A Brief History of the Wanganui Marist Rugby Football Club.
Catholic schools run by the Marist Brothers first opened in Wanganui around 1870. The Marist Brothers were rugby enthusiasts and they actively fostered the game. The School’s colours were black and blue and the Marist Brothers School rugby jerseys were blue and black hoops.
Early in 1917 a group of rugby enthusiasts, most of them old boys of Marist Brothers Schools, decided to call a meeting to discuss the formation of a Marist Old Boys’ Football Club. The response was positive from Marist Brothers School old boys and some ex-Kaierau players. An exodus from Kaierau followed and the Marist Old Boys’ Club was formed. Eugene Crotty (17 years old), Teddy O’Meara, Tom Souter and J Carmody were primarily responsible for the formation of the new club. A newspaper report of 12 May 1917 reads – ‘At a meeting of the Wanganui Rugby Union it is stated in general business ‘Two new clubs were admitted to the Union, Aramoho and Marist Old Boys’.
Despite the First World War the Club entered a junior rugby team in the 1917 Wanganui Rugby Football Union competition. The team wore dark blue and blacked hooped jerseys – the same jerseys as worn by the Marist Brothers school teams. A picture of the 1917 team hangs in the clubrooms foyer. Training in those days was held at the Hurworth grounds (where St Mary’s School was then located).
In 1918 Marist Old Boys won the Junior Cup.
In 1919 Marist Old Boys was promoted to the Senior grade. In their first senior season Marist had two wins, two draws and four losses.
In 1920 Marist Old Boys had its first Wanganui Rugby Football Union Senior rep players in Tom Quirk and Jack Dillon.
In 1925 the Marist Old Boys’ Club changed its name to the Marist Rugby Football Club and the playing jersey was changed to green and white.
That same year Mr Charlie Spillane was Club President and he presented the Spillane Cup for a regular competition game between Wellington and Wanganui Marist. The first game was held in 1926.
In 1928 the Marist Rugby Football Club won its first Senior championship and the Charity Cup (Weekes Cup) with 11 wins and 3 losses.
In 1931 a meeting of Marist Clubs of the North Island was held in Wellington. The Clubs decided to form a new Association to be known as the NZ Marist Rugby Football Association. At this meeting it was also decided that instead of the annual match with Wellington at Easter that Wanganui would send a team to Hamilton where a tournament between teams of the Marist Clubs in the North Island would compete for the Spillane Cup. The Spillane Cup Tournament was born.
In 1932 eight Marist Senior players were selected for the Wanganui Senior rep team.
In 1933 the Spillane Cup Tournament was held at Spriggens Park, Wanganui.
1939 – 1945 were the war years. In 1943 the Club went into recess because of the difficulty in fielding teams due to the war.
In 1947 Mr Charlie Spillane, Life member and founder of the Spillane Cup, died.
In 1952 Theo Kipa was selected for the New Zealand Maori team. Reports are that he played with distinction.
On 27 August 1953 Mr Maurice (Maurie) O’Connell played in the main All Black trial at Spriggens Park. Reports are that he played outstandingly. Disappointingly he was not selected. Mr O’Connell was named by the 1954 Rugby Almanac as one of its ‘Five Players of the Year’.
In 1957 Marist’s first clubrooms were opened at Spriggens Park. The clubrooms were built in the year or so prior, largely by voluntary Club labour. Prior to having our own clubrooms the Marist teams used the Albion Hotel (The Vatican) for after match functions etc. It is jokingly said that then Albion publican contemplated suicide with the prospect of lost turnover!
In the years around 1962 the Marist School teams were particularly strong. A report in the Wanganui Chronicle at the time reads – ‘The Marist Tenth Grade team today lost its first game in eight years. They have scored 2,652 points and have had 48 scored against them in that time’.
In 1965 the Marist Seniors had a good year finishing with nine wins and four draws. But goal kicking was a weakness! In their draw against Waverley they missed nine attempts at goal! In the draw against Bulls they missed five penalties and in the draw against Hunterville they missed the easiest of conversions from in front of the posts. Marist finished undefeated runners-up in the competition finishing one point behind the winners, Bulls.
In 1973 the Spillane Cup tournament was held in Wanganui.
In 1976 the Kaierau Rugby Club purchased land in Devon Road with a view to establishing the Kaierau Country Club. With Kaierau’s move from Spriggens Park to Devon Road Marist purchased their old clubrooms and then sold the original Marist clubrooms to the Wanganui Rugby Referees.
In 1976 Eugene Crotty (b.1900 – d.1976), a former prominent member and supporter of the club, died.
In 1976 Trevor Olney was selected for the New Zealand Maori team.
In 1979 Marist’s playing strip was changed to emerald green jerseys and shorts and green and white socks.
In 1982 and 1983 the Club won the Senior championship.
In 1988 the Club won the Senior championship.
In 1991 the Club won the senior Metropolitan championship.
In 1992 the Wanganui Marist Rugby Football Club celebrated its 75th Jubilee. That year the Club fielded six teams and ten Saturday morning primary school teams.
At Queen’s Birthday weekend in 2017 the Club will be celebrating our 100 year Centenary!