has been added.
A new decade saw a new committee introduced under president Bruce Blackett. His deputy was Dave Murray and his 'team' comprised Don McLean, secretary Kim Corbett and treasurer Harold Wrightson. The new club captain was Bryan Sharp with Ron McQuinlan taking over the junior boys chairmanship. The union delegates were Dave McFadzien (senior), Tracy Watson (grades) and Pat Heath (junior boys).
Grade teams made their mark, with the fifth grade side, coached by Bill Goldsmith, managed by Kim Corbett and captained by Neil Wylie, winning the championship. Within this team were a bracket of famous Northcote 'names' - John Driver (son of George), Peter Ziegler (son of juniors coach John), Bruce Craies (son of Bryan), Paul Robertson (son of Bruce), Steve Corbett (son of Kim) and Stuart Menzies (son of committeeman and bar manager of the 1970s, Ian).
The team celebrated its success with a trip to Mt Ruapehu. The third grade team, coached by Rick Hansen and Hugh Arblaster and managed by Michael Meechan, was also extremely competitive. The team featured New Zealand schools and Auckland under-18 rep Rex O'Brien, along with Graham McKean, Rod McLeod, Stu Forester, John Trimble, Graham Lynch and Moli Feo up front and Barney Eva, Sean Corbett, John Atkinson, John O'Brien and Nicky Trimble in the backs. The second grade team, the Gnomes (whose weight restriction was 75 kg), was awarded the Bill Cooper Defence Cup after finishing runner-up in the competition. Russell Maloney coached the team, assisted by Kerry Coleman. The captains were Dave Sargent and Simon Williamson. The medico was Fred Sargent who had coached many of the boys as juniors.
Ian Menzies was another who made his mark running the bar. He too gave his services voluntarily, as a consequence of which the facility made money. This was in the pre licensing days and, as in all other clubs, to get a beer you had to purchase tickets which were exchanged for beer and/or spirits. No money was allowed to cross the bar.
Grahame and Dot Pleasants got the 12th grade White team through unbeaten and Maurice Hartley and Harry Russell took the 15th grade team to the 10-a-side finals.
All Black Brad Johnstone was the speaker at a father-and son evening.
It was in 1980 that the Northcote junior boys began the switch to maroon shorts, the seniors having changed in 1974. Bill Robertson gave his time free of charge to purchase the material and help make the shorts.
A Japanese team, Fukuoka Kusagae Young Ruggers, played our 16th grade team at the Waitemata club grounds.
Ken Parry, a powerful prop, played six matches for Auckland in 1980, no mean achievement given that he was competing for his place with All Blacks Brad Johnstone, the captain, and Greg Burgess. Parry had first played for Auckland in 1979.
Bruce Blackett was re-elected president in 1981, the year when rugby enthusiasts found themselves in often violent conflict with protestors during the Springbok tour. The Northcote clubrooms were not patrolled but various individuals made themselves available to protect Eden Park in the lead-up to the test at Eden Park.
Like the nation itself, factions developed within Northcote, many supporting the tour and others vehemently opposing it. On the day of the Eden Park test (12 September) some staunch clubmen, including Bruce Blackett and Greg McEwen, elected to remain at the club. They supervised the departure of the buses and prepared the clubrooms for the others' return. It was unheard of that staunch Northcote members would not attend a rugby test in their own city but there was no animosity towards members who chose to take that moral stand.
Bryan Sharp became club captain with Rum Runner John Wildermoth his assistant. Ron McQuinlan took over the junior boys chair. The union delegates were Dave McFadzien (senior), Tracy Watson (grades) and Pat Heath (junior boys). Kim Corbett was appointed the first full-time secretary manager although Jim Smithson had been employed in the late seventies as a club manager (possibly the first paid rugby club manager in New Zealand). Jim's association had come out of the 1976 fundraising drive. He was head-hunted from Te Papapa and was given a two-year contract which was subsequently extended.
Jim was unrivalled when it came to pub raffles. 'Six chooks, six draws for a dollar,' he offered. Who could resist him? Chop per pigs was another of his specialties. He would buy them six at a time and knock them all off over a weekend at the club. Jim was great value to Northcote but eventually moved on to College Rifles, leaving great systems and a wealth of enthusiasm behind him.
Tracy Watson resigned as grade delegate through ill health and was replaced by Dave Barr, who had managed the fifth grade championship team in 1978, the fourth grade team in 1979 and the third grade gold side in 1980.
Birkenhead RSA voted to remain where they were after considering the club's proposals at a special meeting.
'Snow' White was elected a life member of the Auckland Rugby Union, a worthy recognition for someone who had given phenomenal service to Northcote and Auckland rugby. It was decided that the junior boys committee would be responsible for their own accounts, effective from 1 October 1981.
What were they spending their subs on, one may ask?
At a Birkenhead City Council meeting on 27 July 1982 it was agreed that the club's solicitor should consult with the council's solicitor to expedite a satisfactory lease on the building so that a permit could be issued forthwith. Objections to the lease came from the Birkenhead Resident's Association, the All Saints Scout Group, the Birkenhead RSA and two local residents living on Recreation Drive.
Any association with South Africa was still a delicate issue, so vigilante patrols were recruited from many clubs to guard Eden Park prior to the Wallabies test. Northcote volunteers did their bit.
Television New Zealand produced a documentary on Hiwi Tauroa who was the New Zealand Race Relations Conciliator as well as Northcote's senior coach. The club featured prominently in the programme which was screened on TV1.
A cup was presented to the Eden Rugby Club to commemorate its jubilee year, to be contested between the two clubs. Although Eden generally ranked below Northcote in the competition, it specialised in upset victories.
The fifth grade, coached by Bill 'Maori' Goldsmith and captained by Neil Wylie, won the Auckland championship, an outstanding achievement. Kim Corbett managed this team. It should be recorded that the team photo, as published in the 50th jubilee publication, identified one Ian Menzies. Ian had long retired and it was his son Stuart who played for and contributed mightily to the crack team.
If the fifths were the stars, the 10th restricted grade gold team, coached by Vince Sturmey and John Donovan, also fared well, qualifying for the ARU championship.
The formation of the North Harbour union was still a couple of years away when 1983 rolled around, but the embryonic union was already into staging knockout tournaments. And Northcote fared uncommonly well in the first year these were held, winning two titles, sharing another and reaching the final in two others.
The 1983 season was a notable one for the seniors, a young and exciting team blessed with an abundance of talent from front to back. Grammar, Suburbs, Takapuna, Otahuhu, Marist and Waitemata were all disposed of and when the Auckland Colts were selected, Northcote was represented by first-five Paul Feeney, second-five Brent Cohen, centre Alan Johnston, wingers Terry Wright and Glen Menzies and prop Ron Williams.
Northcote was high profile with the media and received 'star billing' throughout the season, appearing in the feature game on Eden Park on no fewer than five occasions. The clubrooms at Stafford Park were bulging at the seams.
The seniors eventually finished fifth in the Gallaher Shield competition, the best achieved in the club's history.
Northcote participated in the Taupiri sevens tournament where, in a semifinal, Terry Wright crash-tackled Dean Shelford and broke his leg. Northcote lost narrowly in the final to Fiji Hyatt, duly receiving an invitation to the Fiji sevens which in those days was the most prestigious sevens tournament in the world. Northcote performed with distinction, losing in the semifinals to the eventual winner.
From that fine team of '83, Wright and Williams became All Blacks, Feeney became the kingpin in North Harbour's rise from NPC third division to first division, Wayne Pivac went on to play more than 50 games for North Harbour, as did Jim Thompson and Richard Kapa, while Bob Bower, Graham McKean, Mick Sweetman and Nick Trimble all be came club centurions.
Don Clark retired as coach after 1984 but was lured back by another club stalwart, Pat Heath, to select and coach the North Harbour under-17 team for a one-off game against Australia (which had gone five years without defeat). Clark and Heath's team won 15-3, creating history as the first North Harbour team to win an international fixture.
The 19th grade team, Northcote's youngest and smallest, beat Takapuna 36-28 in the final while the 17th grade team took Takapuna apart 24-nil.
Scoring was a problem in the 13th grade final where Northcote and East Coast Bays drew a thriller nil-all. In the ninth grade final Northcote went down 8-6 to East Coast Bays while the 12th grade team lost its final 22-nil to Takapuna.
Terry Wright's introduction to the Auckland rep team in 1984 owed more than a little bit to the inventiveness of Northcote coach Don Clark. Having been in contact with various Auckland players, Clark knew coach John Hart was looking for a left winger.
So when Hart telephoned him, Clark assured the Auckland coach that Wright was a natural left winger. 'l have been playing him on the right wing, 'said Clark, 'but as soon as circumstances allow, I will move him back to the left wing.' Hart's response was one of relief and he told Clark that he would indeed play Terry on the left wing in the upcoming game against King Country.
Clark then telephoned Wright to alert him to the impending call and to ensure he gave Hart the right answer. 'Make sure you tell him you're a left winger!'
History records that Wright achieved a record 27 points on his debut against King Country and went on to score 112 tries for Auckland...as a left winger, of course!
A Northcote team participated in the Fiji sevens tournament sponsored by Air New Zealand.
The dub captain in 1983 was Mark Jakich, the junior boys dub captain was Don Sattler and the secretary Kim Corbett. Life member Vince Paltridge and junior boys coach Stu Wilson passed away.
The 10th grade team won the 10-a-side championship and took out the ARU's most sought-after prize, the Bert Palmer Trophy. And in a year in which the club recorded a stunning profit of $105,000, the 11th grade team coached by Paul Lochore and John Chesney won its championship. This was a significant result, for they remain the last team from the North Shore to win an Auckland union title.
John Hart needed a new left winger for his Auckland team and selected 21-year-old Terry Wright from Northcote, and what a sensation he proved to be. He scored 27 points on debut (against King Country) and in that first season ran in 19 tries, eclipsing the Auckland record that had survived for 56 years. His greatest haul was five tries against Manawatu. It was generally expected Terry would be sacrificed when John Kirwan returned from the All Black tour of Australia, but JK suffered a serious shoulder injury that put him out for the year, and so Terry became a permanent fixture in the side for 10 seasons!
Terry, the son of Harvey and Pat, had played and excelled through the junior grades for Northcote. Unfortunately, circumstances would take him across the bridge to Auckland Marist and it was from there, and not Northcote, he would win international selection.
The first stage of the new clubrooms was completed in 1984 and a start made on the gymnasium.
The club was represented by 28 teams (nine senior, one grade and 18 junior boys) with a team again competing in the Fiji sevens tournament.
Life member Florence Robertson passed away.
The 1985 season was a landmark one for rugby enthusiasts across the bridge because it marked the introduction of North Harbour as New Zealand rugby's 27th and newest union.
With Peter Thorburn coaching and the legendary Buck Shelford as captain, North Harbour made an instant impact, winning the NPC third division and, with it, promotion to the second division.
Three Northcote players featured in all 11 matches in that memorable inaugural year - prop Ron Williams and locks Neil Bower and Wayne Pivac (who would go on to achieve fame as a coach). Others from the club to win representative selection that year were Richard Kapa and Jim Thompson.
The new union was met with mixed feelings by the club. Bruce Blackett was extremely positive about the creation of North Harbour but some of the players could see benefits in staying with Auckland.
'Snow' White was proud of his Northcote/Auckland association and was outspoken in his objection to the new union. He, along with a group of past and present players, had come close to causing a major hiccup late in 1984, initiating a petition to be presented to the NZRFU designed to preserve Northcote under the Auckland banner. Some frank discussions behind the scenes resulted in all but one of the players with drawing their signatures.
It was not just North Harbour that was in the news in 1985 but Northcote as well, for in March, Birkenhead's MP Jim McLay, the Leader of the Opposition, officially opened Northcote's fabulous new clubrooms.
The new building represented a community facility for the people of Northcote and Birkenhead. It contained a bright, comfortable lounge, and dining and social facilities for sports men and supporters to meet and relax.
It also contained a gymnasium suitable for modern dance, jazzercise and weightlifting. Linking with this facility was a sauna, plunge pool and men's and women's showers.
For rugby, five separate team changing rooms were located with direct access to the Harvey Wright Field.
The building was designed, in collaboration with the club, by Pepper and Dixon Architects of Takapuna. Statistically, the upstairs comprised 573 square metres and downstairs 712 square metres. The public lounge and dining area was licensed for 400 people.
President Bruce Blackett declared that the Northcote Birkenhead community now had a facility equal to, if not better than, any other of its type in the country. It has been made possible, he said, by the total support of the Birkenhead City Council plus some very generous discounts by companies and individuals, not to mention the thousands of hours of voluntary labour from club members.'
He said planning for the new complex had begun over 10 years ago, the club having outgrown the overcrowded old clubrooms in Nelson Avenue which had been in use for 50 years. A dinner at the Gumdiggers restaurant to launch the fundraising raised $60,000 and the club came up with a unique debenture scheme that brought in $115,000 from club members. Fundraising has continued over 10 years to raise the $700,000 necessary to complete the project.
He said the total cost would have exceeded $1 million had it not been for the tremendous amount of voluntary labour.
Club finances were in reasonable shape considering the amount invested in the new clubrooms, but high interest rates were a concern. A strict control on expenses was introduced with the club having an indebtedness to the bank of$291,000. The official opening of the new clubrooms took place on 24 March 1985 with three games being played, the feature match being between Northcote and Grammar.
Dream Merchant Waterbeds was the senior and grades sponsor with the juniors being sponsored by Morgan Brothers Ltd.
The formation of a women's committee on 2 May was a notable development.
Newspaper headlines early in 1986 revealed that the club still needed $10,000 to pay for work done on the No 2 ground extension in preparation for the autumn sowing. It was also revealed that the fill at one end of the ground was 70ft deep! The club came up with a novel fundraising scheme to pay for the work, a Pick the Score competition in which entrants had to select the score of the Northcote senior team and its opposition on the day. The competition ran for 10 weeks.
The highlight of 1986 was the Restricted team winning the club's first North Harbour championship title, beating Takapuna in the final. Played at Hato Petera College in torrential rain that began falling on cue at the sound of the opening whistle, Northcote got home 3-nil.
The 1976 world touring party staged its 10-year reunion at the clubrooms in October. They had a get-together at Solly's on the Friday evening; on the Saturday they put together a team to take on the President's XV at Harvey Wright Field and that evening attended the reunion dinner.
Richard Kapa scored six tries for the North Harbour reps, taking the field in 13 of the 16 matches. Ron Williams made 15 appearances, Jim Thompson 10 and Neil Bower seven.
The club's kitchen was started by Clive Turner in 1987 and became a thriving addition to Northcote's facilities. Smorgasbord dinners on Friday became extremely popular serving as many as 105 meals in one night.
The dub helped with the Golden Oldies Festival, hosting the Crippled Crows from Adelaide and a team from Heidelberg in Germany. Keen drinkers, they pushed bar takings to an in credible $50,000 over one weekend, $60,000 for the fortnight. The famous Heidelberg Boat Race was staged, the drinking competition in which jugs, not pints, were downed!
Northcote hosted the Cardiff club from Wales in May of 1988, a Birkenhead Centennial XV taking on the tourists. Northcote contributed seven players to the line-up, with one each coming from eight other North Harbour clubs.
The Northcote Birkenhead XV (coached by Kevin Ramsey and Paul Mora) was: Mark Finlay, Paul Clavis, Glen Curran, Jim Thompson, Terry Wright, Brett Craies, Craig Burgess, Michael Speight, Tony Brown, Kim Libby, Neil Bower, Mick Sweetman, Ron Williams, Graham McKean, Kevin Boroevich. Reserves: Dave Bendell, Tim Heath, Mark Hadfield, Billy Sinclair, Jonathan Stead, Paul Vegar, Gerrard Heath, Glen Brill, Buck Shelford.
Harbour's most celebrated player, All Black Buck Shelford made an appearance during the second half Cardiff won the game but that mattered little at the rip-roaring after-match functions at the RSA and, later, at the clubrooms.
Prop Ron Williams became Northcote's third All Black, being selected for the tour of Australia with Alex Wyllie's team. A back-up player to Steve McDowell and Richard Loe, he made six appearances.
Richard Kapa made a huge impact on the representative scene in '88, scoring a record 15 tries for North Harbour, nine of them in the NPC first division, a tally bettered only by Otago's John Timu. Kapa missed selection in the New Zealand Maori team but was chosen for New Zealand Combined Services.
Jonathan Stead, who had played for New Zealand schools while at Birkdale College, was selected from the club.
There were plenty of blanks following the AGM in 1989 with the positions of secretary, assistant secretary and club captain unfilled.
Fortunately, Peter Dick eventually volunteered to become club captain with Des Coneglan taking on the assistant secretary's position. The main secretarial work, however, was shared by the club manager, chairman and assistant secretary.
Then tragedy struck. Peter Dick, who had been doing a great job as club captain, died of a massive heart attack while playing for the President's grade team. His contribution to Northcote had been immense. In 1987 and 1988 he coached the senior Cs to win the North Harbour championship.
He was described in the club's magazine as 'a man with a consuming passion for rugby who placed his club before country and province. As an administrator he was a great worker and was the unknown individual who got jobs done while others pontificated. He wasn't quite a Kiwi Alf Garnett, but he could certainly promote fiery discussion.'
Don Arblaster (jun), who had eased into an assistant club captain's role beside Peter, volunteered to take over the club captain's responsibilities, much to the relief of chairman David Murray. The junior committee chairman was Bryan Ronberg. The club's 60th year, 1989, was marked with outstanding success. Most notably the senior team. Under the astute guidance of Brad Meurant and Don Cederwall, they won the championship for the first time, beating East Coast Bays 16- 6 in the final, which, oddly, was staged on a Wednesday afternoon at Onewa Domain. Because of the timing of the event, celebrations at the clubrooms weren't quite as raucous as they might have been had it been a weekend finale.
Meurant's men completed the 11 matches of the qualifying round undefeated and although they suffered a couple of setbacks in the second round, going down to East Coast Bays and North Shore, they still finished top. In the semifinal, they put away Takapuna 18-9 before dealing to East Coast Bays (the team Meurant had previously coached) in the final.
The senior Cs continued their dominance while the senior Bs and senior C gold team each finished runner-up.
Commendable efforts by all the other teams meant North cote was awarded the North Harbour Club Championship Trophy.
Hear from Brad as he talks about his move to Northcote in 1989 and the resulting championship win.
beat Helensville 67-3
beat Silverdale 69-0
beat Massey 28-0
drew East Coast Bays 18-18
beat Marist 19-6
beat Takapuna 21-6
beat Glenfield 18-0
beat Western United 30-3
drew with North Shore 4-4
beat Mahurangi 9-3
beat Navy 49-6
beat Helensville 60-0
beat Silverdale 61-9
beat Massey 40-7
loss East Coast Bays 15-18
beat Marist 34-24
draw Takapuna 10-10
beat Glenfield 36-4
beat Western United 34-10
loss North Shore 13-18
beat Mahurangi 47-15
beat Navy 53-3
beat Takapuna 18-9
best East Coast Bays 16-6
The Northcote senior record for 1989, the first time they'd won the senior championship in 60 years of trying.
Northcote was generously represented in national sides in 1989. Ron Williams was back in the All Blacks for the tour of Wales and Ireland, Richard Kapa appeared on the wing for New Zealand Maori and Richard Turner at No 8 and lock for New Zealand Colts. In addition, Andrew Hornby and Ross Lienert represented New Zealand Combined Services.
The under-19s made an end-of-season tour of Hawaii. Collectively, they raised $17,500, on top of which each player made a personal contribution of $400. For 20 players and coach Herb Merritt it was a great experience. The team lost to a strong Hawaiian Harlequins team 14-10 and to an all-Samoan Diamond Head (who understood they were playing Northcote's senior team!) 14-3.
The junior boys committee continued to prosper, organising an interesting season with monthly presentations. Teams were hosted from Tauranga and Tawa and trips away organised to Manurewa and Dargaville.
After many setbacks, mostly technical, the satellite dish was installed, allowing Sky TV to beam in, to the delight of club members who could now watch the big games live on the wide screen.
The Easter Show again provided the mainstay of the fund raising and despite the increased cost of suitable prizes achieved a satisfactory return.
Although the club failed to attract a major sponsor many individual teams were supported, notably the seniors (Brett Cooper and Zoran Clothing), the senior Bs (Lochore Real Estate), the under-2ls (Colin Henderson and Pagani Clothing), the under-19s (North City Heating) and the junior boys (Yarnton Fashions).
The club suffered a sad loss when Restricted Grade player Tony Jackson lost his life in a tragic house fire in Birkdale.