The 2019 club rugby season kicks off in just over a week, with the opening salvoes of the Premier Swindale Shield and Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield competitions. All other grades start up over the next few weeks.
The opening round on Saturday 23 March will be a full round of 1.00pm Harper Lock Shield Premier Reserve and 2.45pm Swindale Shield Premier matches at seven different venues, reverting from the Gala Day start of recent seasons.
Both the Swindale Shield and the Harper Lock Shield have storied histories – and this year marks the 50th year of competition for the Swindale Shield in its modern format.
The Swindale Shield was first contested in 1910, after being donated to the WRFU by Joseph Swindale, Licensee of the Palace Hotel & Life Member of Petone RFC (1912-36), for the purpose of ‘pre-season competition between clubs [the Championship silverware]. Oriental were the inaugural winners, then Athletic as winners for the next three years and the shield was promptly retired, as the custom then was when a club won something three years in a row, they got to keep the trophy.
Although the competition continued, the Shield disappeared into the back of the Athletic club’s trophy cabinet until 1969 when a member of the club found the shield and handed it back to the WRFU to be competed for once again.
Petone won the shield from 1969 through to 1976 (sharing it with Wellington in 1972), a winning stretch that has never since been replicated.
Clubs have ‘done the double’ - winning the Swindale Shield and the Jubilee Cup in the same season - on 21 occasions. The Swindale Shield has been shared three times since 1969, between Wellington and Petone in 1972, Petone and Marist St Pat’s in 1983 and Petone and Northern United a decade ago in 2009.
The last 10 Swindale Shield winners have been:
2009: Petone and Northern United shared
2010: Northern United
2011: Northern United
2012: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2014: Marist St Pat’s
2015: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2016: Old Boys University
2017: Old Boys University
2018: Northern United
The format of the Swindale Shield has been amended for 2019, with Wellington’s 14 clubs split into two pools based on their results at the end of last season.
Clubs will play a total of 10 matches; six against the other teams in their pool as well as four crossover matches. There will be one overall points table, with the top seven progressing to the championship Jubilee Cup and bottom seven to the Hardham Cup.
Last year, champions Northern United won 11 games and lost two (13 round competition) in winning their sixth Swindale Shield since their first in 2003. Norths then on to make the final of the Jubilee Cup, falling to Old Boys University in the season ending decider at the Petone Recreation Ground at the start of August.
Look out for a hot start to the season, with plenty of high scoring, while grounds remain hard and players fresh.
Overall, a cumulative total of 4,832 points were scored in 91 games in last year’s Swindale Shield, at an average of 53.09 points per game.
Hutt Old Boys Marist’s Glen Walters headed off Tawa’s James So’oialo as the top first round points-scorer in 2018 with 177 to 145. OBU’s Dale Sabbagh and the Upper Hutt Rams’ Tyler Tane also scored more than 100 points in the first-round last year.
Oriental-Rongotai No. 8 Luca Rees scored a phenomenal 17 tries in the first-round last year. Northern United halfback Esi Komaisavai and Petone’s Jarrod Adams both crossed for 10 tries in the first 13 games.
Harper Lock Shield
The Harper Lock Shield is what the ‘second XVs’ of the 14 Premier clubs are playing for. The Harper Lock Shield Premier Reserve competition is run concurrently with the Swindale Shield and games usually kick off at 1.00pm (2.45pm for Swindale matches).
The Harper Lock Shield was once a coveted prize played for in a well-organised competition between New Zealand servicemen in World War Two. In 1943 in Maadi, Egypt the 22nd Battalion (which included Wellingtonian’s Mick Kenny and Paul Donoghue) defeated the Maadi competition winners, the Māori Training Unit, to win the Harper Lock Shield.
Mr Harper and Mr Lock, both Armourers in the Maadi workshop in Egypt, created the Harper Lock shield in 1943. The shield was contested in games between a Pākehā team and a Māori team during the war and was continued when the soldiers returned after the war.
In 1951 the WRFU, with Mick Kenny as the major driving force, decided to take over the trophy and make it part of their regular competition. Since that date it has been continuously played for in the Senior One-Premier Reserve competition.
Marist St Pat’s won the Harper Lock Shield last year with an unbeaten first round campaign. In winning all 13 first round games, MSP scored 720 points and conceded 181. They went on to win the second round Premier Reserve title too.
The last five Harper Lock Shield winners have been:
2016: Marist St Pat’s
2017: Old Boys University
2018: Marist St Pat’s
Games on 23 March
Home teams first. Harper Lock Shield matches at 1.00pm, Swindale Shield matches at 2.45pm:
Upper Hutt Rams v Old Boys University
Marist St Pats v Poneke
Northern United v Johnsonville
Paremata-Plimmerton v Oriental-Rongotai
Avalon Wolves v Wellington
Tawa v Petone
Wainuiomata v Hutt Old Boys Marist