There are few things a Kiwi farmer loves more than a good ol' game of footy at the end of a long, hard week on the farm.
Most club sides, even in today's professional environment, feature a farmer or two.
Fifty years ago most players came from the land and none more so than the Counties Rugby Football Club teams that dominated the Whanganui senior grade competition a half century ago.
The club, with its home at Macnab Domain on Kaiwhaiki Rd, celebrates its 50 year anniversary at Queen's Birthday this year.
Club stalwart Vaughan Cameron recalls how it all came about for Counties.
"In 1967 there was a group of about eight or 10 teams between Raetihi and Whanganui playing rugby on Sundays," Cameron recalled.
"Ken Firmin [local farmer] was the organiser for the Parihauhau team. Their home ground was on the flat paddock at the Lismore Rd turnoff, which now has a house on it. They used the showers at the Lismore shearers quarters, before the forestry destroyed them.
"Early in 1967 Ken Firmin moved from the Rabbit Board house at Aberfeldy to Raetihi. He asked me if I would organise the team as I was working for Ken Marshall on the Parihauhau Rd.
"The team was made up of farmers and farm workers from the lower Parapara and Parihauhau area. In 1967 the only team that beat us was Kaiwhaiki, on our home ground. We then beat them in our second game, on their home ground.
"Towards the end of the 67-year, John Firmin came and saw me and said that he thought we were strong enough to go into the Wanganui Senior Reserve competition. We decided that John would ask the Kaierau Rugby Club if they would nominate us, which they agreed to do.
"There was some heated discussion at the meeting of the Wanganui Rugby Committee. Some of the Kaierau delegates put bets on that we would win the competition. I think this helped get us into the Senior Reserve competition. I called a meeting of the Parihauhau team at our house in Parihauhau, where the club appointments were made."
Cameron said after some discussion it was decided to call the club Wanganui Counties Rugby Club as they all came from country areas.
"As we worked on farms it was decided that green was a good colour for our jerseys. It was also decided to ask Kaiwhaiki if they would join us, which they eventually did.
"Lindsay Horrocks [John's father and Whanganui and NZ Heartland player Lindsay's grandfather] told us we could play our games on the paddock by his woolshed. There was a water tap halfway along the fence which we used when injured. Great how cold water takes away a bit of pain. In those days you never let the opposition know you were hurt. If there was trouble on the field, we all stuck together.
"We build a tin shed at the southern end of the paddock and acquired a wood burner heater which we used for showering. We then had a changing room and shower at the ground. Bernie Thomas was the publican at the Avoca Hotel. After each game, we would go there for a beer and a debrief. Bernie always shouted four or five jugs after each win. He also put on supper for the teams.
"This was the only time we met. There was no training as a team during the week as the players were farm workers, they were expected to be fit. And they were fit. We won a lot of games, scoring in the last 10 minutes," Cameron said.
In the early days Counties had a great team of loyal and vocal supporters made up of friends, whānau and locals.
The games on the race course had 10 times more people watching than the main senior game on at Spriggens Park.
"When Bill Osborne [former All Black Bill and Charlie's father] was telling a publican in town about us he said: 'I'll have five double whiskies on each game with you'. Bill took him on and each week collected before coming to the Avoca," Cameron said.
In the first year Counties played 18 games, won 17 and lost 1 scoring 241 for and 90 against. Counties won the Senor Reserve competition.
"There was quite a few dozen beer changed hands at the end of that season."
1969 and 1970 were two more good years with 42 games played with Counties winning 32, drawing 2 and losing 4. A total of 547 points were scored for and 228 against and Counties winning the competition both years.
The club then went into a bit of a lull.
"About 1980 Dave Wicks moved to the Avoca. Dave was a good rugby coach and his son Craig played one game on the wing for the All Blacks against Fiji. He was the youngest player to play for the All Blacks. Dave coached Counties Seniors and built up a very good team. The supporters returned," Cameron said.
"About 1982 Dave Macnab, Garnie Horrocks and Lindsay Horrocks (Snr) got together to build a new clubroom on land donated by Dave Macnab. Local farms were searched for timber and anything that could be used. At that time the late Ken Crafar was president and John Sicely was secretary. Builders Fox and O'Leary were engaged by Dave Macnab to start building. Working bees were held every weekend and during the week if you could get there.
"By 1983 the new clubroom was ready. All the bar stools and tables were made at Kaitoke Prison workshops. Windows were donated which had the sponsors name printed on them. When opened in 1983, everything was paid for.
"Dave Macnab then had a word with his nephew Andy Haden, an All Black who owed him a favour. One year after opening Andy bought a team to play Whanganui at the clubrooms. This was played on Horrocks Park next to the clubrooms. Hugo Porta and a lot of All Blacks played in this team including Bill Osborne.
"It wasn't long after this game that Dave Macnab donated the land now called Macnab Domain. This man has given a lot of time, material, land and money to the club while asking for nothing in return; a true Counties man.
"After some ups and downs the club currently looks in good hands. I hope it stays that way."