Ponsonby rugby club to celebrate 140 years

By Campbell Burnes

"Reaching the milestone of 140 years is a fine achievement," said former All Blacks wing Bryan Williams. Photo / APN
"Reaching the milestone of 140 years is a fine achievement," said former All Blacks wing Bryan Williams. Photo / APN

One of the great rugby clubs of Auckland celebrates 140 years this weekend.

Ponsonby's rich history and unsurpassed premier playing record will be recalled over Queen's Birthday as Ponies, the oldest club in the union, beats its chest.

From Friday night to Sunday, there will be ample opportunity for plenty of tall tales, as the premiers face Auckland Gallaher Shield champions Pakuranga on Saturday afternoon, while the England senior team and their Under 20s will be doing skill drills with the kids at Western Springs Stadium. On Sunday afternoon, after a club church service, a Ponsonby XV will meet the Barbarians in a festival, over-30s affair. The Baabaas will include the likes of Pita Alatini, Sione Lauaki, Slade McFarland and Orene Ai'i, while Ponies will have stalwarts of the club such as first five Brett Williams, if he comes through the premier game unscathed, and lock Jason Chandler.

It is probable that Ponsonby is the country's fifth oldest club. The 45 senior championships - 33 Gallaher Shields since 1922, named after one of their greatest sons Dave Gallaher - are by far the best in Auckland, while the run of eight consecutive Gallahers from 2004-11 is a joint national record.

The club can boast around 45 All Blacks and it lays claim to having produced the most internationals if you include those who have played for the Pacific nations, especially Manu Samoa.

"Reaching the milestone of 140 years is a fine achievement," said life member, director of rugby and former All Blacks wing Bryan Williams. "The name Ponsonby is not only an area and our club, but also well-known internationally."

Anyone who plays for Ponsonby is made well aware of the heritage stretching back to the 19th century. "You only have to walk into the clubhouse to get a sense of that, with all the jerseys and memorabilia," said Williams.

Ponsonby is happily ensconced in its home of 17 years, council-owned Western Springs. Things were not so rosy in the mid-1990s when the club was facing the wall. Now with 12 senior teams and 55 junior teams, Ponsonby looks in solid nick.

"We intend to celebrate all those things vigorously this weekend," quipped Williams.

- NZ Herald

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