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 light was so dense and dark the fans couldn't see v Scotland. Through the murk NZ won 18-9, finishing a run of 4 wins over UK unions on the same tour.
Buller, Wellington, and Scotland
2 internationals for New Zealand 1921
8 internationals for Scotland 1924–29
One of a number of players to have played for more than one country, Aitken came from Buller in New Zealand’s South Island. He made his ﬁrst-class debut as a teenager before the outbreak of World War I and resumed his career after the war.
Aitken’s debut for New Zealand in 1921 was in the ﬁrst test against South Africa – the ﬁrst game between the two countries.
Two years later Aitken, having been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, was in England studying at Oxford University. After becoming an Oxford rugby blue he won his ﬁrst cap for Scotland in 1924. (He had Scottish parents.)
George Aitken was a centre of considerable speed and talent. He is perhaps best remembered in the rugby world as part of a very fast and dangerous Oxford University three-quarter line, all of whom joined him in the Scottish international team at various times.
Who was the player in the All Blacks 1991 World Cup team who played in one test (against Italy) and never played for the All Blacks at any level before or after that game?