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His other brother, Jack Crooks, raced a great steeplechaser in Mandeville, from Ted Pankhurst's stable. The popular gelding won the 1953 Homeby Steeples, and the 1954 Lincoln Steeples, ridden in both wins by Henry Skinner.
Punters will well remember Bright Bridge, raced by Jack in partnership with Jim Sycamore. The Edenbridge gelding beat Believe Me and Princess Mellay's dam, Princess Ermine, in the 1958 Southern Champion Hack Handicap at Riverton and paid 106/5/6 pounds to win. The following year he won the Riverton Cup and paid 34/7/6 pounds.
Bert Crooks, two nephews, Owen Crooks and Robert Crooks, have extensive standardbred interests. Owen operated the Adios Stud from Waituna and Long Bush quarters and now stands three sires on another Long Bush farm, as well as having training and driving commitments
Robert was the part-owner of the fine racing mare, Smooth Over.
Bert Crooks was not old enough to have his driving licence when he joined his brothers at 16 to cart gravel and he vividly recalls taking gravel from Oreti Beach when the Invercargill Airport was being built in 1939.
Senior Traffic Officers looked side ways at him and the union officials were not greatly impressed as he was not old enough to join the Drivers Union. Bert stayed at this job for 15 years and along with his brothers bought land where the Calvary Hospital is now situated in Centre Street in 1946. On October 1st 1949 the Crooks brothers bought 1,000 acres at Long Bush and 4 years later acquired his current home block.
250 acres at Mabel Bush was the next of his family's buys and and more recently Bert bought a 250 acre property at Rolleston, Christchurch, managed by Mervyn Jordan, who has been in his employment for many years. Only last year he and his family acquired a 112 acre farm next door. The breaking in and developing of his land has always been a challenge for Bert and the late Bill Hazlett, sought his assistant to drain and develop a big part of his land of the Chelandry Block at Taramoa. Bert had his own plant and able men and after five years of laying extensive open drains, the waterlogged expanse was mastered. Trees were bulldozed out and burnt as part of the demanding exercise. The Southland Catchment Board also helped in the development of the land.
Bert maintains that he learnt a lot in this era from Mr Hazlett about horses, as he was a great judge of stock.
Mr Crooks will never forget as a Rugby Southland representative, front row in 1948. He suffered a broken jaw due to a spirited encounter with the tough Canterbury side. His replacement was Jack Boyle, nowadays the Canterbury Racing correspondent for the Southland Times.
Bert represented Southland again the following year and in 1950 played for Winton when he and his brothers restructuring the Winton-Limehills road. He joined up with his old club, Invercargill Marist in 1952/53 captaining this as well as the Southland Team. He coached the 1956 Marist second grade team to win in 1956. In 1962 he coached the Old Boy's seniors to win the Galbraith Shield - an achievement he fondly looks back on. They were a first class bunch of fellows he recalls as they werent really a great side but had tremendous team spirit with chaps like, Ray Moreton, Ken Borland, Norm Cuff, Jim Loudon, John Turnbull, Bob Holloway and Don Sinclair. Dr Neil Prentice, president of the club was one of the finest personalities he has met in rugby. Bert was successful again in the winning of the 1979 Galbraith Shield with Marist. He is thrilled with the showing of Woodland seniors who have climbed from bottom to be in the first four this season.
Living next door to Woodlands it has given me an enjoyable interest and I am proud of their effort in one year. The team has character and potential.
He still has a soft spot for the Marist 1948 team, who won the Galbraith Sheild and was captained by the late Jack McRae, a former vice-president of the Southland Racing Club. Bert has no intention to of giving up Rugby coaching as he gets so much pleasure from it.
There is nothing wrong with the youth of today, I have found that they will always respond to proper guidance. Attitude he says is everything, young men have to be motivated and encouraged and nearly everything else will follow.
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