The Kaierau Rugby Club has lost one of its main pillars with the death of 85-year-old club patron and former WRFU president Kenneth King (Ken) McGifford.

McGifford passed away peacefully at home on December 22.

During his 69 years with Kaierau he held almost every key administrative position and helped the club develop into a multi-million dollar complex that has fielded teams in Wanganui rugby, cricket, netball, softball, hockey and touch football.

The Country Club now has a new gymnasium that is home of the strong River City boxing club, and is also the venue for the Marangai Archery Club.


It ranks as the largest of any multi-sport complex in New Zealand Heartland Rugby.
Ken joined Kaierau in 1949 as a fifth grade player because the Marist club had no team in the grade.

He played second five in the 1950 Wanganui champion Kaierau fifth grade team.
During the 1950's he played at halfback in pre-season matches one year but broke his leg and missed a season of games.

Most of his playing career was in grade rugby, with a reputation as a solid tackler.

He was also a sound all-round cricketer, was secretary of the Gonville Swimming Club, a member of the Union Boat Club and as a youngster was a runner-boy for athletics and cycling at Cooks Gardens.

The young McGifford would rush the hand-written results across to the pavilion for Ivan Brown to hoist up on a rope and announce to the spectators.

It was as an administrator that he played key roles for Kaierau, first being elected to the committee in 1951, two years after joining the club.

He was club captain in 1960, secretary between 1987 and 1993, president in 1994-96, treasurer, assistant coach of a club team, secretary of the 1966 club 75th jubilee committee, chairman of the 1991 club centenary committee, assistant coach of a club team, was elected a life member in 1989 and was one of the longest serving club patrons, being appointed in 2008.

McGifford was elected a Wanganui Rugby Football Union life member in 2010 after having been WRFU junior vice president in 2001, senior vice president in 2002 and president in 2003.

He had been chairman of the WRFU junior management committee, served three years on the Central Region Junior Council, managed Wanganui representative Colt teams, was on the WRFU club fixtures committee, and was in charge of the union's weekly club and rep match programmes.

McGifford was also on the 1971 WRFU management board and acted as liaison officer for visiting representative teams, was a member of the WRFU 125th jubilee organising committee in 2012 and was the Kaierau delegate to WRFU annual meetings.

He was a very loyal supporter of the Kaierau club and Wanganui representative teams and freely mixed at after-match functions, keenly debating all aspects of sporting and general topics.

During his years with the club, Kaierau moved from club rooms at Spriggens Park to form the Kaierau Country Club in Devon Road, as McGifford was acting secretary of the club's special general meeting where it was agreed to purchase the Springvale farm land in 1971.

The final payment was made in 1990, fittingly from profits from the food canteen that Kaierau operated at Spriggens Park for many years.

An offer of $1000 from club member Vaud Brookie at the 75th jubilee had initiated the purchase of the club's own land, which has grown from a 13-acre farmlet into a 24-acre complex which comprises four playing fields, clubrooms, changing rooms, gymnasium, archery field and carparks.

McGifford jokes around with New Zealand Community Trust chief executive Mike Knell, left, at the opening of the Kaierau boxing and training gym at the Country Club in 2016.
McGifford jokes around with New Zealand Community Trust chief executive Mike Knell, left, at the opening of the Kaierau boxing and training gym at the Country Club in 2016.

McGifford was a fountain of knowledge on all aspects of Kaierau rugby.

It was fitting that a Kaierau club flag was draped over his coffin at his family-only funeral service, the funeral card included the club's maroon and gold colours, and a special get-together of the club "faithful" was held at the Devon Road complex to reflect on the long career of their past patron.

Former WRFU president and Kaierau life member Mark Carroll spoke of the outstanding service that Ken McGifford had given to the club since 1949.

As Ken often mentioned a well known Kaierau quote – "Once a Kaiwaka - Always a Kaiwaka."

He is survived by his wife, his children and their partners and his grandchildren.

His death notice published on Saturday requested that in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to Hospice Wanganui to carry out an act of kindness to someone in need.