Following last year’s popular Legends of Sport series, we will be profiling more of those Southlanders who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sport happen in this province. This week Don Wright talks with Star Rugby Football Club stalwart Alan ‘‘Stumpy’’ Blackler.
The man they warmly call "Stumpy" has served a staggering 50 years on the committee of the Star Rugby Football Club - a club rich in proud family traditions and owing much to the vast roles of voluntary helpers.
The 67-year-old retired Makarewa farmer and businessman, who played 37 games for Southland at pivot and also as fullback and halfback from 1965 to 1973, is a life member of the club.
He has been similarly honoured by the Makarewa Town and Country Club, and is a present trustee and has been a director of the Lorneville Sale Yards for more than 20 years.
Alan Blackler is the face of the Star rugby club and, along with Maira Boyle, has organised the popular housie nights for the past 11 years on Mondays and Thursdays.
He took over from Lindsay Bell, a close friend and one who has been an inspiration to him.
"When I was president of the Star club, Lindsay would ring me three times a week to keep me in touch and up with the play . . . he was bloody fantastic. A close mate and another Star stalwart, Bob Donnelly, and I put together a This Is Your Life tribute to Lindsay."
Star men and women don't do things in halves when backing the club.
Bell, Blackler, Donnelly, Boyle and others too numerous to mention, have been worth their weight in gold in ensuring the club remains an institution in Southland rugby.
"All helpers don't have to be told to do things after games . . . they just go about it without any fuss or bother."
Reflecting on his early schooling at Makarewa, Blackler said many of its teachers were interested in sport, particularly rugby, tennis and netball. He played tennis at the provincial school championships and represented Southland schools in rugby in 1957 and 1958, being captain in 1958.
His career was furthered in the First XV at Southland Technical College.
His 37 games for Southland as a senior rep included encounters against the All Blacks in an internal tour, France and two Ranfurly Shield games.
His first appearance for Southland was in 1965 against Auckland, marking legendary All Black Mac Herewini.
Blackler's playing career for Star numbered 11 seasons as a senior, and captain for five. He was player-captain-coach for the last three undefeated seasons. One season the team scored 94 tries and conceded only six.
Blackler coached the Town seniors for three undefeated seasons and was a provincial selector (convener) in 1980-81.
In administration, he has served on the SRFU executive for seven years and was a member of the jubilee committee for the 100th and 125th celebrations.
He was a foundation member of the Makarewa Country Club, serving 13 years on the committee and three as president. Blackler still spends time four or five days a week at the Star rugby headquarters buying drinks, stocktaking of entertainment items and generally tidying up after housie evenings.
He prides himself on the fact he was brought up to value high standards set by his late father Doug Blackler, MBE, a Makarewa farmer who served on the committee of the Southland Education Board for 30 years, five as chairman.
Doug Blackler was chairman of the Makarewa Domain Board for 30 years and was a life-member of the Star Rugby Football Club, Federated Farmers, Makarewa Bowling Club and Makarewa Lions Club.
His son Alan laments the fact voluntary helpers in some instances are an "endangered species" with few prepared to contribute.
"New helpers are not coming through. It is being left to the same established oldies."
Harness racing, a shared passion for Blackler senior and junior, benefited immensely from the voluntary contributions of supporters.
So did many other sports, but signs of waning voluntary interest were worrying, "but perhaps a sign of the times".
"I am also greatly concerned that not many young players are coming through. We have to introduce incentives to keep secondary school leavers in rugby," he said.
Teenagers nowadays didn't seem to commit themselves to any one sport as there were many other social attractions.
Another of Blackler's proudest sporting moments was training Skipem to win the 1984 Invercargill Trotting Cup.
There was a double reason for satisfaction in that his father shared the ownership of him. Alan prospered from his grounding with trainer Jack Duncan and held his own licence for 26 years.
He is at present manager of the Makarewa Country Club Syndicate after 20 years involvement with it, winning 20 races since its inception.
- The Southland Times