VALLEY OF THE KINGS
Family and spirit – they are the two most common words used in descriptions of the Valley club.
In small New Zealand provinces, rugby clubs provide many similar benefits of a strong, secure family life, and Valley is a shining example.
The tight-knit club attracts players, coaches and administrators back, year after year after year, because of their love of the place and the social benefits it offers.
“Basically it’s a social thing. People of a like mind get to come together and enjoy themselves and play a bit of rugby,” Valley stalwart Colin Mavor said.
“It’s been like that from day one, for young and old. It’s just a good social centre of the community, and the family ties within the club are very strong.
“We’ve always fought above our weight and I think that shows what the club is made of.”
Valley is based in Weston, a satellite town just 5km inland from Oamaru.
The odd player comes out from town but the majority are rural-based.
“We’ve got farmers, farm workers, stock agents, seed merchants and one shearer this year,” Mavor explains.
Valley was formed in 1988 when three rural clubs within a 10km radius – Weston Pirates, Enfield and Union (based in Ngapara) – realised they could not continue for much longer.
“The clubs just weren’t footing it on their own. There weren’t so many young guys around and every club was struggling,” Valley historian Allan Paterson recalls.
“There was a lot of emotion at that time. I remember we went to a meeting at Union one night and explained what was going on and some of them were horrified. After a while, people started to realise a merger was the best way forward. It was a unanimous decision in the end.”
Union retained its schoolboy section but the rest of the Valley club, decked out in its new blue and gold colours, made its debut in 1989.
Valley has since won four Citizens Shields, in 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2009. In 2005, it also won the combined North Otago-South Canterbury competition, which has sadly fallen by the wayside.
Home base is the distinctive oval at the Weston Sports Ground. The bowl-style ground, created from farmland by the Weston Progress League decades ago, allows people to park their cars and utes overlooking the action, creating unique views and atmosphere.
Valley and its founding clubs have not produced any All Blacks but Valley has had five New Zealand Heartland representatives: hooker Tobias Sekona and backs Ryan McCarthy, Scott Mayhew, Hamish McKenzie and Faaitu Tuamoheloa. Dean Paterson also played for a New Zealand Legends team in 1999.
The club has had its share of stalwarts and three of the greatest have been hooker Barry Fox, utility back Nathan Cunningham and midfield back Mike Mavor. All three have had long careers with both the club and North Otago.
Off the field, people like Colin Mavor, Allan Paterson, Peter Twiss, Ian Mavor, long-serving secretary June Campbell and popular barman Malcolm Allison keep things ticking over.
Valley is fielding a premier team in the Citizens Shield this season, hopes to have a senior team and will have seven or eight schoolboy teams.
The club also has netball and cricket teams, with its top cricket team reaching the final of the North Otago club competition this summer.
Played 18, won 18, 909 points for, 140 points against, two trophies won.
That added up to some sort of season for Valley in 2005, when it romped to victory in both the Citizens Shield and combined North Otago-South Canterbury competitions.
Valley beat Maheno 35-25 after extra time in the Citizens Shield final, and thumped fellow North Otago club Old Boys 35-15 in the Aoraki Cup final.
An unbeaten season is an extraordinary effort by any club at any level, but victory in the combined competition was particularly sweet for Valley. North Otago clubs dominated the competition to such an extent the South Cantabrians eventually pulled out.
Veteran back Nathan Cunningham led Valley with 266 points and classy winger Scott Mayhew scored 30 tries, but everyone contributed in a team coached by Barry Matthews, now a Highlanders assistant, and Peter Rowland.
The club’s Senior B side also won the second-tier of both the North Otago (Burns Shield) and combined competitions that year.
You can’t go far at Valley without bumping into a Mavor, and Colin is the patriarch of a family that has given so much to the rugby club.
‘Snow’ Mavor, a farmer at Airedale just over the hill from the rugby ground, was the founding president of the merged club, serving in that role for five years. He was the club’s first life member and is back serving as chairman this season.
Mavor played for Enfield and Union, two of the clubs that formed Valley, along with his triplet brothers, Ian and the late Bruce. Colin and Denise Mavor have four sons – Stefan, Jason, Paul and Matthew – all of whom have played for Valley, with Jason and Stefan still pulling on the boots.
Other Mavors, nephews of Colin, to have won the Valley jersey with distinction include Mike, Nathan, Geoff and the late James. Another nephew, former Wairarapa-Bush and Heartland XV inside back Hamish McKenzie, is in the present squad.
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