Papanui and Marist-Western Suburbs hardman Mark Broadhurst carried on the fine tradition of teak-tough Canterbury prop-forwards, playing 17 Tests for New Zealand and carving out an impressive career on the Australian and English club scenes.
A Schoolboy Kiwi in 1970, Broadhurst broke into the premier grade with all-conquering Papanui and made his debut for Canterbury as a 20-year-old in 1975, featuring in the fiery clash with Wales. The tyro ended up in hospital after being blindsided by notorious Welsh prop Jim Mills.
Initially a second-rower, he scored a try in Papanui’s 1976 Grand Final win over Eastern Suburbs but joined Marist-Western Suburbs after the black-and-golds won another title in 1977. While New Zealand selection continued to elude him, Broadhurst made his mark as one of the Canterbury’s best amateur boxers – as well as being among the country’s most promising young props.
Broadhurst earned his Kiwi spurs in 1979, partnering Dane Sorensen and then Kevin Tamati in the front-row as he played all three Tests against the touring Great Britain Lions.
The moustachioed bruiser featured in South Island’s upset of the 1980 Australian tourists and both Test matches, before playing in all five Tests of the drawn series against Great Britain and France on the Kiwis’ end-of-year tour. He also made the last of 27 appearances for Canterbury that year, taking up a deal to join Sydney heavyweights Manly-Warringah for 1981.
As well as turning out in New Zealand’s home series against France, Broadhurst helped the Sea Eagles return to the finals in ’81. He raised eyebrows with an uncharacteristic four tries in the opening five rounds. But his first year in the NSWRL premiership is unfortunately most remembered for his ferocious stoush with Newtown enforcer Steve Bowden amid an infamous minor semi brawl. Broadhurst’s tough-guy reputation was also enhanced by a dust-up earlier in the season with St George captain and Australian Test prop Craig Young.
Broadhurst took on his club rivals in both Tests of the 1982 series against Australia and the historic one-off encounter with Papua New Guinea in Auckland. But his 44-game stint at Manly ended after losing his spot to returning Kangaroos great Terry Randall on the eve of the playoffs.
The 27-year-old joined fledgling club Illawarra for 1983, playing all 24 games of the Steelers’ sophomore campaign. Though most valued for providing much-needed stability, grit and experience in a struggling outfit, the industrious Broadhurst’s stint in Wollongong featured a last-minute field goal to pip North Sydney 12-11.
His stellar Test career wrapped up in fitting style, providing much of the intimidation factor that fortified New Zealand’s euphoric 19-12 upset of Australia at Lang Park – the Kiwis’ first trans-Tasman Test win in 12 years and first on Australian soil since 1963.
Broadhurst then joined Hull Kingston Rovers for the first of three English winters, helping the club to a premiership final victory over Castleford in the 1983-84 season and a loss to St Helens in the corresponding match of the 1984-85 campaign. His underrated ball distribution skills – stymied in the more structured Sydney competition – were allowed to flourish as Broadhurst became regarded as one of the club’s finest imports of the era.
The veteran returned to Christchurch and rejoined Papanui in 1985, before taking on a player-coach role at the club in 1986.
Inducted into the NZRL Legends of League in 2013, Broadhurst’s (and fellow Canterbury, Manly and New Zealand forward Adrian Shelford’s) cherished place Canterbury Rugby League folklore was underlined when the Sea Eagles and the Warriors played for the Broadhurst-Shelford in Christchurch-hosted matches in 2018-19.
Broadhurst publicly revealed his battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020.
NEW ZEALAND (1979-83)
17 Tests – 0 points
10 tour matches
-1980 Kiwis tour of Britain and France