|EASTBOURNE 8th Grade Schoolboys, 1968|
In April 1968, as the nation of New Zealand was coming to grips with the tragic sinking in Wellington Harbour of the Inter Island ferry 'Wahine', an enthusiastic group of schoolboys in the seaside village of Eastbourne were placing their parents under enormous pressure to help them form a competitive football team.
Mostly, the local kids of Eastbourne had to play for the close proximity Stop Out, Petone or Lower Hutt City clubs as there weren’t enough children in the community interested in 'soccer' to warrant the formation of a club proper.
Even with a strong Italian heritage, football in Eastbourne suffered from the stronghold rugby union had in New Zealand and in 1967, when these seven and eight year old kids had first talked about the desire to play football together, the All Blacks were the most feared side in world rugby.
It is ironic that they eventually fulfilled their dream in the same month as the 'Wahine' sinking as the Eastbourne community had played such a major role in the rescue and recovery operations that fateful day and the eastern coastline had been the scene of such devastation.
The fathers were implored to give their sons proposal serious consideration and eventually they took the idea to members of the local RSA for further discussion. The parents and RSA members held a meeting and subsequently proposed to contact the 'Hutt Valley Junior Soccer Association' in regard to forming a football club in Eastbourne. A small donation was made towards an official “team” ball.
Governing body regulations became an early issue, as fixtures could only be arranged against ‘affiliated’ clubs, players needed to be registered and the fledgling club required a permanent playing field.
Williams Park at the time was allocated on Saturday mornings to schoolboy rugby and local resistance was met regarding a proposal for footballers to train on HW Shortt Park.
The Naenae club however, generously donated a number of grey/green jerseys and the two original schoolboy sides were at last on the field.
During the first year, a number of senior football players who lived locally came forward and lent their muscle toward helping establish the club. Their input and support was paramount and by 1970, Eastbourne had two senior teams, the clubs foundation had been laid and consequently growth was rapid.
Former All White and Gisborne City player, Des Warman, was an early mainstay in this regard, as few of the original committee had any relative playing experience.
Pictured; The original 8th Graders of 1968
Top: Ian Anderson, Greg Taylor, Ian McCullum, Grant Backhouse, ??, Blair Weissberg, Steven Weissberg.
Middle: Michael Harre, Jeffrey Singleton, Peter Whitehead, Malcolm Sellen, Michael Brown.
Bottom: Nic Weatherhead, Philip King, Paul Cackett.
PART TWO (in progress)