Most of the stars of Hawke's Bay's 1966-1969 Ranfurly Shield rugby era will be in Napier this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the day the shield was won.

Hawke's Bay hadn't held the Shield for 32 years when they challenged new holders Waikato in Hamilton, on Saturday, September 24, 1966, and won 6-0.

The anniversary falls this Saturday, with a reunion of players at the 2016 Magpies' Mitre 10 Cup 7.35pm match against Tasman Makos at Napier's McLean Park, where capacity crowds up to a record 26,000 for one game watched 22 defences before the first defeat when Canterbury claimed the Log o' Wood with an 18-11 win on September 28, 1969.

It would be another 47 years before Hawke's Bay won the shield again.

Advertisement

Hawke's Bay Rugby Union president Blair Furlong, who played for Bay of Plenty Maori in the 1966 match curtain raiser and moved to Hawke's Bay to become one of the stars of the era, has taken on the job of contacting the 30 1966-1969 shield players or their descendants and hopes most will be represented.

While some will get together informally on Friday, the 1960s players and family representatives will be at a Legends Dinner before Saturday's game, include the induction of past players to the Magpies Hall of Fame.

Of the 15 who played in the successful challenge, captain and flanker Kel Tremain, first five-eighths Max Loughlin, and prop Lou Cooper are deceased, wings Mick Duncan and Dennis Smith, second five-eighths Ian MacRae, halfback Hepa Paewai, No 8 Tom Johnson, lock Karaan Crawford, prop Neil Thimbleby and hooker Gus Meech still live in the Bay, while fullback Ian Bishop lives in Hawera, centre Bill Davis in Rotorua, flanker Gerry Stone in Wellington, and lock David Kirkpatrick in Gisborne.

Of the survivors only Crawford is expected to be missing, while Mr Furlong was yesterday still trying to locate relatives of Cooper, the only family from the team he had been unable to contact.

There'd been a long and impassioned build-up to the team's big win, dating at least back to 1959 when Hawke's Bay were thrashed 52-12 by the British Isles, which at the time was the biggest win ever by an overseas rugby side touring New Zealand.

It was the pits, and coach Colin Le Quesne, who had been a member of the 1930s team vowed to not let it happen again.

Over the next six years Hawke's Bay would have three close goes. In 1961 they were beaten 5-3 by Auckland, to whom they drew 3-all two years later, two of the three closest results in Auckland's record 1960-1963 shield reign of 25 defences, which beat the previous record set by Hawke's Bay in the 1920s. In 1965 they were beaten 21-17 by Taranaki in another challenge.

It was a confident team that headed for Hamilton the next year, with All Blacks Tremain, Davis and MacRae in the team, along with future All Blacks Duncan and Thimbleby. None of Waikato's 41 players that season ever played for the All Blacks.

It was never rated the greatest game, but the Magpies obliged with a 6-0 win, a first-half try to Davis and a second-half penalty to Bishop, after Waikato were lured offside in a since infamous ruse engineered by halfback Hepa Paewai.

By the time Hawke's Bay lost the shield to Canterbury three years and three days later, Bishop had become the leading points scorer in 65 years of Ranfurly Shield rugby.