Teacher never bowed out, on or off field
By Lawrence Gullery
In true Colin Meads style, halfback Owen Hutchinson ordered his first-five and future brother-in-law to hold his wrist so he could wriggle his “popped arm” back into its socket and continue playing, without any talk of leaving the field.
This story was one in a number shared by family and friends of Mr Hutchinson, a well-known Hawke’s Bay sporting identity, who died a week ago today.
About 600 people attended his service at Hastings Boys’ High School on Saturday, where he worked as a teacher for more than two decades. Many had come to honour his extensive service to the Hawke’s Bay rugby and bowls community.
It was in the early 1960s when Mr Hutchinson was playing senior rugby for Havelock North. He had struck up a good partnership playing at halfback with first-five Colin Shanley. “His shoulder popping out was a regular occurrence.
The first time it happened, St Johns put it right and then he latched on to how they had fixed it,” Mr Shanley said.
“So I used to hold his wrist and then he would move his shoulder and shake it a bit until it went back into place, and then away he’d go again. It happened more than once and it was just part of the act.”
Mr Hutchinson’s cousin, Maitland Manning from Otane, read the eulogy on Saturday and said the “shoulder popping” incident was on par with All Black great Colin Meads playing a test match with a broken arm.
“This is real stuff, they were tough men in those days, you didn’t go off unless you were seriously crook.”
Mr Hutchinson was born in 1939 and attended Parkvale Primary School and later Hastings High School.
He studied at teachers’ training college and worked in schools around Hastings before serving for 15 years at Otaumauri [Otamauri] School, near the Napier-Taihape Rd.
He then began what was to be a 26-year stint at Hastings Boys’ High School, where he initially taught economics and English and then went on to establish a night school. “He built it up to the stage where it became a full-time job looking after the night school, and he really did a good job of helping to educate the people of Hastings, not only in technical skills but in the arts and crafts as well,” Mr Manning said.
“It became one of the best night techs around.”
Mr Hutchinson’s love for rugby was a big part of his life outside of his work with the school.
He was a former Ross Shield player and a junior Hawke’s Bay representative player.
He played club rugby for Hastings Old Boys and then Havelock North. In 1966, he finished playing and took on refereeing as a way to give back to the sport, a job he fulfilled until 1987, earning life membership to the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Referees Association.
“He was so meticulous, he kept a complete record of all the games he refereed.
“It’s got every date, the teams who played, the score, and if there was something unusual he’d put some commentary there,” Mr Manning said.
“It’s a list of some 455 games of his career. The notebook will go back to the family but I really hope it does go to a museum one day because it shows a total dedication of one man to his craft.”
Mr Hutchinson refereed many provincial games, charity games and one international between Hawke’s Bay and a visiting New South Wales side.
“The original referee of the game was injured and so Owen had to come on for the rest of the game. The great part about that was when the New South Wales team got home, they said in their local papers that the referee they respected the most was Owen Hutchinson from Hawke’s Bay,” Mr Manning said.
Mr Shanley went along to watch that particular game, where the crowd suggested he go down to the field in case “Owen needed his arm popped back in” while refereeing.
When Mr Hutchinson finished refereeing, his knowledge and experience in the craft was used to help train and select new referees coming through the system.
In the late 1980s, Mr Hutchinson became more involved in bowls and set up the popular business house competition at the Kia Toa Bowls Club in Hastings, a project he helped organise for more than 20 years.
“The business house competition was hugely successful and he put in hours of planning into it,” Mr Maitland said.
Mr Hutchinson and his wife, Barbara, were married for 49 years and had three children, John, Mark and Louise, who was also a former Hawke’s Bay representative rugby player.
While his focus was on bowls in the later part of life, Mr Hutchinson kept a watching brief on the performance of referees locally and internationally. In 2007 he spent a month in Britain attending Rugby World Cup matches and was looking forward to watching World Cup games in New Zealand this year.
He also had plans to watch his grandson, Anaru Kupa, play in the Hastings West Ross Shield team which went on to win the competition in Dannevirke last week.
Mr Hutchinson’s work and dedication to rugby and bowls was recognised in 2009 when he received a civic award for services to sport from the Hastings District Council.
Mr Maitland and Mr Shanley said the award was a fitting tribute to a man who had dedicated so much time to helping people in sport.
“Not many people are so committed for such a long period of time and it was a great reward for someone who had done exceptionally well,” Mr Shanley said.
“It was a sad occasion on Saturday but everyone felt relaxed in that we had some time to reflect on Owen’s life.”
Photo caption – DEDICATED: Owen Hutchinson.