Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
13 January 2015
This story is part of folklore at the Barbarians Club in Auckland, New Zealand. It is one which shows that even in the middle of a feisty rugby test match a mother's pride will still come shining through!
Back in 1930 an excellent Wellington forward Hugh McLean made the All Blacks team to play Great Britain in the third test. No one was much surprised at this as McLean had been in excellent provincial form in recent seasons and two years earlier his strength and sporting capacity had carried him into a New Zealand rowing eight. That crew was bound for the Amsterdam Summer Olympic Games. Sadly they didn't make it as funding eventually was not on hand for such a large group of men to travel so far at one time.
But 'Hughie' got his chance in 1930 to play for the All Blacks. His debut was to be on Eden Park in Auckland.
When the team assembled beforehand and McLean was handled his hallowed black playing kit he expressed surprise that he was to wear jersey number 13. His reluctance was not because of any superstition. That number had not been allocated for him in that day's match programme or in the morning newspaper. In the centre pages he was down to pull on number nine.
But you see, seniority within the All Black team ranks played its part. The crusty veteran W.E. ("Bill') Hazlett of Southland had an apparent aversion to wearing the 'unlucky' number 13. So Hazlett claimed number nine and the new kid was 'told' to wear 13.
Whether this actually bothered Hugh is not known but when the game kicked off it could have been the reason he played so superbly. The young forward in fact dashed in for two tries as New Zealand won 15-10 and took a decisive lead in the series. As the action went on everyone watching soon started talking about the new forward in the All Blacks and how well he was playing. Those were days well before TV of course so even the keenest of All Black fans only had newspaper photos of players faces to go by. Therefore the crowd soon started calling out in praise of the great game which was being played by 'Number nine Hazlett! Go Hazlett!'
Sitting in the grandstand that call irked no one more than Mrs McLean - Hugh's mother.
When her son scored his second try on his test debut she could stand it no longer. When the cheering was dying down the redoubtable Mum rose from her seat. She turned to face the crowd and in her most commanding, if not demanding voice, shouted out to all and sundry - 'That's not Hazlett! That's my boy Hughie!'
That was it! McLean went on to play for the All Blacks until 1936. Was it just desserts that after that season was over Hazlett never donned any All Black jersey again!
The great All Black Colin Meads was sent off v Scotland at Murrayfield. Did he deserve to go? All NZ says 'no!' But the ref had the final say.
Founded in 1884, Abertillery is another of the traditionally strong scrummaging Welsh club teams which always provide rugged opposition. The club has rarely dominated the Welsh scene, but in combination with neighbouring Ebbw Vale has provided many a touring team with strenuous mid-week opposition.
Abertillery has a pretty home ground, The Park, situated at the foot of the mountains and it is there that Haydn Morgan discovered his love of rugby and a talent that was to make him the club’s most celebrated Welsh cap. Morgan, a ﬂanker, played 27 times for his country and toured twice with British Isles touring teams – to New Zealand and Australia in 1959 and to South Africa in 1962.
Other prominent Welsh internationals from Abertillery have been Alun Pask (26 internationals for Wales between 1961–67 and two tours with the British Isles – to South Africa in 1962 and to New Zealand in 1966); John Webb (20 internationals for Wales 1907–12 and with the British Isles in South Africa in 1910); and Allan Lewis (six caps for Wales 1966–67, and a New Zealand tour with the British Isles in 1966).
Abertillery plays in green and white hooped jerseys. It celebrated its centenary in 1984 with a match against a touring Japanese team. After a close encounter, Japan won 17–13.
From Wyn Gruffydd - the Welsh broadcaster; 'How Do You Know a girl from Cardiff has had an Orgasm?'