The Genesis of Moorabbin Rugby Club

Hello Everyone,

This is the first of a series of articles about the formation and early history of the Moorabbin Rugby Club. I plan to write about the confluence of events that led to the foundation of the club and about the people involved in the establishment of this club.  I’d like to thank the people that have spent time and shared their stories and documents with me.

I would be pleased to receive more information, documents and photos from club members to document the history of the club.

Ian Ray
M: 0413 620 840


Part 1:
The world was a different place in 1964, many of you were 50 years younger and others of you were not even born… that is different!! So, to set the scene for the genesis of Moorabbin Rugby Club let me take you back to 1964.

  • The Vietnam War had started, the Civil Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton, for the first time.
  • Australia won 6 gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics, with Dawn Fraser winning gold in her third Olympic Games in the 100m freestyle; she was also named Australian of the Year for 1964.
  • Robert Menzies was (still!) Prime Minister and Henry Bolte was the Premier of Victoria.
  • The Australian Newspaper was first published, it advertised screenings of Goldfinger and My Fair Lady and The Man from UNCLE premiered on TV.
  • 1964 also saw Eddie McGuire, Kathy Watt, Mark Taylor and Ian Healy all come into the world.
  • Perhaps the biggest event for Melbourne in that year was the Beatles visit where they played two shows at Festival Hall, stayed at the Southern Cross Hotel and had a Civic Reception at the Melbourne Town hall

However, as Melbourne is known as the sporting capital of Australia let’s see what 1964 delivered:

  • Polo Prince won the Melbourne Cup, the eighth New Zealand horse to win the famed Cup.
  • Melbourne football club won the VFL premiership flag and has not won a flag since!!!
  • St. Kilda Football Club moved from the Albert Ground in Albert Park to Linton St. in Moorabbin. Strangely, this seemingly minor event had a large impact on the formation of Moorabbin Rugby Club, but more of this in a later chapter.

At this time Victorian Rugby consisted of the following senior teams:

  • Army - headquartered at Victoria Barracks (with grounds at Puckapunyal and Broadmeadows and Watsonia)
  • Army Apprentices - based at the Army Apprentices School Balcombe, Mount Martha
  • Box Hill - based at Surrey Park, (corner Elgar and Canterbury Rd, Box Hill)
  • Footscray - based at Footscray Park (on the Maribyrnong River)
  • Geelong - based at Kardina Park in Geelong
  • Harlequins - based in High St, Glen Iris (beside the railway line)
  • Heidelberg - this club eventually morphed into Eltham some years later
  • Kiwis - based at Middle Park No.2 ground
  • Melbourne - based at Orrong Park
  • Monash University - based at Monash University, Clayton
  • Navy - based Cerberus Naval Base, Crib Point  
  • Officer Cadet School (Army)  - based at Portsea (now part of the National Park)
  • Old Scotch - based at Kooyong Park (beside the Kooyong Station)
  • Power House - based at Middle Park No.3 ground
  • RAAF - Laverton (Apprentices School) and Point Cook
  • RAAF (Diploma) - Frognall and Canterbury (these were RAAF Aeronautical Engineering students attending RMIT)
  • St. Kilda - Middle Park No.1 ground
  • University (Melbourne) - based at Royal Park (opposite the Zoo)

Olympic Park No.1 ground was in the middle of the old Athletic track, where Collingwood FC now train, Olympic Park No. 2 was inside the greyhound track and sat where AAMI Park now sits and Gosch’s Paddock, where the Rebels now train was a pitch used by the Army teams.

(Click HERE for a large version)

Olympic Park grounds 5, 6, 7 and 8 were were playing fields where Margaret Court Arena is today. Fawkner Park had several pitches as it still does today.

There was also a 10 team Colts competition as well as a junior competition consisting of teams from U18s down to U10s.  The Marlins, from Aspendale Technical School was in the U18 competition and the St. Kilda team in the Colts competition was essentially a team drawn from McKinnon High School and both have links back to the establishment of the Moorabbin Rugby Club.

 More details about how these connections came together in a later chapter.

Part 2:

We will focus on two senior clubs in the completion for this chapter, St. Kilda and Kiwis who played at the Middle Park Grounds No.1 and No. 2. These pitches were near where Power House plays today. The clubs shared a club room and so mixed well socially.

Melway 1966 Middle Park precinct
(Click HERE for a large version)

Jack McDavitt was President of the St. Kilda club and writes “ The St. Kilda club, of which I was President, had not been numerically strong for a few years and I had trouble keeping our better players as other clubs tried to poach them. Our ground was alongside Kiwis and Power House was not very far away and Harlequins at Fawkner Park……Len Baggot, the President of Kiwis and myself had made an attempt to amalgamate St. Kilda and Kiwis but were unsuccessful.”

Jack’s handwritten notes do not describe the drama involved in this failed attempt to amalgamate the Kiwi club with the St. Kilda Club.
(click HERE for link to notes)

Bob Morley, who played for McKinnon High, St. Kilda colts and eventually Moorabbin, describes the “amalgamation attempt” as follows:

“Players from both teams met at Club rooms at Middle Park on 31/10/1964. The committees of each club had agreed to close down both clubs and join forces to form a new club in the Moorabbin/Mentone area.  The members of each club adjourned to separate rooms to vote on proposal for the closing down of their club. St. Kilda members voted to close down; the Kiwis members voted down their Committee’s recommendation to close down their club and threw the merging plan into disarray.”

Jack further notes “I approached Jock Duffy to see if he would bring Marlins along if we moved to Moorabbin. He said yes he would, so we had a meeting in the St. Kilda Club rooms at Middle Park. Present were: Len Baggot, Jock Duffy, Arnold Silk, Ken Lemon, Bob Clements, Jim Colbert, Les Bradbury and myself. We discussed the formation of a club in the Moorabbin area and decided to look into having another meeting in 3 weeks time.”

The letter from Jack to Jock, noted above, has a handwritten note at the bottom saying: “Bruce Caterson told me that his father played in Sydney and has been to your training. If you think that he’s any value bring him to the meeting.”

To our knowledge this is the first time that Jack McDavitt and Harold Caterson would be together. These two figures along with Jock Duffy loom large over the formation and early years of this club.    

Marlins U10s - Back Row: Bob Morley (far left)
& Jock Duffy (far right)
(Click HERE for a Large version)

There was a meeting in December 1964 at Moorabbin Town Hall, before this meeting was held Jim Matheison, Kiwis, agreed to come on board as Secretary of the new club. Les Bradbury, who played golf with the Mayor of Moorabbin managed to get the Mayor to commit to finding a ground for the new club.

At this meeting it was decided that there was definitely enough interest in establishing a new rugby club in the Moorabbin area and a meeting was set for 8pm on January 26th 1965 to be the inaugural meeting of the Moorabbin Rugby Club.

Jack’s notes continue:

At this meeting a committee was formed:

President: Len Baggot (Kiwis)

Secretary: Jim Matheison (Kiwis)

Treasurer: Peter Ware (St Kilda)

Committee: Jock Duffy, Harold Caterson (Marlins)

Bob Clements, Ken Lemon (St. Kilda)

I then called a general meeting of St. Kilda RUFC and it was decided that everything belonging to St. Kilda be handed over to the newly formed Moorabbin RUFC. There wasn’t much in cash and assets, but there were 2 teams, seconds (grade) and Colts, which were a big gain for any new club, particularly the seconds as they contain six or seven players who were still good enough for any first grade side.

My only regret was that, as I worked afternoon shift, I couldn’t be on any official committee position and follow through what I started.”

Jack McDavitt coaching the Moorabbin U10s.
(his son John is in the photo too)
(Click HERE for a large version)


Jack McDavitt’s invitation letter to the meeting at Middle Park on 31st October 1964

Note the handwritten invite for Jock Duffy to bring Harold Caterson to the meeting. The earliest know connection to the two people who drove the development of this club.

Minutes of the Inaugural meeting of the Moorabbin Rugby Union Football Club, 26th January 1965

Read this document to see how the club name was decided as well as our playing kit and colours.

1965 Balance Sheet

In the 1965 balance sheet of the Moorabbin Rugby club the assets from St. Kilda  RUFC that were transferred to the new club assets to Moorabbin were :

Footballs and Goal Posts valued at £21.0.0 ($42 to those of you who have no idea about pounds shillings and pence!!!!)

Cash donation of £15.0.0

The balance sheet also notes that there were £4.12.6 in players arrears……..clearly the non payment of subs by players has been around since the year dot!!!

St. Kilda RUFC was established in 1926.
Marlins was established in 1963

My thanks for help with this chapter goes to Robert Morley, Ken Dowman, John McDavitt and the late Ron Grainger