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 rivalry.
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 who 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.
Today: Petone Rugby Club
Wednesday: Manurewa Rugby Club
By Jim Kayes
Ken Gray gave Andy Leslie a decent spray after the first scrum, demanding to know why no move had been called by the No 8.
"I told him I was waiting for him to decide the call," Leslie said of a "chat" that was happening early in his first senior A match for his beloved Petone club.
"Ken looked at me and said, 'You're the No 8, you make the calls, you call the play. Do your job'."
It was a cathartic moment for the teenager, one of those 'it's ability, not age that matters' moments that helped shape the man who went on to captain the All Blacks in all but one of his 34 appearances.
At the time, in 1964, playing for Petone was all that mattered to Leslie. He had grown up at the club - the Village as those who are part of it like to call it - and it was as much a home and a family to him as the real things were.
Club rugby in those days was a true reflection on the communities they existed within.
For Petone that was a mix of blue and white collar workers, with Leslie an electrician who had gone to Hutt Valley Technical College, before he later ran a menswear business.
"We lived a few streets away from the rugby club and Dad (also Andy) had played football for the local club (he was a professional footballer who played for New Zealand).
"It has been my life, really, and I still go there on Saturdays to watch the kids and the senior sides."
Some of those kids are and have been his grandchildren, just as Leslie watched his sons John and Martin play for Petone too.
That intergenerational thread is strong at the club as Leslie reels off lists of names of those he played alongside whose grandchildren are now wearing the famous blue and white jersey.
"It really is a village," Leslie says, before adding that the club is "extremely lucky to have a huge Polynesian base now who are huge contributors to the club".
Petone was formed in 1885 and is the third oldest club, after Wellington (1870) and Poneke (1883). It's not surprising, then, that those three are fierce rivals.
Petone have won the Wellington premier competition 38 times and the club competition 42 times, and have 28 All Blacks and three Black Ferns, Ricki Flutey played for England and the British and Irish Lions, and there's long lists of Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Scotland test players, Maori All Blacks and Wellington representatives.
Gray, Leslie and Tana Umaga headline the All Blacks list but Allan Hewson is another notable inclusion and will forever be remembered for his last minute winning penalty against South Africa in the third test at Eden Park in 1981.
The kick secured not only the 25-22 win in the 'flour bomb' test, but also the three test series and Hewson justifiably punched the air in delight as his kick sailed between the posts.
Hewson says he would never have made the All Blacks if he hadn't played for Petone and suggests the club backline, which was also largely the Wellington backline, was as good as any he'd been a part of in the All Blacks.
A typical starting lineup had the All Blacks halfback Ian Steven and first five John Dougan, Richard Cleland and Jim Brown in the centres, and Vern Winitana and Geoff Skipper - both Maori All Blacks - on the wings and Hewson at fullback.
He also played wing and centre and there were a host of others in the club over the years who were All Blacks or Wellington reps - or simply extremely good rugby players.
The club has had some wonderful coaches like Leslie, Frank Walker and Ian Upston, but Hewson says he learnt as much from those he played alongside as he did any coach.
"You'd have to be dumb not to learn from them. They were that good."
One who had a huge influence on him was the centre Brown, who was both smart and physical - and incredibly unlucky not to go away with the All Blacks on the 1972-73 tour to Britain and Ireland.
"He was measured for his All Blacks blazer but broke his leg in a match against University before the squad was actually named."
Like so many at Petone, Hewson is part of a multi-generational presence at the club as his father, Roy, played there and his son, Mark, was in the age grade teams before focusing solely on cricket.
Hewson fondly remembers an era when club matches - especially against arch rivals Poneke, Wellington and Marist St Pats - were as good as any Mitre 10 Cup game you'd see today.
"We had 10 Wellington players in the Petone side when I made the seniors so it was hard to get a game. The matches were like rep footy, it was that good."
So too were the after matches and the Sunday sessions where the tales from the night before we recounted.
"You really wouldn't want to be anywhere else," Hewson says.
Frank Walker was Petone's hooker during their golden era of the 1970s, winning seven Jubilee Cups as a player and then coaching them to three more titles in 1989, 1992 and 1993.
He came to the club when he moved from Gisborne to Wellington in 1967 to study pharmacy and the club was aligned with the pharmacy school.
He quickly realised that making the Petone senior team was almost harder than making the Wellington rep side (for whom he played 65 games and would later coach).
That depth was one key to Petone's success.
"Coach Ian Upston was also a key factor at the club," Walker says.
"He was a great selector and he had very good man management skills. Though he was close to his players socially he had no compunction in dropping a player and this only increased the great respect we had for Uppy."
Leslie is also adamant Petone - and more importantly the people at Petone - made him into an All Black.
"There are so many people, guys like Bob Scott, Don Griffin, Arthur Lambourn, Les Everson, Ken Gray and Don McIntosh - he was hugely influential in my life.
"I was a ball boy when he was the club's captain and then he coached me when I made the Petone senior B team."
In his first match Leslie was told by McIntosh, a former All Blacks flanker, that he would be playing prop, not his usual No 8.
"He told me he wanted me to understand the work others did to get me the ball."
It's almost the club's unofficial mantra.