Details on our Club History
( excerpts from the 75th Jubilee Publication)
The Ngakawau Rugby Football Club was founded in 1916 and affiliated to the Buller Rugby Union in 1917.
Prime movers in the establishment of the club included Peter Egan, its first president, G.Bansgrove, secretary, and Non ‘the robber’ Thompson, a local shopkeeper whose nickname belied him as he was a generous benefactor to various country sporting codes.
Notable players in the club’s fledgling years included ‘Podge’ McCabe, Noble Friend, Vern Goodall, Cyril Whittaker, Jack Harris and Charlie Turnbull.
Whittaker and Turnbull were forwards of renown; Whittaker destined to lose his life from injuries incurred from his other great sporting love – boxing. Tom Heeney of Poverty Bay was also a very good footballer, playing for a combined provincial side against the 1921 Springboks. It was in a bout with Heeney in 1923 that Whittaker was fatefully injured. Heeney achieved fame for his courageous challenge for the world heavyweight title against Gene Tunney in 1928.
Jack Harris played for both his club and province with distinction and attained great repect as an administrator at both levels. He presided over both club and the Buller Rugby Union and was honoured with life membership from both bodies.
Although Vern Goodall spent most of his playing days with Granity Rovers, he did have a couple of years with Ngakawau following a brief sojourn to league and international honours. He would further distinguish himself as a Buller Selector and administrator – a field in which the club has been well represented over the years.
The Junior Shield in 1927 and a share of the Albion Cup in 1929 were the chief rewards before Ngakawau won its first senior championship in 1931. It seems that shortly after this initial success, the club went into recess before returning with vengeance in the junior grade in the late 1930’s.
The junior team proved near invincible in winning the Junior Shield in both 1939 and 1940 thus, this relatively young side, was deemed capable enough by the Buller Rugby Union to be ‘promoted’ to the senior competition.
Capable, indeed, they were.
They made a clean sweep of the senior trophies in their first year of competition, with many of these players to become legendary at both club and representative level.
Those who remain household names include Jack Blair, Gordon Crackett, Jack ‘Shockus’ Dickson, Ab Gear, Alan Luff, Joe Morgan, Bill Mumm, Eddie Nicholson, Ollie Smallhouse, Noel and Marty Stack, and Jack Theobald.
Country teams were to dominate the senior championships from Ngakawau’s success in 1941 until Westport broke the monopoly in 1959. During that period, Ngakawau would win the Championship/Albion Cup double on five occasions and take out the championship a further four times. Millerton Rangers and Granity Rovers each won the championship four times, including the ‘double’ twice, while Waimangaroa United took the spoils on the other occasion.
Others to emerge during this era who, with the aforementioned, would have a profound affect on Buller rugby including Peter Mumm, Robert and William Dickson, Keith Crackett, Jim McArthur, Bob Cook, Rodney Dawe, Bill Neilson , Brinley Tyler, Walter Mullan, and Colin Dalzell.
In brief, Jack Blair is still regarded as on of the classiest centres to represent the province; while Jack Dickson was on of five brothers with club affiliations and immeasurable ability.
Billy Dickson was a classy first five-eighth and an All Black reserve for the first test against the 1950 Lions before going to rugby league in England in 1951 and brother Robert distinguished himself on the playing field and, in later years, as a successful Buller coach and selector.
Peter Mumm and Rodney Dawe were fine fullbacks, Rodney representing Buller for ten years from 1958 to 1967.
The deeds of these men, and others, are to numerous to mention but it is evident that in the first-class arena they were not disgraced and a few were considered unfortunate not to have gained further recognition.
One player did achieve the Ultimate honour.
William ‘Bill’ Mumm jnr. propped the scrum for New Zealand in the first test against Australia in Wellington in 1949. Unfortunatly, injury prevented him from accepting selection for the second test.
Bill was the first Buller player to make 100 first-class appearances, which included 85 games for Buller and four inter-island matches. His senior representative career spanned 14 years from 1942 to 1955, though obviously 1949 would be the most memorable.
In addition to his elevation to All Black status, that year also saw Bill in the front row of a gallant Buller team which drew 6-6 with Otago in a Ranfurly Shield match, and in the same position for a combined West Coast-Buller side which inflicted the only defeat on the Australian tourists.
Others to feature in both these matches included Robert and William Dickson (Ngakawau) George and Oliver Smallholme (Granity Rovers), and George Anderson and Warner Cunniffe (Millerton Rangers).
‘Ollie’ Smallholme captained Buller in that historic shield challenge while, in 1956, ‘Toby’ Anderson would become Buller’s second first-class match centurion. He ended his playing days at Ngakawau, having made 134 first-class appearances, including 112 for Buller and six New Zealand trial matches, over a 21 year period.
Robert Dickson, Ollie Smallholme, Tobey Anderson, and Bill Mumm all had success coaching Buller senior representative sides, while others from this era to serve on the Buller Rugby Union management committee included Joe Morgan, Peter Mumm, Dinny Moynihan, and Rodney Dawe.
Rodney had served on the Union for 18 years, including five as president, and in 1990 was elected a life member in recognition of his contribution to the game.
Bill Mumm – ALL BLACK
Bill Mumm was a sturdy prop or loose forward who became the last player from the Buller union to be an All Black when he appeared in the first test against the touring Australians in 1949 at Athletic Park. He could not play in the second test at Eden Park because of injury.Between 1942 and 1955 Mumm was a regular feature of Buller representative sides, an inspiration to one of the country’s smallest union along with another tigerish forward in “Toby” Anderson, who like Mumm appeared frequently for the South Island and in All Black trials.Mumm appeared in four inter-island matches in 1945-47 and in 1949 and was an All Black triallist in 1947 and again in 1948 to pick the side to go to South Africa the following year.At only 1.78m and around 90kg Mumm probably missed higher honours on a regular basis because of a perception he was a tad too small for a tight forward. But he lacked nothing in grit and enthusiasm.In all Mumm played in 104 first class matches of which 85 were for Buller.Provincial highlights included playing for a combined Seddon Shield unions team against the 1946 Wallabies, for Buller against the British Lions in 1950 and for a combined West Coast-Buller side, in his last major match, against the 1955 Wallabies.
In 1949, the red letter season of his career, he also played in the Buller side which gave Otago a Ranfurly Shield fright, taking the holders to a 6-all draw. Mumm had two other shield challenges against Canterbury in each of the 1953-54 seasons.
His father played for Buller in the 1920s, his brother Peter was Buller’s fullback for many seasons in the 1950s and a nephew, Rex, also a fullback, played 66 games for Buller between 1978-86.
Mumm gave grand service to Buller rugby after his retirement. He was on the union management committee and had two terms as selector-coach (1960-63 and 1971-74). He was also a champion axeman and was a chairman of the Buller County Council.
Grandson Dean Mumm is a Lock for the Wallabies, having represented Australia from 2008 until 2010.
Profile by Lindsay Knight
for the New Zealand Rugby Museum.
BULLER SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
|1990||Westport & Ngakawau|
|1974||United & Ngakawau|