Yellow Bellies, Golden Oldies Rugby, the Early Years

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Informal team photograph, ”Golden Oldies’ Maidstone Park 1987′. Standing; from left: Kevin Keown, Bill Steere, Alan Waterson, Kevin Murphy, Roy Sutherland, Neville Lomax, John Troy, Allan Ross, Charlie Palmer, Keith Watts, Ron Jarvis, Bob Vine, Dave Mudgway, Mike Kwokson, Ron McFarlane, Ray Greville, Butch Harawira,
Ray Morunga, Dick Woollett, Trevor Colling, Robbie Baker, Dave Painter, Ian McFarlane, Dave Hendren, Jim Gilligan. Front, from left: Trevor Symonds, Paul Stott, Colin Cowden, Bill Jago, Bob Galgey, Mike Morgan, Geordie Marshall, VernElliott, Paul Murray, Trevor Davidson, Brent Morton and Steve Quinn.

The “Yellow Bellies” is a team of old codgers playing rugby for Fun, Friendship and Fraternity.

The team was formed in the early 1980’s after a World Festival was held in Auckland, some clips were shown on TV and it was thought it would be a good idea to have a team here in Upper Hutt and join in the fun. The name “Yellow Bellies” was adopted from an archive of the Evening Post newspaper, when on a rare occasion that the Upper Hutt Rugby team played in Wellington, the headline read “Yellow Bellies Come to Town”. In recognition of this the name was taken and our Golden Oldies played in the jersey with the traditional yellow band.

Bob Vine, Brent Morton and Dave Hendren (RIP) got together and called a meeting of interested over 35 year olds. Around 30 players turned up for the first Sunday morning training run and drinks which at all times was the main attraction. A small informal committee was established with Brent Morton being appointed Pooh-Bah (losely meaning a pompous self- important person) a term which has stuck within the team, with Dave (Four and a Half) Hendren being the money man of the day. Everyone would always lend a hand and no one ever said no when asked to help out even the opposition players who would do the dishes after the meal with the promise of a couple of bottles of Port in the Kitchen.

Part of the informal rules was that you had to join and be a paid up member of the Upper Hutt Rugby Club before you could play for the Yellow Bellies. The team also did work around the Club, cleaning up the grandstand and changing rooms before the start of the new season and they also painted the entrance way and toilets one year and cleaning the kitchen was another of their regular tasks. They also sponsored a Player of the Day each week from the top team who played at Maidstone on a Saturday and provided that player with their aftermatch drinks. Sponsorship of Junior Rugby teams was also undertaken.

All games were held on a Sunday with home and away fixtures with games against the the Masterton Millhillians, Wainiomata Wags, Ories Magpies, Hutt Old Boys Hobnobs, Petone Villagers, Stokes Valley Gangsters, Otaki Gazbo’s, Tawa Toads, Norths Blues Brothers, Paraparaumu Gorillas, Avalon Tanners, Ngatitoa Jugglers, Levin Crusaders, Manawatu Evergreens and The Rimutaka Rams which was chosen as our first opponent in 1985. This game proved to be rather “testy” (easily irritated; impatient and somewhat bad-tempered) and as is the protocol the match ended in a well deserved Draw.

Some of the teams also had Netball teams which played a Curtain Raiser.

It was usual for the home team to provide some food for the visitors before they left for home and the locals got the leftovers. The Yellow Bellies had a great reputation for providing quality meals and on occasions a roast meal was the order of the day. Locals from around and about would turn up for a free feed and a door check was needed every now and then. Everyone gave a helping hand from selling raffle tickets, preparing food, cleaning up.

There was always a hilarious fining session with “Dick and Dickless of the Day” awards for both Rugby and Netball. Wives, Girlfriends, and Children who have always been a big part of the Yellow Bellies, providing a family atmosphere.

The first away trip was to Nelson for the weekend to play Waimea. They didn’t turn up as we had already obtained a reputation as a team not knowing when to go home. This occasion has been written into the team’s history as our first away trip and a bonding get to know you exercise.

Regular weekends away to Napier, Wanganui, Masterton, Palmerston North and Fielding followed.

The first overseas trip was to Hawaii in 1989 followed by World Festivals, which are a big part of Yellow Bellie life. Festivals in Perth, Adelaide, and Christchurch were some of the early ones attended. 

Fund raising was a big part of going on those trips with all sorts of tasks taken nothing too big and nothing too small. With this came along the need for a GST registration as we were required to give a GST receipt so a Constitution was put in place to enable us to become an Incorporated Society and get GST registered.

The Yellow Bellies did not make Rugby their only active sports pursuit. Annual matches of Irish Road Bowls with the Irish Society were also major events. The event path commenced at the Mangaroa School and ran to Bill Jago’s Barn for a barbecue and drinks and back. The Bowling teams were followed by a portable bar and a mine detector to find bullets which had been fired off course – usually in amongst the gorse.

Competition organised by Upper Hutt Yellow Bellies Golden-Oldies Rugby team; four-person teams hurling 2-pound (900-gramme) steel balls along 2.3 km of rural roads.
A greyscale image was printed in the Upper Hutt Leader on 26/1/2000; 


The Yellow Bellies have been a great success over the years and are still going strong to this day. The only original players still actively playing are “Biggles” aka Bob Galgey and Ron Macfarlane aka “Grey Way” puts the boots on every now and then.

This item has been contributed by Morty, Pooh Bah #One

  • Robbie Baker January 29, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    So cool to read and remanis some of the great times Josie and I shared with all the. Yellow. Bellies up till the time we left the area
    Thanks. Morty for your input
    Living abit closer to. Upper. Hutt these days we hope to catch up again soon ❤️

  • Michael Johnson/Jobbies February 10, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    Great article Bob,so good to see some of the old names from my days at Upper Hutt Rugby
    Hope to be there for Queens Brithday weekend and catch up with you all over a couple of quite beers yet right

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