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!
Yet again the ABs win 4 Home Union tests in 4 Saturdays. On this day Wales are beaten 37-25.
The famous New Zealand radio commentator who revolutionised the way rugby commentary was done all over the world.
The Wellington born McCarthy had essentially an outward personality; he loved talking, and he had had time on stage as a lad in the early 1930s in New Zealand. It followed then that he was not phased by nerves when he became a rugby commentator. He broadcast his games with a style so different from the conservative way callers had been first commentated the game in Britain. McCarthy was loud and brazen not afraid to raise his voice and ‘let go’ on the air.
When he was sent by the New Zealand Government to broadcast the 1945-46 Kiwi Army rugby of Britain back to New Zealand his style fascinated the conformist BBC. They took his broadcasts and put them on their stations. They were amazed that he could engender so much excitement. The BBC wanted him to stay on. Instead McCarthy came back to New Zealand, but his style lingered in Britain. Gone were the stuffy, some might say plum-in-the-mouth callers and encouraged was the McCarthy style. The great Scottish TV commentator, Bill McLaren, recalls how, as a young fledgling radio man, he was sent by the BBC to Cardiff in 1954 to stand behind McCarthy and watch ‘how’ he broadcast a game.
Because of the high peaks of emotion surrounding the 1956 Springbok tour of New Zealand Winston’s words of description and catchphrases became the catchphrases of the New Zealand nation. His most famous call was ‘listen….it’s a goal!’ when a shot at goal was taken. He would allow the cheering of the crowd to tell the radio audience first whether a kick was on target or not.
In his time, in the 1940s and ‘50s Winston McCarthy became one of the best-known New Zealanders. He became the eyes and ears of New Zealand’s voracious appetite for listening to their All Black team on tour. It was commonly said around the country that if the All Black selectors of the time could not see every game being played each week they were influenced in their selection of test teams by what McCarthy had said on the air. His words weighed that heavily.
Who played in the 1987 Rugby World Cup Final wearing a hair-piece?