Canterbury Rugby League’s oldest club is still very much alive and kicking in 2018, with the Addington Magpies gearing up to celebrate their Club Day at Spreydon Domain on Saturday.

The action gets underway at 10am with Addington’s 7s team, followed by the 10s at 11am. The old-stagers have a run-around at 1pm when the Magpies President’s line-up squares off against Aranui, while the club’s Division One side take on Woolston at 2.45pm.

“We’ve got four teams now – we’ve been struggling for a while but we’re coming back strong and we’re getting more financial (support) through fundraising,” Addington Magpies president Jason Galland said.

“Our main concern is the kids, getting them on board and bringing them through the grades.

“We’ve got very good numbers in our 7s and 10s teams, and Div One is starting to come right after being a bit short on numbers. But we’re building them up, we’re not defaulting any games and we’re putting out a full team every Saturday.

“We’re a proud club, 105 years old this year and we’ve got a lot of history there.”

That’s certainly an understatement.

Addington can lay claim to the honour of being the first rugby league club in Canterbury, tracing its history back to a meeting at Oddfellows Hall on January 31, 1913. The original committee included famed All Golds player Charles Pearce.

The club won the first of nine championships in 1924. The Frank Endacott-coached Magpies broke a 38-year title drought in 1982 with their maiden grand final win, an 11-10 eclipse of Hornby.

Addington won its last championship in 1989 via a memorable 27-14 upset of Marist-Western Suburbs. The Magpies played in another decider the following season – a loss to the Panthers – but have not fielded a team in the Massetti Cup since 1997.

As well as Pearce, luminaries such as Jim Sanders, Jim Amos, Pat White and Brent Stuart all represented the Kiwis from the Addington club, while many other prominent players donned the black and white jersey during their careers.

But as many grassroots clubs around New Zealand have found in recent years and decades, it’s no easy task keeping clubs running – particularly ones that have been affected by changing demographics like Addington.

Galland, who also manages the President’s team, singled out some of the many important people that are the lifeblood of the Magpies.

“We’ve got some old life members who still come down to every game, every week. Ian Gardner is 86 years of age, and he makes it to every game,” he said.

“He puts his deck-chair up and watches the kids – I’m talking nine o’clock in the morning in the frosts, in the rain, he’ll be there.

“The senior members of the club, the President’s team, step up and help out with training on a Tuesday night.

“And Shaun Dennis, who’s a member of the club and on the committee, plays in the President’s team. If it wasn’t for Shaun, there would be no Div One team at the club. All the running around, getting the guys there for training and games, he’s absolutely brilliant.

“He also has his son playing in the 7s and he’s down there training them. What he’s put into the club, in his own time, Shaun deserves a shout-out.”

If you get down to Spreydon Domain on Saturday, you’ll also get to see rugby league’s most famous septuagenarian.

Simon Hone, now a sprightly 73, made national headlines last season after it came to wider attention that he was still carting the ball up with the enthusiasm of a teenager in the Magpies’ President’s team.

Though the heady days of CRL championships in the 1980s may be just a proud but distant memory these days, Galland confirmed the Addington Magpies spirit remains as indomitable as ever – helped along by some key off-field developments.

“We’re looking to the future, and we’re going a lot better than we were, say, five years ago.

“We’ve got new clubrooms now, under the umbrella of Kereru Sports and Cultural Club. So we’re now residents during the winter at the Spreydon Domain Bowling Club.

“Kereru bought the clubrooms, so it’s softball, rugby league and netball there now.”

Photo Credits: Raewyn Wikatene and Shaun Dennis

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