Ninety Up For The Knights
The Riccarton Knights celebrate a mighty milestone this weekend, marking 90 years of existence at Crosbie Park on Saturday.
It shapes as a fun-packed day for the whole family, with the Knights’ junior teams all playing at home, and bouncy castles, sumo suits and lollie scrambles to entertain the kids.
The day culminates in the Massetti Cup premiers clash between Riccarton and Halswell, which kicks off at 2.45pm.
“It’s definitely a worthwhile achievement,” Knights club president Jim Barclay said.
“I’ve been with the club 30 years, and to see it develop is brilliant.”
Forming in 1927, Riccarton first earned premier status in 1931, lasting in the top flight for three seasons. For the ensuing seven decades, the club was only an intermittent member of the premier division – 1939-42, 1944, 1947-52, 1976 and 1996-97 as a standalone entity, and in 1998 and 2000 with Lincoln.
The Knights have been a permanent fixture in the Massetti Cup since 2001, however, and unquestionably the club’s most glittering period from an achievement point of view was in seasons immediately afterwards, winning grand finals in 2002 and ’04.
The Brent Ringdahl-coached side secured Riccarton’s maiden premiership in 2002 via a stunning 54-14 defeat of Linwood in the CRL decider, featuring a record-breaking 32-point haul from Aaron Whittaker consisting of five tries and six goals.
Former Kiwi Whittaker was a key figure again two years later as the Knights downed the Keas 33-14 in the ’04 grand final.
“If we’d known how old we were when we first won a grand final in 2002 we would’ve celebrated our 75th birthday that year, but at that stage we didn’t know,” Barclay said.
Barclay puts the Knights’ unprecedented run as a premier club down to the local rugby league population embracing the club’s community-first ethos.
“People have bought into the Knights’ culture of wanting to be together, being a family club,” he said.
“With our juniors it’s all about participation, and we try to follow that through for all of our teams. Obviously it’s nice to win, but that’s not the be all and end all.”
Riccarton has been at the forefront of bringing the Canterbury Rugby League community together as a whole, highlighted by their running of the highly successful Crosbie Nines pre-season tournament over the last couple of years.
“We need more people to believe in our game for it to grow,” Barclay explained.
“When we do things, we like to do them (in a way) that’s not only good for our club and our image, but also good for the overall community and the game of rugby league.”
Barclay is anticipating a big day and night on Saturday in keeping with the Knights’ burgeoning reputation as a host.
“It’ll be a festival atmosphere, similar to the Nines.
“In the evening the children will all be gone by six o’clock and the adults will carry on.”
The festivities roll on into Sunday, with an Over-35s Masters team taking on an Invitation Masters team at 1pm, and a side made up of the Knights’ current Canterbury Cup and premiers team facing a team made up of past Riccarton members at 2pm.
“We’re hoping for a good turnout of past members, because we’ve got a few out there playing at other clubs, and they’ve acknowledged that they’re going to come and have a run,” Barclay said.
“We want it to be a social, friendly game of rugby league, so everyone can walk off the paddock afterwards, have a feed and be together and say we enjoyed our time at Riccarton.
“We’re also doing things to promote the World Cup games in Christchurch, taking names for people who want to buy tickets, and running raffles to raise money for the juniors section.
“This year they’ve all been kitted out in new uniforms, which is a real positive. If everybody looks good and you chuck a bit of linament on, that’s the start of a footballer!
“What happens after that, you’ve just got to keep your fingers crossed.
“It’ll be a good family day, and we’re hoping we’ll get a good turnout of our families and past members. Come along and support us.”