Garage ‘gems’ shed light.
1905-06 photos fit jigsaw puzzle
Ross Shield Rugby
WHEN grandma Erinore Mahony was shifting recently she found a cluster of old rugby photographs in a box in the garage of her former Napier home.
“It could go into somebody’s archives,” Mahony thought to herself before contacting Hawke’s Bay Today last month to see if it could do some investigation considering the Ross Shield tournament was on and two of the photographs were pertaining to the schoolboy event.
As it turned out, little did camera-shy Mahony know that the two shield photos would provide invaluable pieces to paint a more vivid picture of a jigsaw dating back to the turn of last century.
Enter Errol Hantz, a shield secretary since 1984, who shed some light on the significance of the Marist Brothers (Napier) photos from 1905-06.
The archives show Marist Brothers (Napier) won the inaugural and following year titles from 1902-03 but there were no competitions from 1904-05.
However, the recent findings suggest otherwise – Marist Brothers (Napier) had a stranglehold on the shield for perhaps six years in a row before losing it to Woodville District School in 1908.
“We always claimed Catholic boys cheated but that’s because they were so good,” says Hantz, of Hastings, who will happily forward the 1905-06 photos, complete with “good Catholic names” such as Garry O’Rourke, Neil McCarton and Soc O’Connor, to be archived.
Bay rugby historian Frank Long found a photo of the 1902-03 Marist Brothers (Napier) team while clearing the cupboards in the back rooms of the McKenzie Stand before it was demolished at McLean Park, Napier, but no names are inscribed on the cardboard mount of what is presumed to be the original winners of the “Schools Challenge Shield” that JR Ross presented in 1903.
Hantz says in those days they were “pretty big boys” who played late into their teens because not everyone passed stringent matriculation examinations at school.
“As long as you were in primary school you could play and age didn’t matter,” says the 73-year-old former principal/ teacher of Twyford School, Hastings Intermediate, Hastings Central, Flemington and the now defunct Waitahora School.
A former Marewa School pupil himself, Hantz harboured dreams of playing Ross Shield but didn‘t realise it.
“I was too small. I trained with the players but didn’t make Ross Shield,” he says, admittedly disappointed considering his parents took a billet from Taupo when he was 9-years-old and they lived in Napier.
“He was a Maori boy who left me a fountain pen as a gift but I don’t remember his name.”
That didn’t stop Hantz from getting involved as a teacher in an era “when everyone got into a committee of some sort”.
It started for him in Dannevirke and Central Hawke’s Bay before the late Bill Mathewson in 1984 appointed him secretary in Hastings.
Later on the Beach 5s and Barefoot 7s were the products of such organisation and so was the Junior Magpies magazine that eventually stopped because of a dearth of advertising.
“They make you jump through so many hoops now for funding,” he says, fondly recalling the kerfuffle when the tourney secured Wattie’s sponsorship in the 1970s amid groans from the public that the deal “had sold rugby”.
“I remember Bill [Mathewson] saying. ‘I’d rather see you guys organising rugby, not sitting outside selling raffle tickets’.” says Hantz, emphasising it was the norm to see people selling tickets at parks and fans dipping into their pockets.
The ex-Taradale club player, who attended Napier Boys’ High School, says it all simply came down to a Mathewson and Ray Wattie handshake.
Photo caption – FALLING INTO PLACE: Errol Hantz with the 1905-06 Ross Shield photos (also insets) he gleefully received to help complete the jigsaw puzzle of the schoolboys’ tourney that has been running for more than 100 years in Hawke‘s Bay. PHOTOS/DUNCAN BROWN.