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A Short History

- by life member Peter Jack

It was in 1965 that Dick Evans, QSM - now patron and life member - decided to officially start the Wellington Rugby Supporters Club (WRSC). He got ideas for its formation from his friend Arfon Roberts of the Llanelli Supporters Club in Wales and the clubs that Dick visited on his first All Black tour of the UK in 1963-64.

Dick and his band of supporters had been on many trips - mostly Ranfurly Shield games - and it was the Taranaki Challenge on 14th August 1965 that was to be the first official away trip of the WRSC as a group. September 7th of that year at Athletic Park saw the birth of the first "Leo the Lion". The costume was made by Mrs Mary Seaton of Johnsonville, who was well known for the costumes she made for the New Zealand Ballet School. We have since had four or five suits made. Leo, with some of the Wellington supporters, did an act with the Taranaki mascot Ferdinand the Bull before the main game, much to the delight of the crowd.

In 1969, along with a special welcome for the visiting Welsh team, Arfon Roberts of the Llanelli RSC presented the club with a beautiful "Player of the Year" trophy at the Wellington town hall along with many Welsh and Local supporters including Billy Wallace (All Black). The first player of the year presentation went to the late Ken Gray.

From this noble beginning we saw Dennis Young start the Canterbury Supporters Club soon after, and now there are supporters clubs all over New Zealand. The club saw its first clubroom built in 1976 with voluntary labour. These rooms were formerly an old classroom from Wellington South Intermediate School across the road and was purchased for $30.00. It was dismantled and rebuilt with the help of Dick Evans, Ray Hoare, Bill Hammond, John Morrisey, Mike Pakuraku, Albie and Peter Jack, Gary Amies, Lyn Piggot, Helen Young, Christine Tremain and others that I can't remember. The WRSC hosted the first national conference of supporters clubs in 1979 which was held in St Francis Hall in Hill Street Thorndon.

In 1982 the club was the first to have a Cheer Leaders Squad. It was in 1984 that the second clubrooms built around the old one, and the present or late clubrooms are still standing and they are being used as a site office for the Athletic Park retirement village.

Over the years the club has helped the rugby code in many ways with pre match parades, receptions for visiting teams, the Miss Wellington Rugby contests, the rugby club sprints, after match functions, Player of the Day awards and numerous trips away with Leo the Lion to representative games. The WRSC also helped - and still does - with donations to schoolboy and underprivileged boys' rugby for gear and other amenities.

We also have helped raise money for St John Ambulance Ngatai Poneke Marae, Christmas parades, Crippled Children, and a host of other children's organisations - not to forget winning NPC Parades. The WRSC always had on its side the WRFU personnel who with the likes of Liaison Officer Vince Piana (the first), Don Bond, Jack Oldershaw, and of course, of late, David Gray, Don Barrett and at present Peter Crook, and those like Patron Tom Coltman, Tom Morrison, Ivan Vodanovich, Eddie Tonks, Ken Dentice, David Ogilvy and others.

Today we still have a strong bond with our Union, Coaches and Team Managers who always endeavour to get the teams back to the clubrooms for the Player of the Day awards. The legacy of the supporters club is as strong today as it ever was with the likes of President Gavin Holmes and Chairman Graham McGuire, and a supporting committee.

Copyright © Wellington Rugby Supporters Inc