Book review: United We Stand

By David Leggat

'United We Stand' 150 years of Grafton United Cricket Club by Richard Irving. Photo / Supplied
'United We Stand' 150 years of Grafton United Cricket Club by Richard Irving. Photo / Supplied

Grafton Club turned 150 this year. Or to give them their original name, the United Cricket Club. Their place as one of Auckland's most prominent clubs is undisputed.

To mark the milestone, the club has produced a book which has the balance about right.

It tells the story of the club's formation, its early 19th century years, running through to the present day. The latter, in a nice touch, is represented by team photographs at the back from seniors to the kids' teams.

This is a club with a proud history and the book is loaded with anecdotes, funny and serious, about the personalities and, bottom line, that's what makes any club what it is.

The book is cleverly presented, in that the colourful and significant characters at Grafton have pieces on them interspersed with the narrative of the club down the years.

Grafton's most notable players? Try Mark Burgess, former New Zealand captain, who admits he was "marking time" at another club in 1965 and making more progress with his soccer, at which he also represented his country, before switching to the club down at Victoria Park in the city centre.

It might be argued that was a switch which benefited the national cricket team more than might have been appreciated at the time.

The outstanding seamer Jack Cowie, one-test player Ces 'Burglar' Burke, left arm spinner John "Tube" McIntyre through to more recent internationals Willie Watson and Phil and Matt Horne, the latter just having become Auckland coach, all are accorded their dues along with the personalities on whom the club's early years were founded.

All Blacks Des Connor, Ron Rangi, Bruce Gemmell, Kit Fawcett and Dave Loveridge played for Grafton. Rangi and Fawcett are central to tales of visits to the ground by female friends with colourful results.

For years in the 1980s and 90s, Eden Park on a big game day was not the same without Lord Ted, or Edward Greensmith, the ground's best known barracker and a Grafton man.

Those with a historical eye will enjoy the old photos of the city and club activities.

Grafton aren't Auckland's oldest club. Parnell beat them by five years. But theirs is a rich history. This book does the club great credit.

United We Stand:
150 years of Grafton United Cricket Club

by Richard Irving

- NZ Herald

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