The 1970s - Strength and Innovation

  26 August 2013   John Bradbury   History

The 1970s were the years in which we really emerged as a stable, well-managed club with the best facilities in Wellington. But those qualities didn’t just happen – they resulted from determined efforts to entice, encourage and empower people to manage and lead the club and to shape its future. It is no coincidence that all of our current life members started their considerable contributions to the well-being of the club either during or before the 1970s.


On the field, after decades of moving between the 1st and 2nd divisions as players came and went, from 1973 onwards Petone has never been relegated. There would only be one or two clubs in Wellington who could boast such a record, and Miramar Rangers would be the stand-out in that regard with its National League record to boot. The National League in fact started in 1970, and comprised an eight team league with Western Suburbs, Stop Out, Gisborne City and Hungaria being the initial Central League representatives.


Within our club, 1972 saw the formation of a Supporters’ Club focussed on fund raising and organising social events. The Supporters’ Club Committee were for the most part players themselves who wanted to foster club spirit. Their activities included Friday-night raffles at the local hotel; selling refreshments for after-match functions in the gym that went long into the night; the use of some of the funds raised to purchase a piano for the sing-alongs that characterised those late nights; the introduction of club dress jerseys and tee-shirts; and Saturdays’ cooked-chook raffles feeding people and raising money.


The Supporters’ Club’s great success was reflected in the annual donations to the Management Committee, which were substantial. The presentation of a cheque was a highlight of each end of season Annual Ball, held in one of the local cabarets: Claridges in Lower Hutt or Seaway on the Esplanade.


With the introduction of the Central and National Leagues, the original purpose of the Hilton-Petone Tournament of filling out the end of an otherwise short season was no longer relevant. The club consulted with other clubs and the referees and in 1972 embarked on the major change of making the tournament pre-season to help prepare teams and referees for the league competitions. This required the dropping of the knock-out aspect of the Tournament so that teams could be guaranteed a reasonable number of games. We engaged professional marketers, achieved sponsorship, introduced prize money and hosted a tournament second to none in New Zealand.


On the playing field the next major development was the introduction to our club of women’s football, with the Women’s Committee being formed and our first competitive team entering the local competition in 1973. A mid-table finish and two women selected to play for Wellington constituted a great start, and in 1974 we had teams in both the 1st and 2nd divisions, followed by the addition of another team in 1976.


Without doubt in my mind however, the most important club development in the 1970s was the building of our clubrooms – the major factor in us being able to become the large, integrated and family-friendly club that we are. A tremendous amount of work was involved in researching and securing a sub-lease in order to be able to negotiate a reasonable loan from our bank, once we had dealt with our debts from building the gymnasium. The planning also involved protracted debate over whether we could or should build outwards from the gymnasium or within its walls. The costs of the former option were rejected by the Management Committee and Graham Hickling proceed to be the key figure in planning and constructing the developments within the gymnasium, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale than the extended club lounge we enjoy today. The clubrooms were opened in July 1976 by our Patron, Mrs. Annie Huggan, in the presence of some 250 members and supporters.


That same year, the club won promotion to Central League 1st division for 1977; we doubled the number of senior men’s teams to eight from four in 1973; we issued our first monthly magazine, which replaced the infrequent newsletter of previous years and continued through until 1992; and we received our first licence to sell liquor in our new bar.


And on the football field, the club won its first national trophy in 30 years when our under 18 team, comprising players mainly from our second team playing in the Wellington first division, won the Junior National Cup - a knock-out competition run along the lines of the Chatham Cup. As the competition was never held again Petone has retained the cup proudly ever since in the trophy cabinet.


To cap the decade off, the club successfully negotiated with the Petone Borough Council to install floodlighting around the No.3 pitch in 1979 and give the club not only a top quality training pitch but also a quality venue for games, including Hilton-Petone Tournament fixtures. The trenching, cabling, and concreting were largely done with our own voluntary labour. The club took a lot of pride in achieving what no other club in Wellington had - a complex incorporating outdoor and indoor training facilities, changing rooms and match pitches, all adjacent to our clubrooms.

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