College Sport: Book digs deep to detail Auckland Grammar rugby's fine history

By Campbell Burnes

 Ra Ra Ra, Here we are, Grammar!  runs to nearly 500 pages - including a player index - and goes all the way back to 1871, when the sport was first played at the school.
Ra Ra Ra, Here we are, Grammar! runs to nearly 500 pages - including a player index - and goes all the way back to 1871, when the sport was first played at the school.

Rob Hunt has done the hard yards in a new book on the history of Auckland Grammar School's First XV.

Entitled Ra Ra Ra, Here we are, Grammar!, which is the rugby chant, the book runs to nearly 500 pages - including a player index - and goes all the way back to 1871, when the sport was first played at the school. The First XV had to seek games against club teams in those early days as there was a dearth of schools in Auckland.

Hunt taught at Auckland Grammar, and so knows something of the Grammar way and the long history of success from a school that has won far more 1A titles (66) than any other and counts a record 51 All Blacks.

But he has approached the book, a three-year labour of love, from a quite different angle.

"I haven't rehashed anything from the Grammar chronicles, which start from 1913.

I wanted to get outside of that, so I've got comments from opponents such as King's College, Wellington College, New Plymouth Boys' High School, and Christchurch Boys' High School," says Hunt, who sourced early information from newspapers and other school magazines, as well as interviews of more recent times.

Any conclusions of how the world perceives Auckland Grammar rugby, given that in recent times St Kentigern has become the First XV everyone loves to beat?

"Everybody still wants to beat Grammar, no matter what school," says Hunt. "When Grammar beat them, there was hardly any comment, but if they beat Grammar, there was a good page in the magazine!"

He has not shied away from some of the low moments in Grammar rugby history, such as the unseemly brawl with Kelston in 2009 and the demotion to the 1B grade in 1988.

Hunt has also tried to highlight the variety of occupations and other sports in which prominent past players excelled, and this is seen in his extensive footnotes.

There is no Greatest Auckland Grammar XV list or anything of that nature, but Hunt has highlighted five of the First XV's finest captains - Max Grierson, Bryce Rope, Noel Bowden, John Drake and Grant Fox. Former All Black captain and 1973-96 Auckland Grammar principal Sir John Graham, who wrote the foreword, has a soft spot for the champion 1980 First XV.

The book will be launched on May 4 at Grammar's Old Boys' Pavilion. The likes of Sir Graham Henry and Fox will be in attendance. It will be sold from the school only, at first, for $49.50.

- NZ Herald

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