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!
A tight game saw Nick Farr-Jones's team beat England by 12-6. Well played the Wallabies!
BAKER, REGINALD ‘Snowy’
New South Wales and Australia
2 internationals for Australia, 1904
Though Reg Baker’s international career of playing halfback in both losses against the 1904 British side reads unglamorously, he is listed in any record as one of the sport’s earliest all-rounders. He became the first man to represent Australia in five sports: rugby, boxing, polo, swimming and diving. He actually competed in 24 other different games! Among his greatest achievements was to represent Australia at boxing in the 1908 Olympic Games, where he lost the middleweight final to J.W.H.T. (‘Johnny Won’t Hit Today’). Johnny Douglas was later an England cricket captain. For the record, the bout was refereed by Douglas’s father!
After his brief rugby career, Baker settled in Hollywood, where he taught film stars to ride, swim, fence and fight. He also starred on screen several times. By then, his younger brother Harald (correct spelling) had also represented Australia in rugby and had won Australian titles in boxing, swimming, water polo, and wrestling. Harald Baker was a lock in three tests against New Zealand in 1914.
It goes without saying that ‘Snowy’ Baker won his nickname for having distinctive blond hair.
In which town or city was the first international rugby match played in Wales?