Golden-age Magpies back to recall best of times

17:00, Jun 06 2014
Temuka Magpies
PROUD MAGPIES: The Temuka side who won the 1964 senior rugby championship and went on to win five in a row at the start of a five-year reign. The champions of 1964 were: Back row, from left: John Cain, Ian Pierce, Quentin Ryan, John Faulks, Jim Higginbottom, Peter Slee, Stephen Ryan. Third row: Leo Brosnahan, Bernie O’Keefe, Basil Millar, Merv McDowell, Keith Surridge, Alex Millar, Ian Phillips, John Hammond, Ray Nolan. Second row: John Ritchie, Jim Lyall, Peter Grant, Phillip Ryan, Barry Hutcheson, Bill McCully, Bruce Phillips. Front row: David Brown, Alan Pye, Brian Eddington, Graeme Shearman, Frank Ryan. Absent: Colin Walker.

Over the generations there has been nothing tougher in South Canterbury senior rugby than heading out to Temuka to take on the Magpies.

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of one of their best sides, the champion 1964 team.

Under the guidance of coaches Leo Brosnahan and Ray Nolan and with captain Phil Ryan always leading from the front, the side dominated the club scene.

With no finals format back then, Temuka finished the year champions, winning 13 games, drawing 1 and losing 4.

The Magpies scored 340 points with 181 against and collected the Skinner Cup, Beri Cup and Collogan Cup.

But 1964 was just a taste of what was to follow - the next four seasons produced a similar results. The side grew in strength, season by season, to win the competition five years in succession.


A coaching change in 1966, to Mick Kerr and Dick Comer, did not disrupt the run.

Reunion organiser Lindsay Parke said that in those days a ruck was a ruck and the odd back who found himself caught up in one learned that the hard way. The ruck was also a good way to "educate" a cheeky halfback, he said.

There were no replacements - except for injury - so substitution was only a word in the dictionary.

Parke said the club timed the event to coincide with the Temuka and Pleasant Point game on the oval.

Ironically, back in 1964 Pleasant Point were not playing in the senior competition, which was definitely to Temuka's benefit.

The club's senior side featured some prominent players, most notably the Ryans. There were four in the 1964 team - brothers Phil (the captain), Stephen and Quentin along with cousin Frank.

For five years on the trot Temuka were winners of the Skinner Cup, the Jack Dunne Memorial Cup, the Beri and Collogan cups as well as the Ian Pearce Memorial Trophy.

During that time the Magpies won 68 games, losing 13 and drawing three.

For a couple of years in that period Temuka were also the Geraldine and Waimate 7-aside tournaments champions.

Many Temuka players represented South Canterbury, and two players went on to higher honours in being selected for the Combined team - Phil Ryan captained the side with halfback Alex Millar also included. Ryan also played against the 1966 British Lions team in Timaru.

Hooker Tane Norton moved north after playing three seasons from 1964.

He famously went on to represent Canterbury and captain the All Blacks in 1977 to victory over the Lions. He was capped 61 times for New Zealand including 27 tests.

Parke said that for some reason Norton could not make the South Canterbury team, even in one year when three hookers were used.

Dick Sharpe went on to play more than 100 games for South Canterbury.

Parke said the 1964 Magpies featured a number of characters.

"Lock Peter Slee was a good footballer but he was always a character and still is."

There was also a front-row club, including Merv McDowell and Norton, that no-one crossed.

Parke said the five years of supremacy not only generated a huge camaraderie and team spirit but was also a very rewarding period for the Temuka club.

"Those five years also laid the foundation stone for the next three and half decades, when the club's strength grew into a major force in South Canterbury rugby.

"Ironically it was two players from the 1964-68 era who coached the start of the Magpies' seven-year consecutive reign in the late 70s and early 80s."

The Timaru Herald