Bluff identity Dick Ryan can hardly wait for Queen's Birthday Weekend next year.
The port town's 74-year-old sporting stalwart is chairman of the organising committee for the Bluff Rugby Club's 125th jubilee celebrations on May 30 and 31 and June 1 next year.
About 250 people will be catered for at a special dinner to mark the occasion in the Bluff Town Hall on Saturday, May 31. The historic club already has many more registered for celebrations.
Southland refereeing legend Paddy O'Brien will be the guest speaker at the dinner, which will be attended by Rugby Southland guests as well as other referees, various representatives and rugby identities.
The Bluff team will play normal competition rugby on the Saturday, followed on the Sunday by a Golden Oldies match.
South Port has sponsored the club to the tune of 25 special one-off playing jerseys for the Saturday club game.
One will be presented to South Port to showcase in its boardroom.
A rugby, bowls and billiards and snooker stalwart, Ryan is acknowledged as a worthy and dignified trustee of the Rakiura Maori Land Trust on Stewart Island for the past 12 years.
The trust oversees a hunting operation on the island and manages about 15,000 hectares, having built six cribs on some of the hunting blocks.
Looking ahead to the rugby club's celebrations, Ryan said he was ably assisted by a band of keen supporters, including joint treasurers and secretaries Debbie Steele and Kirsty Sargeant, with vice-president Kevin Dimond overseeing most projects.
Other official committee organisers include club president Shane Pearsey, uniform officer Robert Stewart, Norman Irwin, John Edminstin, Jack Kini, Dude Eurera, team manager Andrew Te Awhe, Wayne Finnerty, Greg Low and Dean Whaanga.
"I am honoured to be a member of the last Bluff team to win the Galbraith Shield final against Collegiate on August 8 of the 1959 season," Ryan said. "We played 12 games for 10 wins and a draw."
Ryan locked with Russell Gilmour in that Ewen Jamieson-captained team.
Duncan Henderson, father of All Black Paul and Southland rep and coach David, propped in the team.
Chairman of the Bluff club for many years through the 1970s and 1980s and a club player for 23 years, including 21 in the senior team as a No 8, lock and prop, Ryan is, not surprisingly, a life member of the club.
He also earned two trials for the New Zealand Maori team.
His Bluff team-mate Reuben Walker made the national Maori team as a No 8 in 1958 for the Australian tour.
Walker was ordered off for "disciplining" Wallaby No 8 Kevin Ryan, whom Southland boxing legend Bill Kini beat in the final of the heavyweight division at the Jamaica Commonwealth Games in Kingston.
Ryan, who has spent most of his life in Bluff, managed Fresh Oysters for Stan Jones and Guy Waddel and also managed Bluff Foveaux Labour Hire Service for three years.
"I was an oysterman for 31 years for seven months a year and a meatworker during stints at Whakatu [Hawke's Bay], Longburn [near Palmerston North] and Otahuhu [Auckland]."
Ryan's sporting achievements also include the 1957 17th Intake New Zealand Army heavyweight boxing title, being unbeaten in five bouts.
Many Bluff people will identify with him as president of the bowling club for 12 years. He is enjoying his third stint as chairman.
"Like all clubs, we suffer from lack of recruits . . . we have about 40 playing members."
The club has won junior Southland titles but has only made finals in senior ranks without winning in recent years.
Ryan was chairman of the Southland Billiards and Snooker Association for 15 years (1990 to 2005), when the recreational pursuits were "very strong in private homes".
A title winner himself, his brother Jimmy and fellow Bluff enthusiast Gordon Wardrop each won five Southland titles.
"I have happily involved myself so much voluntarily because I have loved any sport I've been associated with. I also enjoyed tennis and squash."
By his own frank admission, Ryan almost certainly cheated death at the Tangiwai disaster when he was 15.
He takes up the story: "I was going north to see my sister Rona in Rotorua. I met a friend on the Lyttleton to Wellington ferry who offered me a ride north to Rotorua in his car that was coming off the ferry with us at Wellington.
"I was no longer a passenger on the train that went north and was involved in the Tangiwai disaster that resulted in 101 bodies later placed under cover in the Waioru Army Hall near Levin," he says.
"I was thought to be one of the corpses because I had not alerted my family that I had not boarded the train. Instead, I motored with my friend to Rotorua and sister Rona's husband, Buster, let me know in no uncertain terms what he thought of me when I showed up unheralded."
Ryan is widely acclaimed for his passion for the club's history and his support of the Southland Maori Rugby Association as a former chairman for three years.
- © Fairfax NZ News