Howard (97) to be at Waitaki v St Kev's match

Kevin Howard
Kevin Howard
Waitaki Boys' High School First XV hosts St Kevin's First XV in the 84th interschool match early next month.

Historically, the Blood Match causes Oamaru to stop for more than 90 minutes as the largest crowd of the season surrounds the field at Whitestone Contracting Stadium to view the game.

It is a custom of both schools on the day to bring a team from over the past 30 to 40 years as guests.

Probably the oldest surviving player of past years, Kevin Howard, will be at the game.

He never misses a game and intends to be there on July 6.

Howard, who turned 97 earlier this month, played for St Kevin's First XV in 1938-1940.

Howard said the game was cancelled in 1938 due to a poliomyelitis outbreak, the only time this occurred after the inaugural game between the two schools in 1934.

He went on to play in 1939 and won his cap in 1940 before he served in the New Zealand Army for five years during World War 2.

Howard's stay at St Kevin's College was in that grim time after the Depression and his family lived on a small Corriedale poultry farm.

Howard remembers eggs, the family's basic income, were fourpence a dozen. Consequently, Kevin had to pay his own way to board at St Kevin's College.

"My parents obviously couldn't afford to send me to St Kevin's so I worked on threshing mills or chaff cutters to earn enough money and each year I often didn't start school until May or even in July," he said.

A winger, coached by Br Ryan (Wee Dig) and Br Ryan (Big Dig) while at the college, he remembers well one game in which St Kevin's beat John McGlashan College 27-8 and he scored a try.

The St Kevin's team included Kevin O'Connor, Jim McCone, Pat Griffin, Tom Hansby, Frank McMullan and Fr Reg O'Brien.

Lining up in midfield for the opposition was Ron Elvidge, later to achieve All Black honours.

When World War 2 ended in 1945, Howard returned home and represented North Otago in 1946. Until he retired he was the genial grader driver for the Waitaki County, covering the area around Windsor-Ngapara-Tokarahi.

The interschool match kicks off at 1.30.

With only four rounds of Citizens Shield remaining until the semifinals, the pressure is on.

Old Boys (51), which dropped its first game of the season to Valley last week, will play Athletic Marist (21) at the stadium, Kurow (40) will host Valley (30) and Maheno (31) will play Excelsior (11) on the No2 ground.

 - Terry O'Neill

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