After just two provincial rugby matches for Whanganui, Lincoln “Linc” Quarrie was selected for a 1961 All Black trial.
Now, the Te Awamutu-based 84-year-old is very humble about his rugby career and achievements.
Quarrie was born in Kawakawa, Bay of Islands in 1939. He grew up being in awe of his neighbour Gordon “Snow” Perrin, who represented North Auckland between 1949 and 1956.
That was his inspiration to play rugby, to be like Snow.
“My dad used to take us down to Whangārei and watch the games. I guess I was inspired by the neighbour,” Quarrie said.
The Quarries lived on some land they had bought off the Goodhue family, who purchased a bigger property next door.
“I was up there about three years ago. I called in and [All Black] Jack and his brother Josh were there. I had a good talk with Jack, a very down-to-earth sort of a guy.”
Quarrie attended Kawakawa Primary School and Kawakawa District High School.
At that time the two schools were joined, later the high school moved location and was renamed Bay of Islands College.
Upon leaving school he joined the Moerewa Rugby Football Sports Club, southwest of Paihia.
“I got a desire to play rep rugby. In those days I was playing No 8, but there was a bloke, Victor Yates, playing No 8 for North Auckland and I couldn’t see myself getting in front of him,” Quarrie said.
“An opportunity came up and I went down to Wairarapa shearing. Ron Horton from Taihape was there and he was playing for Whanganui at that stage. He asked me if I’d go fencing in Taihape with him.”
Horton was a leading shearer and had competed at several Golden Shears events.
Quarrie took up his offer, joined the Taihape Pirates Rugby Club and was selected for Whanganui in 1961 - ironically Horton missed out on selection and returned to play for Bush.
He played nine games at lock in his debut season and was selected to trial for New Zealand at Palmerston North on June 22 after just two.
“Because I was taller than most in the club team they said I had to play lock. If I had my career again, I would have preferred to have played loose forward. But because I was seen as a lock by the selectors, that’s where they put me,” he said.
In the June 13, 1961 edition of The Whanganui Chronicle, a report said Quarrie’s trial selection for the “First North Island Probables” was thoroughly deserved - “Quarrie’s sudden rise to rugby forefront notable achievement”.
“Exceptionally good in his first representative match for Whanganui against Manawatū this season, the 22-year-old forward from the Taihape area was even more outstanding against Taranaki.
“In the tight or the loose, it made no difference to Quarrie’s effectiveness and the sheer spirit of his play could not help but impress everyone who saw him in action, including two members of the North Island selection panel, Messrs J Finlay and CC Gibbons.
“And if those same gentlemen had been present when Whanganui played the Centurions on Sunday they would probably have been even more impressed by the way Quarrie battled to stem the Centurions onslaught.
“The true worth of a player is found in the way he reacts when his side is up against it or getting a thrashing. Quarrie’s reaction was tremendous.
“There was strength, determination and character in his play, as well as ability. He emerged from the game with his reputation enhanced and to do that in a badly beaten team is no mean achievement.
“Because of the talent available and the tough competition offering, Quarrie will have his work cut out to go further than the Palmerston North trial, but it is a feather in his cap to be even chosen for higher company with only two full-scale representative matches behind him.”
The New Zealand Sports Digest also named him as one of the five promising players of the year.
The other four went on to make the All Blacks but Quarrie didn’t, even though he grabbed a try in the All Blacks trial during his team’s 29-26 victory.
A badly injured ankle held him back the following year, but nevertheless, he made seven appearances for Whanganui and also got married.
At 23, he was almost ready to give his career away.
In 1964, Quarrie and his family moved to a sheep and beef farm in Ōpārau - between Pirongia and Kāwhia.
He felt he’d done all he wanted to on the rugby field, but upon moving north he joined the Pirongia Rugby Sports Club and Te Awamutu Rugby Sub-Union teams and was asked to play for a Waikato XV.
Although a second-string side, the XV’s matches were considered first-class appearances.
Of their three 1964 games, Quarrie played against Thames Valley and Poverty Bay, alongside the likes of Andy Bell and Wren Bartram.
The team’s manager then asked him if he was interested in playing for Waikato.
“I said, I don’t think I’m up to that. He said ‘I’ll tell you what, I know enough people in the right places that if you get fit, you’ll get in’.
“I did a bit more training and in those days they used to have trials for the Waikato team. I got in and played 12 out of the 13 games in 1965.”
Quarrie became Waikato #580, making his debut against Auckland in the 14-6 Coronation Shield loss at Hamilton’s Rugby Park.
“It was purely amateur those days. With Waikato, we used to train at Cambridge on Sundays and I was living out at Ōpārau. They gave us a shilling for a mile for travelling. It was an 80-mile turn-around,” he said.
“Harold Sherwin was on the Waikato Union, I knew him very well because he was from Pirongia, and when my claim sheet went in for mileage there were a lot of questions, ‘Where the hell does this guy live?’”
The rugby union had never seen a mileage claim for 80 shillings (four pounds) - a quarter of Quarrie’s earnings as he was paid 16 pounds a week.
“Interestingly, Ōpārau was in the King Country Union by boundary but I had an exemption because Pirongia was closer than anywhere else. Apparently, some of the King Country executives questioned my ability to play for Waikato,” Quarrie said.
“Anyway, they had a gentleman’s agreement that I could, and then I moved out to Ngaroma. Sherwin knew what was going on and King Country said ‘He’s definitely in King Country now so he’s got to play for King Country’.”
They got a map out and found the Puniu River, south of Kihikihi, was the Waikato/King Country boundary but out towards Ngaroma it crossed back into Waikato territory - proving he was eligible for the Mooloo men.
During his first season with Waikato, they faced South Africa in Hamilton.
At the final training before playing the Springboks, Waikato legend and coach Has Catley pulled Quarrie aside.
Catley asked him if he’d ever played front-row before. Quarrie gave him a comical, but truthful answer.
“Yeah at primary school, why?”
Catley tried to convince Quarrie to play prop for the upcoming match but the thought of his first match up-front being against the South African pack wasn’t inviting, so he played lock in the 26-13 loss.
“That day I was locking with Graeme Clarke. I don’t know if he dislocated his shoulder but he couldn’t lift his arm. There were no replacements in those days and he had to carry on,” Quarrie recalled.
“The next week we played Wellington and Catley said ‘Right, it’s prop or nothing’. So, I played the rest of the season as a prop believe it or not. I was shearing and fencing so I was reasonably strong.”
The following season was a near mirror of his Whanganui career. He was out for several months with a badly sprained ankle.
Upon his return to play, Waikato were set for a tour of the South Island.
Quarrie said the team played a lot of games in a short space of time.
“The week before we went down there, I wasn’t in the team, but we played the British Isles and I think the week before that, we’d gone up to Auckland and won the Ranfurly Shield.
“Then we had this trip, we flew down to Wellington on a Saturday. Played Wellington on Saturday, Tuesday we played Golden Bay-Motueka, Thursday we played Canterbury, Saturday we played Southland, Tuesday we played Otago and flew back to defend the Ranfurly Shield against Hawke’s Bay - who took it off us.”
Quarrie had only managed four matches for Waikato in 1966 as well as some time with the B side, and that was it for his provincial career - he withdrew from trials the following year.
Before giving up rugby at age 28, Quarrie was part of the 1967 Peace Cup-winning Te Awamutu Sub-Union team alongside the likes of former All Black Bill Birtwistle - the man who helped seal Te Awamutu’s first Peace Cup win.
“I wasn’t terribly fit because I’d been out for a while. I had kids at that stage and really had to put my career before rugby,” Quarrie said.
Milking cows was his career and he found a new hobby, moving on to the indoor bowls mat at the Ōtorohanga Workingmen’s Club.
“We played indoor bowls in the evening as it fitted in [around work]. We used to go to the national championships every year. In 1980, we went down to Christchurch and won the fours.”
His four children all followed the passion for sport, with two of them gaining international recognition.
Son Dr Ken Quarrie has been the senior scientist and injury prevention manager for New Zealand Rugby in Wellington since 2000 - the longest-serving New Zealand Rugby employee.
Ken helped set up RugbySmart, an evidence-assisted, nationwide injury prevention programme for New Zealand Rugby, with a special emphasis on the prevention of the most severe injuries.
Putāruru-based daughter Kathy Duxfield has been to several Barefoot Waterskiing World Championships and was in the New Zealand national senior team from 2007-2014.
After leaving Ngaroma, Quarrie lived in many places including Te Kōwhai, Pāterangi, Ōtewā, Pōkuru and Waihi before settling in Te Awamutu for retirement.
Taking up golf 30 years ago, Quarrie is still a very active member of Stewart Alexander Golf Club, playing three times a week and walking 18 holes.
“I enjoy the company, I enjoy the exercise and I like to be competitive,” he said.
In 2019, he was part of the champion Waikato Handicap Strokeplay Pennant team - capping a highly successful campaign.
Although humble about his experiences and achievements, he can still appreciate his rugby playing successes - taking on the the Springboks and trialling for the All Blacks at an early age - along with plenty of broken noses and many lifelong friends made.
Jesse Wood is a multimedia journalist based in Te Awamutu. He joined the Te Awamutu Courier and NZME in 2020.
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