Celtic rugby family ready for 100th bash


Rugby memories of sporting courage and famous road trips will be at the fore when the Celtic Rugby Football Club marks 100 years this coming Easter.

A weekend of celebration is planned, along with a centennial booklet and a special game of rugby.

Centennial committee chairman Kieron Gray said registrations were now open, via www.ashburtonceltic.co.nz and Celtic members past and present should save the date, April 2-4.

The green weekend begins with a catchup on the Friday night, and a senior game the next day. The team will be wearing their new commemorative strip, sponsored by Paul Summerfield Plumbing.

A dinner that night will be at the Ashburton racecourse, with speeches by former club captains and presidents; a band and dancing will follow.

A church service will be held on Sunday as well as a display of junior rugby skills and games, and barbecue.

Kieron said a special feature of the dinner night would be the auction of replica old-style playing jerseys commissioned by the club. Some player numbers might be hot property as they were one of a kind, like the No 10 worn by Jon Bond and Pete Blacklow, or the hooker’s jersey worn by Roger Gordon and Greg King.

‘‘The fellas who played in these numbers will want these jerseys.’’

Kieron said a large marque would be erected on one of the fields at the rugby club on Keenans Road and photos over the years would be on show.

The club has spent about $75,000 refurbishing its clubrooms ahead of the celebrations, fitting glazed windows, sliding doors, new carpets and curtains and energy-efficient lighting. The interior has been repainted.

A large proportion of the refurbishing funds are thanks to a grant from the Lion Foundation.

The club celebrated its 75th and then 90th birthdays to make sure rugby memories were not lost, and the new booklet being researched and edited by Steve Devereux will cover material from the past 25 years.

Kieron said standout memories for him over recent years included the opening of the club’s new Murney grandstand and winning the Watters Cup in 2018. The club also became the first Ashburton club to field a women’s rugby team.

He said there were some great stories of old circulating ahead of the centenary, including an account of an Easter tournament in Invercargill, written by Flint Hill, a member of the Celtic team that attended it.

‘‘He wrote a story about the bus trip to Invercargill. They stayed in a dry area and had to go to the next town to buy crates of beer. They stayed in a convent and were apparently practising their scrums against the bedheads at 2am.’’

Darion said the club was ‘‘a big green family’’ where people unselfishly gave time and energy. There were generations of players and supporters with the surnames O’Grady, Summerfield, Prendergast, Morrison and Hurley.

All the JAB teams will sport new jerseys for 2021 with crests marking the centenary; these have been sponsored by the Foodstuffs Charitable Trust and Ashburton New World.

Kieron and Darion have been joined on the centenary organising committee by Kevin and Helen Hurley, Greg Prendergast, Paul Casey, Paul Summerfield, Darcy Lysaght, Rodger Gundry, Richie McCrea, Donald Summerfield, Steve Devereux, Simon Adlam, Al Grieve, Ross Donaldson and Kevin Donaldson.


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