All Black proud of Southern roots
South Canterbury rugby historian Jeremy Sutherland traces the roots of the oldest surviving All Black, Walter Argus, who began his rugby career at Albury.
All Black Walter Garland Argus is officially from Canterbury but his roots are firmly grounded in South Canterbury.
After the recent death of his team-mate Bob Scott, Argus became the oldest surviving All Black.
Born in 1921 Argus was a railway child, with his father a "ganger" at the Albury Railway Station. He attended Albury School 1926-1932, then, like many, jumped on the Timaru bound train at Albury to attend the Pleasant Point District High School.
At age 17, Argus played his first senior rugby for what was then known as the Southern Football Club (formed by the amalgamation of Albury and Te Ngawai clubs in 1934).
In 1938 he was selected to play for the Mackenzie Sub-Union and held his position for the 1939 season.
At the Mackenzie Rugby Union's 50th Jubilee, Argus recalled he played for the Mackenzie reps against South Canterbury at Fairlie when he was 18.
"I remember that I marked Tommy Morrison from Timaru, an All Black who later became chairman of the NZRFU, and helped select me for the All Blacks.
"I was quite proud when I came to Christchurch to tell them that I played for the Mackenzie County. I think it helped a lot to get a start to play for Canterbury."
After the outbreak of World War II Argus moved to Christchurch and played for the Linwood Club and was selected to play for Canterbury in 1941-42.
Argus then volunteered and served in North Africa and Italy during the war.
His war service led to an elevation in his rugby career.
He was selected for the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force Kiwis team in 1945 and 1946, playing matches in Wales, England, France and Germany.
A powerfully built man for the time at 84kg (13 stone 5lb), and 2m (6ft 1inch) tall, the strong running wing was a prolific try scorer which made him a great favourite with rugby crowds. Argus played in the two tests against Australia at home in 1946 and in two in Australia the following year.
On debut he scored two tries in New Zealand's 31-8 victory at Dunedin. Playing inside Argus that day was Timaru-born Ron Elvidge.
Argus went on and scored in both 1947 tests and recorded a further 10 tries in five other matches in Australia.
In his last test in Sydney, which New Zealand won 27-14, Argus had South Canterbury's Maurie Goddard (on the opposite wing) and Lachie Grant in the forwards.
Both those players were also NZEF Kiwis in 1945-46.
He was selected for the 1949 All Blacks' tour of South Africa but was forced to withdraw, a significant blow to New Zealand's hopes in that tour. He also missed the two home tests against Australia that year because of injury.
Argus also represented the South Island in their match against the North in Wellington in 1946 but his side went down 8-3.
When he returned from the war he worked as a market gardener and later worked for a meat company.
Argus is now well retired in Christchurch but several of his relatives still live in South Canterbury.
Argus' seat on that train to Pleasant Point as a boy was warmed 10 years earlier by Ned Barry, an All Black from the mid- thirties.
However, Barry was picked up at the Ma Waro Station, four miles (6.4km) further down the line.
Also one of Argus' classmates at Albury was Jim Fraser, whose father owned the Albury Store and lived about 100 yards (90m) away.
The pair were taught the art of rugby football by Arnold Cox, a local truck driver, rugby player and referee.
Fraser had a busy career, playing rep rugby for South Canterbury (Star & Tekapo), West Coast (Blaketown), Canterbury (Albion), and North Otago (Lake Waitaki).
In 1980 Fraser was elected president of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.
The Timaru Herald