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Supporters – Where have they gone?
“Fifty Golden Years” compiled by Dudley Hercock for the celebration of the Club’s Jubilee gives mention of Denny Kelly, a very well known character and supporter of the club before and after World War I. Denny was a long time Railway employee whose battle cry was often heard from the side line – “Hutt! Hutt! Hutt! Kick the goots out of ’em Hutt! Hutt!.
Another supporter who made it to the Newspapers was the late Henry Williams who made it to the Upper Hutt Leader in 1995:
|Caption: “In nearly 50 years supporter extraordinaire Henry Williams has never missed watching his beloved Upper Hutt senior rugby side play. By the time of the Jubilee Game on Easter Saturday, April 15, against Norths, he will have watched 816 consecutive games.”
Printed in the ‘Leader’ on April 3, 1995
It will be recalled that Henry was always amongst the first to arrive at Maidstone Park matches – by bicycle, and for his imaculate dress.
Then we have the Far Side Boys who occupy a prime advertising fence space at Maidstone, and recently with the temporary move to Maoribank Park, the side opposite the River.
|“City councillor Glenn McArthur and the Far Side Boys at Upper Hutt club rugby at Maidstone Park. From left: Chris Gallagher, Dave Ritchie, Steve Hearfield, McArthur, Colin Williams and Chris Hope”.
Published in the Dominion Post, 28 March 2017.
“There’s only one place you will find Glenn McArthur on winter Saturdays: watching the Upper Hutt Rams rugby team.
If they are playing at Maidstone Park, he’ll be at the halfway point on the far side of the ground, a spot McArthur and a hardy group of regulars have long made their own.
“We’ve watched from here for a lot of years. I started to come across when I was chairman to get away from all the responsibilities and shoulder tapping and to just be able watch the game,” the third-term Upper Hutt city councillor said.
Last Saturday for McArthur, decades of supporting Upper Hutt rugby came to the fore.
The Upper Hutt Rams’ first home game in 2017 marked the appearance of “The Far Side Boys” billboard.
The sign, and the sponsorship which goes with it, was McArthur’s idea.
“Dustin Brattle who is busy in the club is from Dzine Signs and made it up for us. We’re all very happy with it and the guys had a 50-point win in front of it too so maybe we are on to something, ” the former club premier manager, colts coach and junior and age-grade player said.
The sign sits on the fence which in 2014 McArthur, and Kerry Southee, built after the original fell into disrepair.
“Yes that’s a nice touch I guess. The whole fence is looking good with lots of new sponsors’ signs up. So this is my hidden interest, though I’m not sure it’s that hidden. We can be pretty vocal.
“We’ve grown to a wider group, we can muster up pretty well some days but whatever’s happening we’ll always have the core group here.
“We have our rules too, the vocal comments have to be supportive of our boys, we’ve had a ‘no muppets’ rule for years.
“Referees and touchies too, we support them and we even try to help them out sometimes.
“It’s the best spot to watch a game, whatever ground we are at we’re always on the far side,” the club life member, said.
“You are close to the action, close to the players. We make an effort to watch the reserves too in the early game. It’s a club thing.
“We happily take the sun in our face when we can and we’ve stood here in almost horizontal rain. It even snowed once but, to be fair, I do remember moving under the scoreboard for the second half of that one.
“It’s just an afternoon of relaxing fun really, with no stress and a hell of a lot of laughs. There’s plenty of good rugby too.”
For many years the Club has been brilliantly served with a “Supporters Club”. However in the past few years regular membership has declined. Whereas in the past, under the leadership of the late Dorothy Troy, a Runciman’s bus load of upwards of 40 supporters would follow the Seniors’/Premiers’ bus to every away game, the group has declined to about 12 in number, who over the past 2 seasons have taken up occupancy on the Maoribank Park Stopbank. The regular choice of a “player” of the day continues – good thing, but without the terse debate which was a feature of the past.
Dorothy was elected a Life Member for her services to the Club in leading the Supporters Club.
|The most “dated” member of the current Supporters is “Boot” aka Brian Foster. Boot’s membership of the Club dates back to the late 40’s, as a schoolboy, through to the very early 60’s. He was a key member of the Club’s Third Second side, sometimes filling in with the Senior’s during the time of his “maturity”.|
The Upper Hutt Leader closely followed Boot’s time in the adult grades with 22 mentions 1955 – 1960.
- SENIORS DEFEAT ATHLETIC
The team was changed from the previous week, Foster and Garrett being replaced in the forwards by Thorner and Daley, while the back line was Stewart half, Brennan 1st; Christie 2nd, Palmer centre, with Turvey and Mitchell on the wings. Upper Hutt Leader, 26 May 1955. Note: The goal kicker in this game was Brian Palmer who kicked over 100 points in 4 of the seasons he played for Upper Hutt, having been formerly with Hutt.
- THIRD SECONDS
The team retained its position as co-leaders of the Competition on Saturday when.they defeated Wellington 8-3 at Kilbirnie. Upper Hutt’s points came from a penalty by Boot Foster who also converted a try scored by Bill Knight in the last minute of the game.
Upper Leader, 21 May 1959.
- THIRD II STILL UNBEATEN
One hundred points for and nine against is the record of this team who on Saturday defeated a weak Oriental-side 37-0 at Kilbirnie. For Upper Hutt tries ware scored by Cokey. O’Riely, Morgan, Reid (2) and Foster. The “Boot” converted all of these tries and kicked three penalties….. The star of the game, of course, was the”Boots” boot with 22 points the majority of his successes were from well out. Upper Hutt Leader, 4 June 1959
- THIRD SECONDS
The locals again provided a chopping block for one of the top teams on Saturday when they were defeated by Varsity, Weir, 22-9, at Macalllster Park. Varsity’s points came from 4 tries, 2 conversions and 2 penalties, while for Upper Hutt, Sandy Robinson scored a try and Boot Foster kicked two penalties. Upper Hutt Leader, 30 July 1959.
- “Veni, vldi, vici might well have been skipper “Boot” Foster’s theme, song on Saturday after leading his team to a hard-earned 9-6 win over the previous unbeaten competition leaders, Hutt Marist. Upper Hutt’s points-came from an unconverted try by Bill Knight and two penalties by “Boot” Foster”. Upper Hutt Leader, 16 June 1960.
Maidstone Park Viewing Gallery:
Occupation of this area on occasion became quite a furnace. Where as in earlier years the intensity was created by virture of the numbers from both sides, recent years have been notable for the decline in regular Upper Hutt supporters. On these occasions it has been a majority of opposition spectators with the derisive and aggressive comments with no real kick back from our fans. There was however one occasion when Norths’ supporters, representing about 80% of the number in the Gallery, were stirred into a real frenzy when it was quietly made known that the Referee was the son of Life Member, Ross Pinfold. The uproar was more mighty than on the occasion, a few years back, that Petone, in a vital Swindale Shield match, helicoptered in, with 5 minutes to start, All Blacks first five-eighth Simon Mannix.
As with almost all sports and recreation clubs ours is no different, with over recent years, a substantial decline in numbers of players and followers. I read recently in the Dominion Post of Hutt Valley High School with 1,700 pupils struggling to sustain more than 3 Rugby teams and even then with numbers being made up with a few from Naenae College. I do not know what the situation is in Upper Hutt but would be surprised if it is any different. This is a nation-wide phenonomen.
It is heartening to know (25 February 2020) that a process of radically changing the set-up of rugby in the country has started – with New Zealand Rugby releasing some of the findings of an independent investigation (McKinsey Report) into the state of the game.
NZR has presented the findings of the McKinsey report to provincial unions – a new blueprint for how the game should be organised, managed and structured.
Rugby is under pressure in many parts of the game, from participation, fan engagement, talent retention and increasingly tough financial environments.
The purpose of the review is to address, amongst others, stagnant participation rates, increasing drop-out rates among teens and plunging spectator interest in Mitre 10 Cup and Super Rugby.
Having said that I do not believe however that we should rely on the results of this higher level review to, in time, provide all the answers to allowing us to locally increase participation of players and supporters to the level of sustainability.
Here in Upper Hutt there is anecdotal evidence that features of the “merger” in 2014 have exacerbated the situation with regard to support, on the paddock, administratively and spectator interest. I hesitate to raise this but we have to be honest with ourselves if we are to find ways and means of at least getting back some of those who were avid supporters of the two Clubs prior to 2014. The Celebration of 110 years of Rugby in Upper Hutt offers the opportunity to mull this over and look for positive measures to arrest the decline. Let’s open up and get talking about it!