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!
What a game it was; watched by 109,878 fans in Sydney. Jonah Lomu scored the winner. 39-35 to NZ but the Aussies loved their role in this classic and named it well!.
LAWTON, TOMMY (JNR)
Queensland, Natal and Australia
41 internationals for Australia 1983–89
A grandson of the father of Queensland rugby, the Tommy Lawton of Australian rugby in the 1980s was a big bustling hooker who became a powerful figure in Australian rugby. With his aggressive play and imposing presence on the field, Tommy Lawton was a first-choice hooker for Australia every year after his international debut against France in Paris in 1982. However, such was the competition for places in his home area he actually played for his country before he played for his state team.
As a hooker Lawton was one of the biggest of his time. He weighed in at 110 kilograms (17 stone) in his best playing years.
Like all hookers, he delighted in scoring tries, scoring one in 1983 on Cardiff Arms Park in the international against Wales, thus emulating the feat achieved by his grandfather in 1927. In 1988 Lawton had a great game against Scotland at Murrayfield, scoring two tries.
Earlier, in 1986 he played for the Rest of the World XV against the British Isles in the International Rugby Board’s centenary series.
On the tour of Canada and France in 1989 Lawson captained the Australians in three midweek matches.
In 1990 Lawton shifted to Durban in South Africa, where he played hooker for Natal in its first Currie Cup win.
His brother Robbie, a prop forward, played four tests for Australia in 1988.
If there were a New Zealand rugby NPC State-of-Origin contest, which province would Grant Fox play for?