Tony Woodcock’s difficult start
The Heriot club has never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers and has been involved in a number of disputes in its 125 year history.
In 1913 the club’s annual meeting instructed its delegates to secede from Southland and join the Otago union because it felt that the game would be fostered better by Otago.
In 1923 Heriot appealed to the ORFU about Tapanui’s win over Heriot in the banner final and urged that the game be played again.
In 1972 Heriot disagreed with the NZRFU decision not to allow live coverage of home test matches. The club has also expressed its disagreement with the appointment of national selectors from time to time.
But the biggest dispute of all happened in 1983 and resulted in club teams being suspended from all rugby for one playing day in July. It was only resolved by the intervention of new ORFU chairman John Dowling and his management committee who called a meeting of a delegation of the Heriot club and the West Otago sub-union.
There were two complaints by the West Otago Referees’ Association about incidents that happened the previous year. One concerned derogatory remarks made about a West Otago referee by the Heriot senior captain in a speech at an after-match function.
The other one was about alleged “biased and unwarranted’’ abuse directed at the referee by senior Heriot players and supporters during a match against Roxburgh.
The Referees’ Association wanted an apology and the club refused to give this. The West Otago sub-union backed the referees and suspended the six Heriot club teams from all rugby the next Saturday.
Heriot typifies the important role that the rugby club has played in the small towns and country districts of New Zealand.
The Heriot club has been the social headquarters of the district and it has done much to improve the town’s facilities.
By 1936 the Ranfurly Shield had become domiciled south of the Waitaki and it was affecting gate-takings until the club committee had a radio installed in the pavilion to broadcast games.
The dangers of living in a rural environment were tragically brought home to Heriot members in 1944 when Alf Roberts, a club stalwart for 28 years, was killed by lightning when riding a horse. He was in his fifth term as president, had seen the club through the difficult war years, and had also been secretary for four years and senior coach for 16 years. Roberts was coach of the only Heriot team to win the White Horse Cup (the Ranfurly Shield of Otago Country club rugby) when it beat Matakanui 11-4 in 1928. His daughter Jean Collings owned the Heriot Service Store for 26 years and worked in it for 46 years. The store was the meeting place where Heriot’s rugby record was discussed in detail. Scrums were put down in the shop to emphasise a point and Jean made up the numbers on occasions so that the basics of good forward play could be hammered home.
Heriot does not have any All Blacks but Harrison Rowley and Don Oliver are two former club members who played for the national team after they had left the club.
Five Heriot players have played for Otago: Sid Ottrey (1924), Jock Miller (1930-31), Bob Aitcheson (1929), Larney Palmer (1979) and Paul Smith (1996).
Miller, who played six games for the union, emigrated from Scotland in 1926. He used to ride his hack (horse) into Heriot for practice twice a week.
When he played for Otago the union was not keen to pay his board in Dunedin for the weekend and he used travel to Dunedin and back home on the one day.
For a provincial match at Carisbrook he would catch the train at Heriot at 7.40am and travel to Waipahi to catch the express to Dunedin. He arrived in the city at 11am, had lunch at the Provincial Hotel, and travelled to the ground by car. The Otago Rugby Union had a taxi waiting for him to catch the express at the Caversham Station after the game. He would change in the toilet on the train. He caught the Heriot train at Waipahi and got home at 8pm.
In Miller’s playing days the Heriot club did not have any showers and the players stayed in their playing gear after the game and went home to boil the copper for a hot bath.
Heriot is also typical of a country club with family members playing key roles. Notable families in the history of the club have been the Ottreys, Aitchesons, Perriams, Olivers and Roulstons.
Bob Aitcheson played for Otago and his brothers Archie, Jim, Jock and Toby were key club members in the 1920s and 1930s.
Bob and Frank Oliver also played in the 1920s and 1930s. Frank typifies country people who stay in the district and remain loyal to the club. He was still with the club at the 90th jubilee in 1975.
The Roulston brothers played a key role in Heriot’s 29-6 win in the 1985 centennial match against its arch-rival Tapanui. Garry was hooker and captain of the team, Alister was on the right wing and scored an excellent try after a determined run and Lindsay was openside flanker.
Heriot had two presidents of the Otago Rugby Union – Jack Park in 1986 and Iain Fletcher in 2004. They were both life members of the club.
First five Gerald Smith was the Heriot hero when it downed Alexandra 16-13 to win the club’s only Otago Country club final in 1994.
Smith, who scored 113 points for the season, kicked a conversion and three penalty goals for an 80 percent success rate with his boot. He controlled the game with precision kicking and often gained large slices of territory.
Heriot won with a scrum that did not buckle and eight forwards that starved Alexandra of possession and put it on the back foot for most of the match.
Tighthead prop and captain Bob Thompson had an inspired game while hooker Paul Smith grabbed nine tightheads and made ground with the ball in hand when he surged through the defence. Heriot won the game when No 8 Mark Terry burst from a ruck and was driven over the line by his forwards.
Heriot reached the Country final when it caused a major upset by beating Clutha 29-15 to win the combined South and West Otago final.
It was a vintage season for a Heriot team that won 12 of its 17 games, lost four and drew one. Heriot was coached by Duncan McDougall and managed by Alister Roulston.
The Ottrey family was there at the start, and is still in the Heriot club today.
‘Uncle Sid’ Ottrey and his brother Ted were early club members. The new generation had the same names with three Ottrey brothers making notable contributions. Sid played for both Otago and Southland in the 1920s, Ted for the combined Otago-Southland team against New South Wales in 1925 and Abbe first showed up as a member of the Heriot seven-a-side team in 1911. He was still playing in 1928 when he was a member of the team that beat Matakanui 11-4 to lift the White Horse Cup. He played for Otago Country in 1925-26. His last year in the senior team was in 1930.
Abbe Ottrey’s biggest contribution to the club and to West Otago rugby was as an administrator. He was president of the sub-union and a senior and junior selector for almost 30 years. He served on the Otago sub-union executive and was a country selector. He was a life member of the West Otago sub-union and in 1953 was elected life member of the Heriot club. Abbe coached the Heriot senior team for seven years and held the club together during World War II when he was club captain from 1938-44.
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