University hockey is first recorded in Auckland when a women’s team played during 1900. In 1903 the Auckland University College Hockey Club was established. This was the men’s club and it became a foundation member of the Auckland Hockey Association formed in June 1903. Today it is the sole surviving founder club. The men’s and women’s clubs operated separately though there are innumerable stories, particularly from university tournaments, where close fraternization is understood to have occurred.
Details of the development of the women’s club and major events in its history are unclear as the club records pre-1990 have been mislaid. It is fair to say that with an Auckland Women’s Hockey Association existing in 1907, that they were a member club. The women’s club had a unique rule that when players graduated they could no longer play for the club. This undoubtedly affected the club’s playing ability, and is perhaps reflected in the lack of championship wins until the rule changed in the 1960’s.
Unique to university hockey is its University tournament and Blues awards. These have both existed since at least 1926. Records show NZU Blues being awarded since 1927 and Auckland ‘Blues’ since 1932. NZ University men’s hockey has also had a number of very successful overseas tours where Auckland has been well represented. The first was to Fiji in 1935, and subsequently to Australia in 1951, '57, '63, '69, '74, '78, '89 and 1999. The 1978 tour notably included a women’s team for the first time.
world war I
The first 20 years of the men’s club and its influence on and off the field are reflected in the following extract about H. B. Speight:
It was in 1904 that “Mick” Speight joined the University Club which then had only 12 members. His first representative appearance was in 1907 in a match against Otago on the domain. But that was only the start. He represented Auckland in every “Rep” match till 1915 when he went on active service and was captain of the club from 1907 and Auckland from 1909. He was also captain of the first North Island team which played the South Island on Wellington’s Basin Reserve in 1914.
On return from active service in 1918 injuries prevented him from playing until 1920 but in 1919 he was appointed sole Auckland selector. When he did return to playing he was University’s goalkeeper for one season then moved to his old position of fullback and was Auckland captain from 1921-23. In the latter years he led the first NZ side on its tour to Australia which finished with the record of played 12, won 11, lost 1 scoring 59 goals with only 4 against. Besides being a player of distinction, he was an umpire to international level, treasurer of Auckland Association from 1906-24, was on the executive committee and later was vice president.
The following 80 years have seen club members continue to excel on the field and in hockey administration, coaching and umpiring. The list of national representatives is testimony to that. In addition there have been a significant number of players who have gained representative honours. Players such as Max Bay, the Brouns, the Herriots, Stan White, Dave Steen, the incomparable Scotty Watson, Geoff Greenback (later to be Headmaster at Kings College), Henry Cooper (a future Headmaster at Auckland Grammnar), Doc Sealy Wood and Dave Neal were prominent in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The women had the Hogben sisters, M. Mawson, Patricia Shirtcliffe and Shona Patterson - all of whom were awarded NZU Blues.
Following WWII, both clubs continued to enter up to 5 teams each in the Auckland competition. The men led by stalwarts like Dick Coldham, Ron Mayhill, Ken Nicholson, Raj Brooke, Brian Kennedy, Dick Bedggood and Tich Boaden won the senior championship in 1946 and 1948.
The women’s club produced a number of outstanding players in this period including M. Lowe, E. Myers, M. Lamb, Margaret Clarke and Peggy Batty. Peggy had the distinction to captain the first NZ women’s team to an international tournament in England in 1953 with the team winning 16 of 20 games. The NZ team to the 1959 IFWHA tournament in Scotland included club members B. Saunders and H. Green.
It was in the 1960’s and early 1970’s that the club underwent significant change. Traditionally coaching and training in the club was, unlike today, a haphazard affair at best. Natural fitness and skill ruled. Friday night team talks in the Kiwi or Harbour Lights hotels, followed by Saturday debrief in the Newmarket tavern were always well attended. A report by Bob Cameron in the Herald in the 1950’s highlighted the club’s approach. He reported that at the opening game of the season between Somerville and University, Somerville players were seen limbering up and hitting balls around, including Mr. Gee doing back flips. The University players meanwhile were shaking hands and introducing themselves.
The arrival of men’s coaches Frank Wells in 1962, then Ken Nicholson and especially Ivan Armstrong, an ex NZ player and former national men’s coach in 1970, saw a marked change. The club had regular practices, players got fit and won five premier championships in 1972-3, 1975-77, along with the National Club Championship in 1977. These achievements bear testimony to Ivan’s coaching skills, organisation and a group of outstanding players.
This successful period extended to 1981 when the club won the National Club Knockout competition beating Karori in a penalty shootout with goalkeeper Guy Blomfield distinguishing himself by brilliantly saving 3 consecutive strokes. In tandem with this frame strode the intrepid Tony Palmer. He was a fullback with Shakespearian tendencies, balding, bespectacled, an engineer, and a great supporter of Lion Breweries. When Tony retired from playing senior hockey in 1966 he entered the administration becoming Chairman of the Auckland Association from 1968-77.
He was tireless in this role and on occasion saw our club through some tricky umpiring and funding issues at Association level. In addition Tony was manager of the 1976 Olympic gold medal winning team at Montreal. Sadly Tony died in 1980.
Tony also saw through the establishment of the University Old Boys Hockey Club in 1970 despite significant opposition from a number of other clubs. This offshoot of the men’s club has played continually at 3rd XI levels, being the AHA championship winners on over 11 occasions, and once played 35 games in a row without defeat in the late 1970’s.
The women’s club also shared in the benefits of having good coaching. In 1981 Fay Mathews approached Wayne Williams to coach the senior team. Wayne accepted and coached the team till 1991. During this time they won 4 senior titles and had numerous Auckland and NZ representatives including Jan Martin, Jane Goulding, Margaret Edge and Robyn Toomey. In 1989, the first year of artificial surfaces in Auckland, the team had the enviable record of 126 goals for and 18 against in 24 matches. They won the championship and were semi-finalists in the national knockout.
In 1992 the men’s and women’s clubs merged. This coincided with the use of artificial surfaces which had made it more difficult for the different grades to keep in contact, as games were located at different venues all over Auckland.
In 1995 a scholarship scheme was implemented which was loosely based on the American Sports Scholarships and encouraged promising young players by providing financial support for their education in conjunction with intensive hockey coaching. This scheme attracted some exciting young players to both men’s and women’s premier teams. Scholarships were last granted in 2000 and during this period the club achieved several premier championships.
Former members are involved in all aspects of the game with 1984 Olympian Jan Martin and FIH Olympic umpire Ian Faulkner both on the Board of the NZ Hockey Federation. Life member and ex-Men’s Captain Dion Gosling played 169 games for NZ and won the NZHF Player of the Year award in 2002 along with a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He played Premier hockey until 2010 and currently plays for the University Old Boys.
the club today
Today the club continues to be successful and provides an excellent environment to play hockey. The club has both men's and women's teams playing at Premier level, with the men's premier team featuring several Regional and NZ representative players.