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My father was a foundation member of the Club and acted as an office-bearer for many years. He often used to regale us boys with reminiscences of the early playing days, especially the “Maul in goal” which apparently was a fearsome affair, victory going to the toughest or strongest contestants.
It was about mid-nineties when I started taking an interest in the Pirates Club as a very small boy. The biggest rival in those days was the Star Club then at its peak and well on the road to its 14 years’ consecutive premiership victories.
At school, the boys were either Pirates or star and it was incredible the amount of interest it got.
Other clubs were Invercargill and Britannia. Games use to take place on the old Union ground at the top of Yarrow Street opposite Johnny Mitchell’s old home.
We use to make friends with the senior players so that we could carry their boots and togs past the gateman in order to avoid paying the admission. Threepence was a lot of money in those days.
Some of the senior players I can remember in the mid-nineties are full-back, Herbie Rogers (Stump) to his many friends, owing to his small stature. Herbie had the safest pair of hands imaginable and could pot goals from any point inside halfway. He represented Southland for a number of years.
Other players that come to mind are Jules Tapper, E. B. Mackay, Jim Manson, Nibs McRobie, who won All Black honours in 1896 and also a great track runner.
The new century saw the likes of Toiler Taylor (fullback) and won the game against Auckland when he kicked a goal under high tension for a long way out. Halfback Gerry Burgess, who was as full of tricks as a circus monkey, gaining All Black honours in 1905.
Other backs were Bob Hanna, Pug Blackman, Joe Metzger, Ranji Thomas, Jim Forrester, Harry Walker and my brother Wattie Smith.
The forwards were led by at fine Bluff player, Don Hamilton, Paul McQuarrie, Boag West, Dave Robinson, Bob Organ, Fred Hansen, Bill Pettigrew, Jim Robertson and J.J. Taylor – who had a much tattooed body and was feared by the opposition.
I remember the crack Southland team led by Charlie Saxton and then there was the three Whitaker brothers from Dipton, Bert Whitaker, Bill Whitaker and Tommy Whitaker. Bill and Bert represented Southland many times and all three brothers were in the team in 1902. Bert transferred to Auckland later and was head sports writer for the Auckland Star for many years.
Pirates were strong in the juniors with the second grade winning the Junior Flag year after year. My brother Harry Smith was a keen member and was captain for a period. The whole team was inseparable in the weekends. They opened the season each Easter with a match with Merrivale, the crack junior team in Christchurch which led to many lifetime friendships.
I recall Jack Galbraith, Arney Wesney, Bill Organ, Pernie Organ, Jack Gordon, Harry Cook, Bill Cook, Jimmy Raeside, Bill Spence. The lady supporters took great pleasure in embroidering each year’s victory in gold letters on the junior banner which was at our home for many years.
The main enemy of course in those days was Star Club and what a team they had. We of course pretended to hate them, but really we admired their skill and tactics. They were almost unbeatable in the 1890’s and I am sure they would have been a match for any club in the New Zealand including
the famous Kaikoura Club of Dunedin and the equally famous Auckland clubs, Ponsonby and City. What games the Star Club turned on when under pressure.
The fine team about the 1900’s was Davie Donaldson, wings Ben Bain and Jimmy Strang or Jack Shand, the centre of course was the one and only Hughie Murphy. What a pair of hands he had, if anyone deserved an All Black honours, Hughie did but opportunities were few and far in those days.
The famous Billy Stead was the mainstay five eights ably supported by half-back Biddy Reynolds.
The forwards were both good and hard. Les Murphy and Jack Hughes are names easily recalled, others were Baggie McNie, Peter Anderson, Dick Donaldson, Bill Jude, Bob Knuckey, Jack Stone and Semore Perry.
Then of course there was the evergreen Ike Jenkins who represented Southland for so many years. I remember once attending a Pollards Opera performance and Rip Van Winkle, awakening on the stage after his 100-year sleep “broke up” the audience by suddenly asking “Is Ike Jenkins still in the Southland team?”
Peter Anderson was always a prominent performer at the gatherings of the Star Club. A capable after dinner speaker he invariably opened his remarks by holding up a sheet of paper which allegedly was a telegram just received from the Prime Minister at the time and congratulated Star on their splendid game that particular day and went on to say all sorts of things that Peter made up as he went along.
A lot of the Star forwards of those days were employed by the Crescent firms in their wool stores and as my duties with one of the mercantile firms took me round the wool and grain stores quite a lot, I got to know these splendid fellows quite well. As I grew older and played senior football myself I received much sound counsel and good advice from many of these old hands who were always willing to pass on their knowledge and experience to those who cared to listen.
The Old “Brits”
Another club that was strong and though only once won the premiership they were always a menace and liable to upset calculations at any time. They too had some splendid players. The Purdue brothers, Charlie and Pat, who both gained All Black honours. Ned Hughes (another All Black), Tom Pasco, Powell Gutzweitz, and Bill Myers.
Peter Fraser was a splendid half back who represented Southland for many years and Artie Reid who at the peak of his form was worthy of any All Black team as he was a capable centre or wing threequarter. His strong point was potting goals and he won many a match for his club by safely piloting the ball over the crossbar at the most unexpected times.
There was also Bunk Hanna and Clarrie Maley who together with Bill Ball and Herk Crowther completed a very capable back team. The late Alex Derbie also used to play for the Brits about this time, and an earlier player of repute was Peter Ward who later represented Auckland and New South Wales.
The only other club in the competition in the early days was Invercargill (Blues) who, though not particularly strong at that time, always managed to put up a good game with a surprise victory thrown in now and again.
The Waikiwi and Winton clubs joined the senior ranks later, followed by Athletic (later Marist Club) The Blues club in the early days produced many Southland representatives and I can recall Harry Tressider, Jack and Charlie Martin, The Todd brothers and Harold Royds being worthy players. But my best recollection of this old club was some years later when names like Bass Basstion, Tom Brown, Hori Laing, Don Campbell, Peachey Reynolds and C. B. Tapley were familiar. Dave Morton and Reg Christophers were two other players who rendered yeoman service for Blues.
Waikiwi, Winton and Athletic
Mainstays of the Waikiwi Club were Alex and Jim McNeece ably supported by the Fraser brothers, the Gardiner brothers, Bill Harris, Bot Keady, “Stiffy” Bourchier, Wattie Broad, Rupert Pyle and the Fordes.
The Winton club also worked up a strong team from time to time and Billy Cowie, Jack Dunbar, Harry Raines, Harry Pearce, Tommy Muir, the Knight brothers, Archie and Bill Lindsay were names to conure with.
About this time the Athletic Club was seeking senior status and they had a very clever and fast team for many years. Their backs were very pacy and players like Jim Crawford, Chook Morton, Tommy Kane, the Grace brothers and Phil Hurley took a power of stopping. Ticky Ward who later was a barber in Winton, played half-back for a number of years. I can’t remember many of the forwards but Pat Scully and Adam Maher are two names that come to mind.
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