Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 54, September 2010
(by Graham Watton)
While the Netherton Rugby Football Club has not fielded a team for the past 31 years in local competition there has been a small band of members who have met annually to review the club's assets, mainly a bank term deposit and allocate the interest received to the Paeroa Primary School Rugby Union, the Paeroa St John Ambulance and Rugby Referees' Association.
The Netherton Club was founded in 1910, when a team of the local residents met and played a Paeroa team in the August of that year. The next season Netherton entered teams into the senior and junior competitions organised by the Paeroa Rugby Union.
One of those who has been at the forefront of guiding the club to 100th anniversary, is Phill Hill and it was he and a handful of former club players who organised a function on June 12 last in the Ohinemuri Club to mark the occasion. At the end of June a meeting of members was held to windup the club and distributed its assets.
When the Netherton team first came on the rugby scene in Paeroa there were three other clubs, West, East and Suburbs (Hikutaia-Komata). After a second season of competition play, 1912, Netherton disappeared from playing fields. The First World War saw competitive club rugby go into recess with mostly junior and some veteran games played.
By 1920 the rugby had come out of its enforced recess and so did the Netherton club by entering teams in the Paeroa Rugby Union's competition. The club was one of four clubs from Paeroa which formed the inaugural Thames Valley Rugby Union in 1922 comprising the unions of Paeroa, Waihi, Te Aroha and Hauraki Plains.
The club was to play a prominent part in local rugby through to 1927, when it again fell on hard times and went into recess. However, in 1930, the club was back on the scene joining West, Hikutaia Combined and Suburbs (Komata). The East club did not field a team and in 1933 disbanded.
In 1933 Netherton fielded senior and junior teams, but the next season there was only a junior side which won the Paeroa sub-union's knock-out competition and this success was followed by the junior championship in 1935. Following the 1936 season, when there were senior and junior teams, the club went into recess again. Then came the Second World War and with many of the players entering the armed services competition play was abandoned.
The war over, Paeroa club rugby recommenced in the winter of 1945 and the West club, which had played in black and white hooped jerseys, changing colours to blue and gold hoops for the next two seasons.
Pre-war Netherton played in red and black hoops, but on their return in 1947 the club took the blue and gold hoops and West went back to their original colours, white and black.
With the demise of the United club in 1949, there were just two senior teams in Paeroa, Netherton and West. These teams joined with Waihi sub-unions teams for an expanded club competition in 1950.
This competition was extended in 1952 to take in the Te Aroha sub-union, to make a six-team competition: Netherton and West from Paeroa; Combined and Katikati from Waihi; Waihou and United from Te Aroha.
The Hauraki Plains and Thames clubs joined forces in this season and the winners of each competition played off for the McClinchy Cup, the winner of which was the champion club in the Thames Valley.
The Paeroa Old Boys Club was formed in 1950, with a third grade team. This side won the third grade competition in 1951 and 1952 and next season, 1953, was promoted to the junior grade where they repeated successive championship wins in 1953 and 1954.
In 1955 Paeroa Old Boys entered a senior team in the inter-town competition, but were met by stiff opposition from both Netherton and West. The opposition was based on there not being enough senior players for three teams and entry to the present six team competition would create a bye.
There were a few acrimonious debates at the Paeroa sub-union meetings, on the streets and the hotels. Meanwhile, in Waihi there was unrest within the Combined side—the "marriage" of Matarua and Waihi HSOB did not work out. A compromise was reached with Combined splitting back into its original clubs, Matarua and High School Old Boys, and this gave the opening needed for Paeroa Old Boys to gain senior status.
There was considerable feeling among the rugby fraternity in Paeroa and when West and Old Boys met in their first clash there was the largest crowd of spectators seen for many a season at the Paeroa Domain. West just headed Old Boys by 5 points (converted try) to 3 (a penalty).
A couple of weeks later it was Netherton and Old Boys and again there was large support for both teams. This game ended 9 points all (3 penalties each).
Netherton continued to field senior, junior and third grade teams through into the 1960s, when the club was among the inaugural 12 club teams which made up the Thames Valley wide club competition.
By 1965 Netherton was down to one senior team and then after the next season 1966, went into recess again.
A group of young players got together in 1970, and formed a third grade team. They entered the Netherton club in the Thames Valley third grade competition. The side then moved up to the junior grade and in the 1976 season played in the senior B competition. However, players moved on and it was back to the third grade and finally 1977 saw the last Netherton team take the field.
However, the club stalwarts kept the Netherton club's name going by appointing trustees to look after the club's assets just in case there was another chance to take the field. However, this did not happen as the numbers playing the game at club level started to fall away.
The trustees met annually and donated money from the interest earned on investments to the primary school rugby Union, referees association and St John Ambulance.
Finally, in November last year, the trustees agreed to mark the 100 years of the founding of the club with a dinner followed later by an special meeting to wind-up the club and distribute the assets.
A member of the organising committee, Dave Rawlins, welcomed some 140 former players and their partners to function held on June 12 last in the Ohinemuri Club. They spent a happy few hours renewing acquaintances, talking over old rugby times and, in particular. the memories of the Netherton club.
Doug Mold recalled a few of his experiences during his playing years, with one bringing back memories of the conditions players endured in those far off years. He recalled the club's field on Morrison's paddock on the corner of State Highway 2 and Awaiti Road intersection.
"There was often some problems with cow pats, the playing surface was a little rough, and when we finished there were no hot showers, just quick wash in the cow trough, change in an open shed, and then into the Criterion Hotel, our club rooms. Today's players would not like those days," he quipped.
"And the day we closed the ground. It was a Sunday morning we took down the goal posts, adjourned for a couple of beers, and then took the empties back to the Criterion about midday. The next week Constable Brown said to me: "You chaps took some time to get those empties back to the hotel on Sunday, it was late afternoon when you all left!"
A special centennial cake was cut by Jock McMillan, the oldest player present, his time went back to the days when Netherton regrouped in 1947.
Netherton had several players who went on to represent Thames Valley. Tom Johnson was in the inaugural Thames Valley side in 1922, and went on to play in 1923 and 1925, 6 games in all.
Others were: Gordon Fisher, 1923 (1 game); James Moloney, 1925 (1); Ron Dickson, 1948-49 (4); Rex Finlay, 1950 (3); Max Morrison, 1951-54 (20), Herb Rowley, 1951 (4) also Wanganui, All Black, 1949, North Auckland; Rhodes Wallace, 1952 (1) also Waitakaruru, (total 2 games); Bruce Lowry, 1953 (1) also Paeroa Old Boys 1957-58, Thames HSOB 1959 (1) total 12 games; Bud Bloor, 1957 (1); Arthur Mold, (1); Doug Mold, 1957-64 (49) and 15 tries, also Thames Valley-Bay of Plenty v British Lions, 1959; Jack Schuler, 1958 (1); John Hodge, 1965 (5) also Mercury Bay United 1958, Plains South 1959,Thames HSOB 1960-61, Paeroa West 1966-77, total 140 games, captain Thames Valley-Counties v British Lions, 1971.
Of the above players Rhodes Wallace, Arthur Mold, Doug Mold and Jack Schuler were present at the centenary function.
Pride of place among the team photographs was one of the original 1910 team, while the original blazer was on display.
When the gavel was struck for the last time to close the wind-up meeting on June 28 last, the curtain came down on another of the old rugby clubs in Thames Valley. Those who were involved can justly feel proud of their club and they have many fond memories.