Referee Bruce Rowland is distracted as Tama Loper makes a
run for the ball watched by (from left) Josh Lewis, Graeme
Ross, Ray Sinnamon (on the ground), Darryn Stewart, Peter
Jones, Tony Green (obscured) and Barry Zwies. Photo by jane
It was rugby as it used to be played in 1901 - and by the
look of the players, some almost belonged in that era.
The first heritage rugby match was played yesterday at Takaro
Park between Excelsior and Athletic, following old-style
rules and with players wearing an old-fashioned strip.
While Athletic president Gerard McCarthy quipped that the
average age of his players was 73, that was not quite the
His team's oldest player was 68-year-old Barry Zwies.
There was a festival-like atmosphere at the park, where a
shortened field had been marked out, complete with
rustic-looking goal posts.
The game began with Pokarekare Ana and God Save the Queen
sung by the Liltalongs.
The leather ball was carried on to the field by Ian Burns
(87), who was wearing his old Excelsior jersey.
"I earned it; I didn't just get it," he said.
Mr Burns started playing for the club about 1935.
He played in the hooker's position until he went into the
army in 1939.
His old club jersey resided in a bottom drawer until he got
it out yesterday morning.
"The wife said, give me that and I'll wash it . . . and it's
still in one piece," he said.
Attending the game was a "matter of nostalgia", he said.
Referee Bruce Rowland was decked out in a waistcoat, bowler
hat and cravat, with baler-twine around his trouser legs.
The game had the obligatory "streaker", in the form of artist
Donna Demente dressed in a red corset, pantaloons and striped
stockings, She joked that she had asked to be tackled by
Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal - saying she would do it "in
the nick" if he was available.
She was chased across the park by Senior Constable Bruce Dow,
who was wearing an old-fashioned police uniform, and who
later "arrested" Gary Byrne, who was playing his 298th game
for Athletic, following a "brawl".
Donald Harborne and John Borrie, from St John, were also
dressed in old attire and used an old-fashioned stretcher to
cart Tim Milmine from the field.
Athletic eventually won the game 12-9.
The game was part of the town's Victorian heritage
celebrations which continue today with a street parade,
trolley derby and national penny-farthing and veteran cycle
championships, and finish tomorrow with a Victorian fete.