Rugby coach Bill Freeman dies

04:31, Feb 28 2013
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The 1965 Team' which gave Wellington its finest rugby moment on Athletic Park. Bill Freeman's (centre, front) 1965 team which gave Wellington its finest rugby moment. Back row: I N Uttley, K N Grant, B T Frederikson, B A Coulter, G N Bowerman, N R C Cowley, A J Osborne. Third row: R W Caulton, G F Kember, G C Williams, B Guy, R T de Cleene, T R Heeps, C N Currie. Second row: E A Jenkins, P Delaney, I N MacEwan, K F Gray (captain), M Williment (vice-captain), G Le Roy Hermansson, T N Lister, J M Finn. Front row: G M Nicholls (Masseur), A P Freeman (selector coach) I M H Vodanovich (assistant coach).

The funeral service for Bill Freeman, the man who coached Wellington to its greatest ever rugby victory, will be held at Old St Paul’s, Murphy Street at 10am on Friday morning.

Freeman, 90, coached the Wellington team to a 23-6 victory over the Springboks at Athletic Park on July 3, 1965.

The 1965 humiliation of the Springboks still ranks as the province’s finest ever rugby outing.

Under Freeman’s guiding hand, not only was the win achieved against the ultimate international rugby opponent, South Africa, but it was also obtained with control in the backline and ruthless power in the forwards.By 1965 Wellington had recorded notable victories on Athletic Park over the Anglo-Welsh (1908), Great Britain (1930) and went on to achieve other significant international wins against the British Isles (1966), England (1973), Wales (1988), France (1989) and Western Samoa (1996).

But none of these victories could match the Freeman coached Wellington team’s victory over the old foe South Africa.Bill Freeman assumed the coaching of the Wellington team from another book and newspaper seller, Clarrie Gibbons,  in 1964. 

Freeman’s tenure as coach also saw his side demolish the touring British Isles side by 20-6 in 1966.


Freeman held on to the Wellington coaching job until the end of the 1970 season, the same year his late understudy Ivan Vodanovich coached the All Blacks in South Africa.

Freeman died in the Cashmere Home, Newlands on February 20. 

He will be cremated at a private family service following his funeral service at Old St Paul’s on Friday.

He is survived by sons Tony and Russell and seven grandchildren.

See Saturday’s Dominion Post for Bill Freeman’s full life story.

The Dominion Post