50 years of Marist St Pats Rugby Club celebrated

17 Cmon-Red-cover (003)

by JOHN HOLDEN

Several hundred supporters of the Marist St Pats Rugby Football Club (MSP) helped the club celebrate the launch of its 50th jubilee publication “C’mon Red”.

The book launch was part of the club’s celebration of its jubilee, and replaced its 50th birthday gala dinner, which had been set down for Queen’s Birthday weekend originally. The gala dinner has now been postponed to 2021, when events will include the jubilee gala dinner, Mass, club games, social events and the naming of a 50th anniversary team.

At the launch at the Hataitai Park Clubrooms on July 25, singer Ca’ii Gordon very kindly sang a couple of numbers at the launch, the New Zealand national anthem and “Heroes”, and this was followed by guest speakers Ron Evans, Brian Coulter, Brian McGuinness and Tim Donoghue. Also in attendance were Mike Savalii (rector of St Patricks College, Wellington), Brad Hudson (president St Patrick’s College Old Boys’ Association), Irish Ambassador Peter Ryan, High Commissioner for Samoa Leasi Tommy Scanlan and Mrs Scanlan, and Rongotai MP Paul Eagle, as well as officials from the New Zealand Rugby Football Union and the Wellington Rugby Football Union.

“C’mon Red” is a grassroots rugby story of volunteer attitude, spirit and passion, exhibited by players, coaches, supporters and financial backers alike.

Tim Donoghue

For author Tim Donoghue, this is the third book on rugby that he has written and published.

Marist St Pats has built a formidable reputation in Wellington sport since its first senior team played on Athletic Park on Saturday, April 3, 1971. The new club had been created late the previous year when members of the Marist Old Boys and St Pat’s Old Boys clubs voted to amalgamate.

The Marist club had been launched in Wellington in 1918, and St Pat’s Old Boys in 1926. By the end of the 1960s, it was clear that, with both clubs competing for the same pool of players, the case for amalgamation was overwhelming. St Patrick’s College old boys Tom Blewman and Ron Evans became MSP’s first president and chairman respectively.

The new club had its teething problems, notably over its colours. The first playing jerseys combined the emerald green and white of Marist with the white and light blue of St Pat’s Old Boys. It was a lacklustre compromise and in 1974, in a bid for a new identity, and with memories of the all-conquering 1971 British Lions still strong, the club adopted its current scarlet jerseys and blue and green socks.

MSP today continues the tradition of the priests and brothers whose love of rugby was indelibly stamped on boys who passed through Marist primary schools and colleges. Many became prominent administrators and helped build superb amenities, including the clubrooms at Hataitai and the gym and training facilities next to St Patrick’s College at Evans Bay.

The club has broadened its appeal in rugby’s professional era, and now fields a women’s rugby team, a women’s netball team and teams in the under-85kg grade to cater for players of a smaller build. Marist St Pats has a thriving junior section, and many boys and girls first experience rugby when pulling on an MSP jersey on Saturday morning.

Cardinal John Dew, the club’s patron, contributed a foreword to the book and was delighted to receive a hard copy of “C’mon Red” from Tim Donoghue. Cardinal Dew congratulated the club on a wonderful milestone and thanked the board for their expression of kindness.

For more details on how to secure a copy of “C’mon Red”, see www.msprugby.co.nz.

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