FLASHBACK FRIDAY: HORNBY WINS CRL’S FIRST GRAND FINAL
As Hornby Panthers prepare to celebrate their 2023 Club Day on Saturday – and with their sights firmly set on the Pat Smith Trophy amid a tight Massetti Cup race – Flashback Friday relives the club’s victory in the inaugural Canterbury Rugby League men’s premiership grand final.
With Linwood at the forefront of lobbying, the CRL agreed to introduce a four-team finals series for the first time in 1967, culminating in a grand final being played for the first time.
The clubs that featured in the ’67 competition were Addington, Christchurch, Hornby, Kaiapoi, Linwood, Marist, Papanui and Sydenham.
It was also one of the most notable years in the history of the code, with the unlimited tackle era coming to a merciful end and the four-tackle rule put in place (it would become the now-familiar six-tackle rule in 1971) – perhaps the most significant rule change since rugby league’s formative period.
The 1967 season was a relatively quiet one on the domestic representative front for Canterbury, while New Zealand’s sole assignment was a three-Test tour of Australia.
Marist’s Bob Irvine featured at halfback or five-eighth in all three matches against the green-and-golds, while outstanding young Linwood front-rower Bill Noonan played one Test. The Kiwis, who went down 3-0 to an Australian side containing future Immortals Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper and Graeme Langlands, were coached by legendary Canterbury player and coach Lory Blanchard.
Back on the club scene, it was Hornby and table-topping Addington that won through to the inaugural CRL grand final.
Hornby, who had won the previous three championships under the old first-past-the-post format, fittingly celebrated their 50th anniversary as a club by winning the historic decider, outlasting Addington 17-10.
A late, long-range try featuring a 75-metre sprint to the line by winger Robin Moffatt sealed the title for Hornby in front of 3,000 supporters at the Showgrounds. Former Kiwis winger Brian Langton – playing in the centres – was also among the try-scorers for the Rex Woodgate-coached victors. Another former Kiwi, forward Ian Drayton, booted four goals.
Halfback and captain Ray Neiman, and forwards Langton, try-scorer Dave Condick and Peter Tongue came in for specific praise in The Press‘ account of the decider. Moffat’s try saw him join Linwood’s Gordon Abercrombie and Papanui’s Mike Napier as the winners of the inaugural AG Bailey Cup for most tries in the premiership.
Woodgate’s younger siblings, centre Billy and second-rower Grant, a legendary Hornby clubman who passed away earlier this year, were also in the triumphant line-up. Neiman was one half of another combination of brothers in the Hornby side, with forward Keith.
Hornby won another grand final in 1969 and remain the most successful club of Canterbury Rugby League’s playoffs era, winning 16 deciders from 27 appearances – both records.
Addington would have to wait until 1982, under the tutelage of Frank Endacott, to win the club’s first grand final – an 11-10 eclipse of Hornby.
1967 CRL GRAND FINAL
Hornby 17 (R. Moffat, D. Condick, B. Langton tries; I. Drayton 4 goals) defeated Addington 10 (P. Turnbull, N. Dewes tries; G. Te Aho 2 goals). Referee: Peter Yaxley.
Hornby line-up: Trevor Williams, Robin Moffat, Brian Langton, Billy Woodgate, Brian Jager, Harry Smith, Ray Neiman (c), Owen Baillie, Keith Neiman, Ian Drayton, Dave Condick, Grant Woodgate, Peter Tongue. Coach: Rex Woodgate.
Sources: Canterbury XIII – By John Coffey (1987); The Hard Yards: Rugby League in Canterbury 1912-2012 – By John Coffey (2012); Panther Pride – Hornby Rugby League Centenary 1915-2015 – By John Coffey (2015).