Wanganui Rugby Football Union
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The Wanganui Rugby Football Union (WRFU) is the governing body for rugby union in the Wanganui region of New Zealand. The Wanganui Rugby Football Union was formed in 1888.
The Wanganui team play from Cooks Gardens, Wanganui, and have enjoyed much success on the playing field throughout their history. Since the introduction of the National Provincial Championship in 1976, the Wanganui team have gone on to win five provincial championships and have been finalists in each of the last four years in succession. The Wanganui team accepted promotion to the Air New Zealand Cup Division One competition for the 2010 season. The NZRU has announced another alteration to the NPC format for 2010 and 2011 however which means the Air New Zealand Cup will remain a 14-team competition for the next two years.
The Wanganui Rugby Football Union was formed on 11 April 1888. It then joined the NZRFU as a foundation member in 1892. Wanganui's first official game after affiliation with the NZRFU was against the British and Irish Lions in 1888, a 1-all draw was more than encouraging for the union. In 1913 Wanganui played Australia and won 11-6 and in 1966 (with King Country) they won against touring side, British and Irish Lions 12-6.
Wanganui currently competes in the Heartland Championship, a competition for New Zealand’s amateur and semi-professional provincial unions.
- 1989 National Provincial Championship Third Division Champions
- 1996 National Provincial Championship Third Division Champions
- 2003 National Provincial Championship Third Division Champions
- 2008 Heartland Championship Meads Cup
- 2009 Heartland Championship Meads Cup
- 2011 Heartland Championship Meads Cup
Heartland Championship Placings
|Heartland Championship Results|
Taranaki v Wanganui
Into the last minutes of the match Wanganui held a 12-11 lead and even if on paper and in the match itself they had seemed the inferior team it seemed as if they would hang on. Their hero was wing Colin Pierce who had kicked all of Wanganui's points from penalties to put them ahead even though Taranaki had gained tries to John McCullough and Ross Brown.
Wanganui might well have won as the match approached the final minute but for excitement of their supporters who thinking they were part of a historic moment as Wanganui had never ever won the shield crowded the touchline.
A desperate Brown had dropped for goal trying to gain the winning points. When it had missed Pierce had dashed to the 22 and taken a quick drop out. In the event his hurried kick had landed among the Wanganui spectators and they gave referee John Pring and touch judge George Brightwell a dilemma for they were both unsighted by the sideline mayhem were not sure whether the ball had bounced or gone out on a full.
Pring ruled that it had been on the full and so that last scrum of the match in what was the last set-piece took place on the Wanganui 22 and it was from there that Taranaki worked the move from which replacement wing Kerry Hurley grubber kicked ahead and won the chase as the ball bounced just a feet from touch over the Wanganui goal-line. And that was it Taranaki had won 14-12.
In 1897 John Blair became the first of 17 Whanganui players to pull on an All Blacks jersey. Until the emergence of Bill Osborne in 1975, Ernest (‘Moke’) Belliss was without doubt Whanganui’s greatest contribution to New Zealand rugby. Belliss made his representative debut for Wanganui in 1914 before enlisting to serve during World War I. He first came to national attention as a member of the New Zealand Army rugby team of 1919 which won the King’s Cup tournament in Britain and then toured South Africa. Belliss played in the three home tests against the 1921 Springboks and captained the All Blacks in Australia the following year. A Belliss has been compared to later players such as Waka Nathan and Buck Shelford. Commentator Winston McCarthy remembered him as hard, tough and fast, a good handler and a ferocious tackler. His opponents feared him and players of his era ranked him with the world’s best. His son Jack captained Wanganui until the early 1950s and his grandson Peter Belliss was a flanker or lock for the side in the 1970s before turning his attention to bowls, a sport in which he won two world titles.
All Black Bill Osborne in South Africa, 1976 Born and bred in Whanganui, midfield back Bill Osborne graduated from the Wanganui High School first XV straight into the Kaierau senior side. In 1973 he made his debut for Whanganui four days after his 18th birthday. Selection for the New Zealand Colts followed in 1974 and he made the All Blacks for the waterlogged test against Scotland at Eden Park in 1975. He played in 14 of the 24 matches on the 1976 tour of South Africa. In 1978 Osborne lost his spot for the home series against Australia to Bay of Plenty Mark Taylor. He won his place back for the end-of-year tour of the British Isles and played in all four internationals as the All Blacks completed their first-ever Grand Slam against the home unions. Osborne and Bruce Robertson of Counties formed one of the great midfield combinations of any All Black era.
In all Osborne played 48 times for New Zealand, including 16 tests. Having retired in 1981, he made a comeback the following season, playing in two of the three tests against Australia before once more announcing his retirement. Again he had a change of heart and by now representing Waikato he was selected for the All Black side to tour South Africa in 1985. This tour was cancelled as a result of court action taken against the New Zealand Rugby Union. A replacement tour of Argentina was arranged but Osborne withdrew from the side. In 1986 he joined all but two of the 1985 selections on the unsanctioned New Zealand Cavaliers tour of South Africa.
While they might not have reached the heights of Belliss and Osborne, Trevor Olney and Bob Barrell are typical of the unsung heroes of many of New Zealand’s provincial unions. Between 1973 and 1990 Olney played a record 146 times for Wanganui. These were amateur days in which a player had to fit training and matches around a full-time job, so his commitment over 18 seasons was truly remarkable. Barrell scored a record 980 points for the union between 1963 and 1977.
Wanganui in Super Rugby
There have been 17 players selected for the All Blacks while playing club rugby in Wanganui.
- Ernest Belliss
- John Blair
- George Bullock-Douglas
- Andrew Donald
- Keith Gudsell
- Peter Henderson
- John Hogan
- Peter Johns
- Peter McDonnell
- Alasdair McNicol
- Henare Milner
- Peter Murray
- William Osborne
- Waate Potaka
- Harrison Rowley
- Peina Taituha
- Hector Thomson
Wanganui Rugby Football Union is made up of 13 clubs:
- Ngati Maika
- Utiku Old Boys
- Wanganui and Old Boys
- Wanganui Pirates 
- Wanganui Tech
- Marton Rugby and Sports Club
- "Heartland Championship Tables". Lassen Creative Technologies Ltd. Retrieved 8 May 2006.