When asked how a rugby club in a small town in Eastern Bay of Plenty has lasted 130 years, Brian Dobson says "there's just something about Matata".

Dobson is the president of the Matata Rugby and Sports Club, which celebrates its 130-year anniversary this weekend.

With a unique ground located a stone's throw away from the ocean, which screams grassroots rugby, and a small but tight-knit community, the club looks set to thrive for many years to come.

Dobson said every year was a milestone.


"Over the years this club has gathered a very proud history, being one of the oldest in New Zealand. We have had many very good players come out of this club, especially in the earlier years, some good teams and seasons and alas some bad.

"Even so, I feel that each and every one who has played, administrated or supported this club can be proud that they have played a part to keep us in existence while others around us have gone into recess."

He said at present the club was "out of the red and quite healthy", boasting three JAB teams, two senior and two junior netball teams, a senior rugby team, a women's sevens team and 164 financial members.

"My guess is the club was introduced to Matata when people were arriving here from Auckland, probably by boat, it all started from there. Back in those days Matata was growing, even in the 1900s when the rail head was here there was a bigger workforce here.

"Nowadays, even our players today, a lot of them work outside the area and come to play for us - that has changed. Smaller clubs these days find it harder and harder because there are so many sports these days.

"We seem to be getting teams every year, we struggle a bit for numbers sometimes but we've been able to continue. I don't know how many other clubs as old as us have been able to retain their identity and keep going.

"We're a pretty close community and everyone uses the clubroom as a hub in a sense. I guess we have the support of most of the people in town - the population here, a good percentage is Maori and our history goes back to those days when a lot of Maori started playing rugby."

Dobson said the club had produced "a number of players" who had represented Bay of Plenty as well as some who had pushed for higher honours.

"We've had about six New Zealand Maori representatives as well. We've had about 20 or 25 represent the Bay at different stages.

"There were a couple of years when we took busloads of people to support the team in the Baywide finals in Tauranga. Those were the highlights, along with getting the clubrooms built in 1977."

The club has planned a three-day celebration to mark the milestone, starting with a wine and cheese and registration evening on Friday, with entertainment from Karl Smith.

On Saturday there will be Town and Country junior touch, senior netball and senior rugby matches played between 10am and 4pm and a formal function at 6.30pm with entertainment from Stave.

At 10am on Sunday a brunch will be held before the Matata President's game against Rangiuru at 11am.

The club has had shirts printed for the occasion, on which the names of more than 750 players who have represented the club are printed.

Rugby - where it all began
Various codes of football were played in New Zealand in the years after Pakeha settlement.

Christchurch Football Club, which is now the oldest rugby club in the country, was founded in 1863. It played by its own rules for many years.

Rugby football was introduced to New Zealand in 1870 by Charles John Monro, son of the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, David Monro. He encountered the game while studying at Christ's College Finchley, in East Finchley, London, England, and on his return introduced the game to Nelson College, which played the first rugby union match against Nelson football club on May 14.

A visit to Wellington by Munro later that same year resulted in an organised match between Nelson and Wellington. By the following year, the game had been formalised in Wellington, and subsequently rugby was taken up in Whanganui and Auckland in 1873 and Hamilton in 1874.

In 1875, the first representative team was formed, being a combined-clubs Auckland team which toured the South. It is thought that by the mid-1870s, the game had been taken up by the majority of the colony.

The Matata Rugby Club was formed in 1887.