Members of the Otago University cricket team - who were travelling on the Wahine for a university cricket tournament - have gathered this week for their own special reunion.

Today marks 50 years since the Wahine ran aground in Wellington Harbour, claiming the lives of 53 people.

The University of Otago cricket team were on board the ferry, travelling to the New Zealand Universities Easter Tournament.

They had never played together, and boarding the ship none of the members could have known that they would never play as a team.

Advertisement

All players, the youngest 19-year-old Alan McDougall, survived the tragedy.

Murray Parker and Murray Webb, two particularly gifted players, would go on to play for New Zealand.

Others went on to pursue careers in law, teaching and caricature.

Speaking to the Herald about the anniversary, Wellington-based Gary Murphy said nine of the 11 team members were in Wellington for the anniversary. Murphy was based in Hutt Valley and had taken the reins in organising the reunion.

They had travelled from near and far to do so - one player, Murray Leach, even flying in from London for the occasion.

The team met for a private dinner last night at a Wellington hotel, ahead of official commemorative events today.

"It's just an opportunity to get together and perhaps have a few speeches in a private room where we're not sort of cutting across other people," he said.

Murphy had been looking forward to seeing the other team members, some of whom he knew well, others only "fleetingly".

Advertisement

Despite the fact they did not all keep in regular contact, Murphy said they did have "a bit of a bond".

"You've come through a thing like the Wahine and I think that does bond you, you know."

Read more: see our full online presentation, Wahine, 50 years of pain.

There was a dawn service in Eastbourne for those remembering the Wahine tragedy and another service would be held at Seatoun a little later.

"I'll go around to the Eastbourne one because that's where I came into shore, it's also close by to where I live in the Hutt Valley," Murphy said.

These gatherings would be followed by a reunion lunch on Wellington's waterfront.

"We've sort of etched two events in bold lettering if you'd like - the dinner for us on the Monday night and the reunion lunch," Murphy said.

"All of us are going to those things."

The members of the University of Otago cricket team largely saw and heard very little of each other until five years ago.

The team met in Dunedin for a special alumni event marking the 45-year anniversary of the disaster.

That same year a book by Ronald Cardwell and Bill Francis, The Team that Never Played, was published, telling each of the players' stories from the experience.

The programme for their 50th anniversary celebrations could include some sort of ball sports, Murphy said, though this wasn't likely to be cricket.

"We might get a bit of sandpaper on the ball and take to the halls of the Sofitel," he joked.

"No, we don't have any [cricket] planned.

"We have got a golf game sort of planned for those who might have an interest to do that."

Murphy, who became a table tennis champion after the experience, said it would be good to hear how the others were doing.

"We've been blended together really," he said, "through an event that none of us would have forseen or wanted".