A love of farming, family and the oval ball

DON WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2013
Donald Hay
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
COMMITTED: Rugby Southland president Donald Hay at Rugby Park.

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Believe it or not, devoted Rugby Southland president Donald Hay played in every position in the provincial pack except hooker over three decades.

The semi-retired Waimatua farmer, who epitomises and champions the cause of unity and rural rugby, played 35 games for Southland from 1968 to 1980 and would have boosted that tally considerably but for taking time out to devote more time to his growing family in the 1970s.

He gave rugby away for three years and joined his family following the Toi Toi's hunt hounds for that time.

"My good wife Dorothy (nee Parr) who attended Wyndham District High School with me and our children Jillian, Paula and Louise supported my rugby and it was timely to repay that support."

He returned to rugby on the urgings of his daughters when the hunt went into recess. He enjoyed 11 years as president of the Tokanui club and was assistant coach to Bruce Lamb before taking over for four years.

"I was president, coach and the bus driver all at the one time once. That's the way we did things then. From there, I moved on to a delegate to the Metropolitan union and, when it went into recess, I was the instigator of Tokanui joining the Eastern sub-union."

Young players then had a chance to extend their playing careers in sub-union rugby, he said.

Donald enjoyed making contact with a few mates to stage the 100th celebrations four years ago.

Hay's first memories of rugby were his mother Mary and father Rennie taking him to rugby on Saturday mornings and watching his four brothers playing on those afternoons, then later seeing his mother scrub five sets of white shorts , socks and blue jerseys.

The big day finished with their mother cooking meat patties for them and friends after games on Saturday nights.

Concerning Hay's versatility, former Southland hooker, captain and Junior All Black Ken McRae (70 games for Southland) also recalled another versatile Southland, All Black and New Zealand Maori representative Bob Barber, now retired in Nelson, who played in every position in the scrum except two at some time of his distinguished career.

Rather than reflect on his playing prowess, Hay now prefers to put his life and soul into rugby administration in a voluntary sense that has always been the case, also coaching and administering the game at all levels over many years.

Highlights of his career were having life membership of the Eastern sub union and Tokanui club bestowed on him. Another was playing four games for Southland against France (narrowly beaten) and beating Fiji, Japan and Romania.

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"I estimate rugby administration tied me up in 100,000 kilometres of voluntary driving and duties but I wouldn't change a thing if I had my time over again."

He is resuming the office of president after a lapse of 14 years when Robert Shaw held office in the early days of restructuring in the professional era. Hay said he was now hell bent on "helping re-build battered bridges over recent seasons and getting all Southland rugby followers pulling in the same direction".

"That will be a major challenge for Rugby Southland . . . that's where my values and focus will rest in co-ordinating close and effective working relationships.

"Under the stewardship of Rugby Southland boss Brian Hopley, the focus will be on community and rural rugby, the components of grass roots rugby," he said.

"A lot of resources are being directed in that direction with devoted and determined personnel involved."

On his own frank admission, Donald Hay is a passionate grass roots rugby man and a man of the land with strong rural upbringing and ties in Tokanui, Wyndham and Edendale in particular.

"That's why I have enjoyed being president of Rugby Southland because it has given me a chance to acknowledge the roll of rural rugby." A farmer all his life, he is a stickler for accountability which kick started his first administrative position as assistant to social secretary Kevin Corkery of the Edendale club, helping resurrect and turning around the club's ailing finances. Working bees in the early 1980s, crutching lambs, carting hay and other fund raising avenues involving hard physical toil worked wonders for the club's viability and enabled it to upgrade facilities.

"Kevin and I monitored the liquor situation carefully. If we were two dollars out after counting money, we would count it all over again."

In a playing sense he gained great knowledge and experience from Jack Hazlett, Greig Spencer, Arthur Frew, Ivan Gutsell, Hori Miller, Robin Archer, Leicester Rutledge, Ken Stewart, Ash McGregor, Ken McRae, Gerald Dermody and Phil Butt.

Similarly, coaches Ron Ward, Robin Archer and Jack Stewart (Wyndham) did much to shape his career.

"I also had great admiration for Tom Shirley as an administrator, a great servant of Southland rugby."

Like many good rugby players, he competed on the professional running circuit in the off season to maintain fitness. He recalled his weekly wages as a farm hand were "four quid, one shilling and two pence. I won 15 pounds on the holiday cash running circuit one year in the 1960s".

A man had to be totally committed to rugby then . . . He wouldn't have a beer on Friday nights until he was in his 30s as a player.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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