This year marks a major milestone in the Katikati Rugby and Sports Club's history - 140 years since the first game was played in 1880. Former Katikati rugby player Steve Graveson looks back at the club's history and players.
As you will have read previously, the rugby club is probably the oldest original organisation still surviving, having been established in 1880, only a couple of years after the second ship the "Lady Jocelyn" arrived bringing the last big group of Ulster Irish settlers to Katikati.
The club has been very much part of the fabric of our community - in telling the story of the grounds, it also reflects on how Katikati has developed.
When the Lady Jocelyn arrived, it brought a lot of the more affluent, gentry-level members of society.
These were men who had money, been landowners, had attended "private" schools and would probably have played or seen rugby being played. The earlier settlers had been more frequently working-class, they would have been more into football.
The second group of settlers was also going to be, in a lot of cases, the movers and shakers in the Katikati community, so this could well have been the reason rugby was played so early and the club was established so quickly.
In 1880, the Tauranga County Football Club invited the men of the Katikati district to a rugby match - the fixture was to be played at Katikati on Saturday, June 28.
This was the first recorded game in the Bay of Plenty region (the first game in the Thames Valley region was recorded in 1870). The match was to be hosted by Katikati and would be played at "Hunter's Paddock".
The team was named the "Taurangaites" and they departed Tauranga with much interest on Friday evening - five by horseback and six in a drag.
The remainder of the players travelled by steamer on the day of the match, bringing with them the goalposts and flags.
At 2.30 on that Saturday afternoon, the respective teams proceeded from the Uretara Hotel to Hunter's Paddock.
The Tauranga team arrived two players short so the Katikati team, with a full squad, elected to play with equal numbers.
The following were the men chosen to represent Katikati for the first time: Butterworth, Ellis, Good, Gledstanes, Hoyle, Hunter, Johnston, Ralston (captain), Stewart (2) and Tanner (3).
Hunters Paddock was on the corner of Wharawhara Rd and what is now the Main State Highway 2, just south of Katikati, where the Seeka packhouse is now sited.
This property was owned by Rev John Crossley, who had been allocated 151 acres on the western side of the Main Road between Wharawhara and Henry Rds.
It was being farmed in conjunction with John's son-in-law, Robert Hunter. The farmhouse was named "Fairlight".
Teams would travel to Katikati mainly via boat up the Uretara River, meet at the Uretara Hotel and go up to the paddock in drags.
There was also a horse racetrack that crossed over the Main Road, not something that could be attempted today.
The second rugby ground, and a lot closer to the Katikati township, was known as the "Lockington Paddock", or more affectionately the "Pub Paddock", as the Uretara and later the Talisman hotels were almost across the road.
There are no dates available telling us when they first used this ground.
This block of land was owned by James and Mary Anne Lockington, who had arrived in New Zealand in 1874. James had heard about the Katikati land and had walked over from Thames to select a block.
The land had been originally allocated to Thomas Sandford, but James took over the farm.
The property covered the land west of the Uretara River up to about Busby Rd, which included the river flat where the rugby ground was located.
Later, in the 1920s, the railway was to divide the farm. The original farmhouse is still standing today, it overlooks the site of the rugby ground and above where the railway station was built.
The third ground used was "Preston's Paddock". The first recorded game there was in August 1889, when Katikati played a team from Te Aroha.
The ground was on property owned by William and Margaret Preston. The 120 acres was part of the Papakura Flat Block; it was allocated to the Prestons when they arrived aboard the "Carisbrooke Castle" in 1875. It covered the land on the north side of Beach Rd.
In February 1879 they sold 1 acre to the Katikati School Committee for £15, which became the site for the No 2 School.
Later, in 1922, it became Katikati Central School, before being renamed Katikati District High School in 1953 and, eventually, Katikati Primary School.
The school was well established by the time rugby matches were played on this ground, so it was probably located behind the classroom building, and was possibly part of the playground or the "horse paddock" where the children would have left their horses during the school day.
The original school classroom is still on the same site today.
The fourth ground and the first official playing surface for the club was at what we now call the Uretara Domain. The club moved to what was then called the "Katikati Domain" in 1912.
The domain grounds would host the first A&P Show in 1913.
In 1914, the new town library was built; it still stands today, inside the entrance to the right. The Memorial Gates were unveiled in 1921, they are a tribute to the 10 local men who died on active service during World War I.
The club had a clubroom on the site, which burnt down in the 1940s. The teams would change in the A&P building across the road. In the 1950s, to improve player conditions, the committee installed showers and a toilet.
For many years this rugby ground was probably the best surface to play on in both the Thames Valley and Bay of Plenty unions.
The fifth and final ground is Moore Park, the home ground of the Katikati Rugby Football Club today.
The park was part of the new Tauranga County Council subdivision development named the Gilfillan Block, which had been started in the late 1960s.
Mac Moore, Tauranga County Council chairman at the time, played a big role in getting the park developed, hence the rugby club committee was in total support of the grounds being named Moore Park.
The grandstand was constructed in 1969–1970 by local builder and rugby supporter Hilton Rayment, who had a lot of help from club members. It was extended in 1984 to include a kitchen, bar and clubrooms. The showers and toilets were also upgraded.
In 2007, the park grounds were enlarged, with the addition of football fields and a cricket pitch on land behind the grandstand complex. Western Bay of Plenty District Council also constructed Middlebrook Dr, which runs along the western boundary.