Many of those who turn 100 are asked the question: What's the secret of your longevity? For Kereone Rugby Club it seems that secret is the ongoing loyalty of those families involved with the club. And one of those families has been a very big name in the history of the game. Tom Rowland looks at the club's plans to mark its centenary.

Originally formed in 1919 from returning soldiers, Kereone takes its name from an estate cut up and offered by the government for settlement by returned servicemen.

Over the next 100 years, Kereone Rugby Club saw hundreds of players grace its fields in Morrinsville, including names such as brothers Ian and Don Clarke who both starred for the All Blacks during the 1950s and early 1960s.

Along with Ian and Don, three more Clarke brothers, Doug, Brian and Graeme, were also a star feature in Waikato rugby and together the five brothers made 409 appearances in first-class rugby.

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Former Kereone player and local radio personality Graeme "Mintie" Mead said it had been the continuous loyalty of families that had kept the club going.

The 1959 Morrinsville rep team which included four of the five Clarke brothers from Kereone. Photo / Facebook
The 1959 Morrinsville rep team which included four of the five Clarke brothers from Kereone. Photo / Facebook

Mead featured for the side in the 1980s, when the club was sitting at the bottom of third division in the Waikato League.

"Basically I had a change of working circumstances, where I moved out to Morrinsville to do some milking, but as part of the job I also had to play for the rugby team," he said.

"I got the job from Barrie Southcombe who was a stalwart of the club.

"At the time just about everyone was a farmer out there, and everyone played rugby out there."

Mead said Kereone kept thriving, even as smaller clubs in the region began to merge as one.

"We were really just a bunch of farmers, we milked cows in the morning, played rugby in the afternoon, and back to milking at night."

Running May 17-19, a series of centennial events will be held at the Kereone Rugby Club to celebrate the occasion.

Researching the club's rich history has turned up a number of interesting facts, said publication editor Dennis Scott, including the decision of Kereone's choice of playing strip effectively being made for them.

One of the commemorative jerseys that will go under the hammer at the centenary event. Photo / Supplied
One of the commemorative jerseys that will go under the hammer at the centenary event. Photo / Supplied

The first choice was blue, but due to World War I shortages, green and white jerseys were the only set available.

With Scott and a team working on a commemorative book, an equally dedicated group is putting the final touches to the celebratory weekend's programme.

The chance to own a piece of New Zealand's sporting history will also come up with two items of All Blacks memorabilia and a unique set of commemorative rugby jerseys going under the hammer at the event, something Mintie is keen to get his hands on.

"I don't care how much they are or how high the bidding could go, I want one," he said.

Don Clarke placing the ball for a kick at goal following a mark in the All Blacks' game against Ireland at Dublin in 1963. Photo / File
Don Clarke placing the ball for a kick at goal following a mark in the All Blacks' game against Ireland at Dublin in 1963. Photo / File

Centenary chairman John Aarts said the club had been fortunate to have two All Blacks items donated for the auction.

"Our very generous donors have given us a rugby ball that was signed by the ABs before their first test win over the British and Irish Lions during the 2017 tour. As well, there's a magnificently framed jersey that's been signed by each member of the 2018 All Blacks. That's pretty special and desirable in itself, but Israel Dagg's retirement means his name won't be coming up again in the same way," Aarts said.

A signed All Blacks shirt that will go up for auction at the centenary event. Photo / Supplied
A signed All Blacks shirt that will go up for auction at the centenary event. Photo / Supplied

Auction items will be offered at two evening events during the celebrations at Campbell Park. The first half of the commemorative jerseys and All Blacks ball are in the auctioneer's hands at the Friday "Celebrity Couch Chat", with the other half of the set and the signed All Blacks jersey available at Saturday's Centennial Dinner.

Celebrity couch chat

Leading sports personalities Sir Bryan Williams and triple international Anna Harrison (nee Scarlett) are joining club patron and former Waikato player Brian Clarke "on the couch" as part of Kereone's three-day centennial celebrations next week.

Credited with the Harrison Hoist (a lift blocking a netball opposition's shot at goal), having the netballer at the Celebrity Couch Chat event is exciting and a no-brainer, according to Kereone Centenary Committee chairman John Aarts.

"Beach volleyball and netball are a huge part of our club. Anna has worn the silver fern representing New Zealand in both, as well as indoor volleyball. It's an awesome opportunity for our netballers to see someone who's played 88 Silver Fern tests and at multiple Netball World Cups and Commonwealth Games events.

Anna Harrison in action for the Mystics. Photo / File
Anna Harrison in action for the Mystics. Photo / File

"Former All Black Bryan Williams needs no introduction," said Aarts.

"Last year he was knighted and also became the 23rd New Zealander to be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. That puts him up there with the likes of Sir Colin Meads, Jonah Lomu and Kereone's own, Don Clarke."

Local resident and former Waikato Colts captain and 70-cap Waikato player Brian Clarke completes the celebrity line-up.

"Brian's not only been a tremendous rugby talent playing alongside his four brothers, but he's given so much back through coaching, mentoring or his numerous local and regional administration roles at what have been key stages in rugby's development and history," said Aarts.

A ball signed by the 2017 All Blacks squad that faced the British and Irish Lions. Photo / Supplied
A ball signed by the 2017 All Blacks squad that faced the British and Irish Lions. Photo / Supplied

"We and Harlequins are fortunate to be able to draw on his experience and to have him as a patron and life member. The couch chat is going to be an unmissable event."

The Celebrity Couch Chat takes place on Friday, May 17, with sports reporter and commentator Scotty "Sumo" Stevenson as MC. Stevenson is set to be New Zealand's key commentator at this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan in September. Kereone's Friday night event includes a commemorative jersey auction.