Murray Roberts honoured with South Canterbury rugby life membership

Stu Piddington10:34, Jul 08 2020

Former South Canterbury speedster Murray Roberts’ hard work on and off the field has been rewarded with life membership of the South Canterbury Rugby Union.

Roberts was deservedly honoured as the union’s 28th life member at its recent annual meeting.

He is the first member of the Harlequins club to receive the honour and only the third from the defunct Star club, behind All Black Tom Morrison and renowned administrator Neil Wakefield.

Roberts said he was both surprised and delighted to receive the accolade.

He played his early and teenage rugby for Southern in the Waimate sub union competition and played at first five for the Waimate High School First XV.

Moving to Timaru in 1970, he joined Star and made an immediate impact, being selected for South Canterbury as teenager.

He went on to play 70 games over nine years for the ‘green and blacks’ during one of their best periods.

Roberts said there were plenty of on-field highlights.

“We beat Canterbury twice down here (in Timaru) in 1972 and 1973, and they had the likes of Grizz Wyllie. They didn’t like coming here.

“In my first year we challenged Canterbury for the Ranfurly Shield and were 8-all in the second half before losing 19-8 which was my first big rugby experience.”

Roberts was also part of the 1974 Ranfurly Shield winning team, a game he described as amazing.

The fleet-footed winger also played internationals against Ireland, Romania and Japan.

Roberts said Ireland was a special game.

“I marked their captain Tom Grace ... it felt like he was six foot 12 inches tall and when I went to tackle him his hand just filled my face.”

Another highlight was playing for a New Zealand Invitation XV against the Britain bound All Blacks in 1972.

Roberts was renowned for his skill and speed, able to cover a 100-yards in under 11 seconds. (His son Dallas proved to be even quicker as a NZ Commonwealth Games sprinter, clocking a best of 10.46s in the 100m.)

As for his rugby nickname of ‘Noddy’, Roberts is unsure where it came from but knows he was given it by his midfield partner Paul Roddick.

Author Enid Blyton would have been proud of Roberts’ response. “It was okay as Paul became ‘Big Ears’.”

A decade after retiring Roberts was back coaching junior representative sides.

As an administrator, Roberts led the amalgamation of the Star and Zingari clubs to become Harlequins and went on to chair the new club for over two decades.

Roberts also served on the South Canterbury union board from 2005 to 2008 and became union president in 2017.

Roberts said his proudest moment as an administrator was overseeing the amalgamation of Star and Zingari.

“It took a lot of goodwill and didn’t please all of the older members but has been a great success.

“Harlequins also have a clubrooms that are second to none in New Zealand.”

These days Roberts’ interest in rugby extends to watching his grandsons play rugby in both Timaru and Christchurch and grand daughter Mia play netball.

SCRU chief executive Craig Calder said the board was delighted to induct Roberts as he is a deserving recipient.

“Murray is very respected within the rugby community he has a high level of integrity and has an unrivalled passion for rugby in our region at any level.

“His contribution to rugby at club, representative and administration levels in our region has been rightly recognised and rewarded by his peers.”