New Zealand has more than 500 rugby clubs, which makes selecting a 'First XV of classics' an endeavour sure to stir spirited discussion. Our selection criteria was based on All Blacks produced, championships won, history, uniqueness and rivalries.
We have tried to avoid, where possible, Marist clubs, High School Old Boys' and Varsity clubs because they represent massive institutions (the Catholic church; traditional single-sex state education networks; universities) rather than community.
Christchurch HSOB warrant a place on the list due to their unique reputation of being a first five factory and there's a certain varsity club that also makes an appearance through sheer weight of All Blacks and its indelible part of that particular province's rugby history.
The list is subjective and those clubs which feel aggrieved by their omission should write in for a potential redux in 2021.
Our First XV of classic Kiwi clubs will be rolled out three a week over five weeks.
By Brian Ashby
This wasn't the way the script was meant to play out.
April 3 and 4 were going to be big nights. Massive nights. Glenmark was set to celebrate its centenary, brewery profits were going to spike.
Nothing ever got in the way of Glenmark getting the job done.
After all, club legend Alex Wyllie made it very clear that the only excuse for missing practice was "death and lambing".
They do staunch rather well at Glenmark. But then not even Grizz could organise a defence to combat Covid-19 and its associated lockdown.
Celebrations are on hold, with vague thoughts to 2021, when it's hoped the world has perhaps settled down a little.
In recent years, life hasn't been kind for the members at Glenmark. The now on-hold centenary celebrations were timely for a couple of reasons; the club is now back in a nice newly built community hall following the devastating 2015 fire which destroyed their Omihi Clubrooms and their irreplaceable memorabilia, and then there was the death in August last year of former All Black halfback Bruce Deans.
After a tough few years, it would have provided a great opportunity for them to pat themselves on the back for the way they've weathered the storms.
Jack Reid is a name that you won't come across in rugby almanacs but in Glenmark and North Canterbury rugby circles everyone knows his name.
Born in Winton, he attended Southland Boys High and, when his dad shifted the family north, he played for Irwell in the Ellesmere competition in Canterbury.
In 1963, Reid bought his own farm in Omihi. The now-81-year-old is currently recuperating from back surgery, but he can clearly recall his first visit to the Omihi Domain.
"I was amazed to see one fellow grab the ball from way down in his own quarter and he knocked about half the other team over and scored at the other end," said Reid.
Enquiries revealed that the burly lad was a young bloke called Alec Wyllie. "I've never seen any before or after like him. I sort of got a bit interested in the club from then on."
"A bit interested" is a bit of an understatement from Reid, who has been club president, a life member and a highly energetic fundraiser.
Former All Blacks Graeme Higginson and Andy Earl were among the numerous rugby players who have been employed by Reid in the past.
The white specs of sheep could be spotted in the rolling hills around Omihi for as far as the eye could see when Reid arrived in the area, although in the new millennium you'll also see plenty of grapevines as the viticulture industry has spread throughout North Canterbury.
Glenmark epitomised the old stereotype of the rugby hard men coming off the land, and as Reid observed, pre-season or off-season training as we know it these days didn't exist.
"They'd saunter down out of the hills and they hadn't done much practice or anything but they were all basically physically fit from farm work."
Reid's network of farming contacts was handy when it came to fundraising. After long, hot sweaty days working on their farms, club members would dread the phone call late in the day, summonsing them to a farm somewhere to cart hay until sunset.
Reid says the money wasn't the only upside for the club. "A lot of us used to work a farm all by ourselves and to get out with other men you knew and liked working with was really good."
With an increased focus on the mental health and wellbeing of farmers these days through organisations like Farmstrong, Reid was probably onto something without even realising it.
Knitting doilies was never going to be their thing. Present-day fundraisers not surprisingly still have a farming theme. Club president Jimmy Gardiner says they had a good turn-out from members at the Stonyhurst Station. "We dagged four-and-a-half-thousand lambs - wasn't a bad wee earner."
Reid's jack-of-all-trades attitude also saw him running the bar at the club for many years. "We'd put a wee tanker out the back and put the hose in through the window. We'd drink 250 gallons in an afternoon."
Reid concedes that's not really the right thing to do in the 21st century, but it didn't hurt the bank balance at the time.
These days, Glenmark is in a kind of de facto marriage with the Cheviot rugby club further up State Highway 1. The clubs retain their individual identities but pool resources on the field, as they meet the challenges faced by many rural clubs across the country, when it comes to getting their players back after they leave high school.
For all the colourful off-field yarns, it's Glenmark's achievements on the field that makes them one for the First XV classic clubs of New Zealand Rugby.
The wider perception of Glenmark has always been based on the team being filled with hairy-scary monster-sized forwards.
Probably not an unreasonable assumption. When the current side fields the older brother of the superb All Black lock Brodie Retallick at first five, they do seem to do bulk rather well.
Brook Retallick has spent more than a decade in the senior team, and while he doesn't match the frame of his illustrious younger bro, you'd be hard pressed to find many bigger standoffs around the country.
Retallick kicked three penalties and a conversion and steered his side around the park magnificently in Glenmark-Cheviot's 16-10 nailbiting win over Kaiapoi in last year's North Canterbury final. Nothing unusual in those two sides meeting in a final, with the names of Glenmark and Kaiapoi both featuring prominently on the North Canterbury honours board.
Crusader number one and former Canterbury captain Stu Loe is a life member at Glenmark and has long memories of the rivalry. "Among the older members it was always sort of billed as the battle of the Farmers versus the Freezing Workers. Not sure how realistic that was but it sounded good."
One of Glenmark's biggest battles came in the form of the 2015 fire which destroyed their home in the 91-year-old Omihi Hall, taking with it much of their priceless memorabilia and history.
Remarkably, a new hall was in place by 2018.
When the original building was built in 1924, a trust was set up with a number of locals involved in the running of the Hall.
Former All Black coach Alex Wyllie's father was one of the original trustees.
"As the trustees got older, they handed down to their sons, so like many from the second or third generations, I became a trustee," said Wyllie.
At the time of the fire, the trust was preparing to sell the building to the local council.
"We ended up with nothing to sell, just a big clean up and sorting out the insurance."
Wyllie is full of praise for everyone getting things up and running again with some huge fundraising efforts and great generosity.
He particularly highlighted Rebuild committee chairman Alec Baxter's tireless work and Daniel Smith of Daniel Smith Industries, who also made things happen quickly.
"Without Smith's involvement, there's no doubt the whole process would've taken much longer. He's a keen rugby person and he just wanted to see Glenmark up and running again. He did a great job making sure we got everything at the right rate".
A number of Glenmark members have suggested that Wyllie's connection with Smith was a key driver for the club's rebuild. Downplaying his role, Grizz reluctantly concedes "that might be a fair call". The trust has now handed the completed building over to the district.
Wyllie thinks his first game for Glenmark was when he was aged around 5, although the games then were generally played between the local schools.
Wyllie is adamant that he didn't have his famed horseshoe moustache as a 5-year-old.
A hundred years on, and the Glenmark Rugby Club is still a key part of it's surrounding community. Whatever the setback, either on or off the park, Glenmark has responded positively and got the job sorted.
32-24! North Canterbury DIV 1 Champions 2020Posted by Glenmark-Cheviot Rugby on Friday, 14 August 2020
*Glenmark-Cheviot again faced Kaiapoi in the 2020 North Canterbury final. However with Covid-19 level 2 restrictions in place, club members missed out on seeing their side score a hard fought 32-24 victory.