  • Mike Budd went back to NZ and captained Northland for about 6 years
  • Brett Gosper went to the UK to work and became the CEO of World Rugby in 2012, a position he still holds.
  • Paul Gascoigne went on to play over 50 games for Victoria and more than 500 for Moorabbin.
  • Dean Gosper, is now the Chair of Ski and Snowboard Australia.
  • Captain Ken Todd is the father of Moorabbin’s Brendan Todd.