If you mention the team of '63 around anyone involved with the Te Puna Rugby Club, they will know exactly what you are talking about. In 1963, the club's senior men's team were the dominant
force in Western Bay of Plenty, beating Tauranga Old Boys in the championship final. Members of that legendary team joined hundreds of other Te Puna faithful at Maramatanga Park at the weekend to celebrate the club's centenary. Young and old gathered to share memories and revel in what has been a fantastic year for the club. Sports reporter David Beck was there.READ MORE:
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When Te Puna Rugby Club life member Billy Borrell was in his prime, they had changing tents not sheds. They played on an uneven paddock which occasionally had not been cleared of cow dung. They rinsed off with a trough of water rather than shower and the post-match function was beers under a tree.
Much has changed since 1963, when Te Puna's senior men's team beat Tauranga Old Boys in the championship final and secured legendary status at the club, but their devotion to the black and blue army has never wavered.
The scene at the club's centenary on Saturday told you all you need to know about what makes the club so strong. Life members and kaumatua lined the sidelines as the club's rangatahi played rugby on the main field. It is more than a rugby club - it is a whānau.
Prolific winger Borrell said he was 15 when he started playing for the senior side in 1955. He remembers the 1963 season like it was yesterday.
"We had highlights in that year which we never forgot, like winning the championship. There are only eight of us left from that team now. It is more or less a brotherhood.
"Our backline really was the danger, that was the strongest point of our team. We always encouraged our forwards to get the ball to us."
He said the semifinal that year, against Rangataua, was a thriller.
"We were down 12-9 with only about five minutes left to play, defending in our own 22m. Our captain Tarzan Bidois made the run from inside our 22m, it was amazing the way he went through tackles, fended people off - he was jinking but he ended up tackled 10m from the line.
"All of us were that dumbstruck, we were all still down the other end. Tarzan went down but the ball came out and our hooker Henry Heke was the only one there. He went over under the posts.
"That made it 12-all because it was only three points for a try. Our kicker was Mick Bidois, he was an accurate kicker but the ball never went very high. He kicked the bloody ball and it didn't go very high, we didn't think it would go over but it just made it.
"That was fulltime and everybody threw their arms in the air, all the crowd too, it was a massive celebration."
That famous 1963 season finally has a rival. This year has arguably been the club's most successful yet, beating Tauranga Sports in the Baywide final to claim their first Premier title. It was one of three they scooped this season, also taking the Premier Development and Senior Reserves crowns.
Premier head coach Aidan Kuka said the centenary celebration was something many at the club had looked forward to for the last few years.
"This is a moment we've been waiting for for a long, long time. It's nice to finally get to this point of the year and actually celebrate what has been 100 years of blue and black people, pride and passion."
When asked what it took for the club to survive 100 years, Kuka said it was the sense of community.
"That's what has kept this club going, it's what makes our club as strong as what it is. It's our whānau support, it's our hapū, it's our community of Te Puna. We've got our own little community tucked on the northern edge of Tauranga and we just live and breathe the game of rugby."
Like any sports club, Te Puna have had plenty of ups and downs.
"There have been some testing times but in the club's first 10 years we won the Tauranga Championship eight times. Our early years were really successful. Through the 1940s we went through a rocky patch with the war and things like that, we had to combine with a few other teams just to keep going.
"Once we came out the other side, we experienced a bit more success, especially during the 1960s. Here we are now in what was probably our most successful year ever. Five years ago when we were looking forward to this celebration, we had a dream to have a championship title sitting in our tent while we're celebrating. We added two more to that and to have three here this weekend is more than any club could ask for."
Centenary committee member Tracy Bidois said there had been a lot of hype building for the centenary.
"We've had people travel from overseas to come home, people who haven't been home for years have come back. Today, Saturday, we're focusing on celebrating the game of rugby and the other sports under the umbrella of the club. We have netball games on and rugby games from the kids, the women and four men's rugby games.
"The family environment here is really important because our kids will follow what they have grown up with. We've always involved our kids, throughout the season, and that's what it's all about - keeping the fire burning.
"Our kids are our future and they can see what needs to be done as they get older, it's something to leave for them."
Looking ahead, she said to ensure future success, the club needed to continue including all members of the Te Puna community.
"It's keeping that connection, keeping it going through the generations. All our kids are known by all the parents, it's one big whānau."