Family that pulls together anchors national champs

By Doug Laing

The Schroder family, from Hastings, is one you just might want to go to war with.

Tug of war, that is, or power pulling as it's been called for the past 20 years.

When the national championships were held at the Western Suburbs Rugby and Sports Club in Flaxmere on Saturday, there was a Schroder on just about every team.

There was Lindsay Schroder, 76, and brother Albert, 71. And there was Lindsay's son Karl, 51, and his two sons, Tyson, 21, and Alex, 15.

There were, however, not a lot of teams, with Wests being one of just two clubs at the sport's big annual event, well short of the numbers 76-year-old Lindsay Schroder saw in the first few of the 50 years he's been involved.

"We went down to Balclutha in 1966," he remembered. "There were 12 teams in one grade. There were 70 to 75 teams altogether."

It was two years earlier that he had one of his biggest thrills in the sport with a Hastings team that "trained like Olympic athletes".

"It was the first time we went to the South Island," he said, remembering the day they won a South Island title at Pleasant Point as if it were yesterday. "It was the 29th of August, 1964."

There was perhaps another sign of dwindling numbers as during Saturday's events he announced he's retiring, but the dodgy knees underpinning the decision won't keep him out of the game altogether.

He's determined the sport will grow again, and to help it along they introduced an intermediate schools grade, to go with the senior grades (heavyweight and middleweight), and a grade for high school students, in which the Wests team was beaten by visitors Te Awamutu Marist.

They won the William Schroder Shield named after Lindsay's and Albert's brother.

The visiting club also won both senior titles, but Wests' high school team - an all-male unit comprising two from St John's College, two from Flaxmere College, and one from Rudolf Steiner School - beat a mixed team from the visiting club.

Teams had been practising and training, and Mr Schroder is now offering to rope-in tuggers from all over Hawke's Bay.

He says a lot of skill and technique is involved, but contrary to some beliefs, competitors don't have to be particularly "big fellas."

A google at wikipedia perhaps shows why. There have been some nasty incidents, including in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1978, when the rope parted, five teenagers lost their fingers and 200 others also received injuries.

In Taiwan in 1997, two men had their arms ripped off, also when the rope parted - a barely surprising catastrophe given that 1600 pullers were exerting a combined 80,000kg of stress on a 5cm-thick rope designed for no more than 26,000kg.

Tug of War was at its strongest in New Zealand in the peak years of the Hastings Highland Games, but the sport's been around for centuries, since at least the Tang dynasty, when Emperor Xuanzong promoted matches of more than 500-a-side.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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