Past players from "Bob's Boys"1968 Star third grade B team who had a reunion at the weekend watch the Harlequins-Celtic match. Pictured from left, at front are Ray Wade, Ken Barlow, Blue Cook, Gary Gabites, Mike Weeks, Bob Mortimer, Barry Marett and Gary Christian. At back are John Black (former All Black) and Les Black (sons of the late Bob Black, “Bob's Boys"coach), Nev Richards, Paul Roddick, Sam Simpson, Greg Watson, Jim Laurenson, Roy Callow, Duncan Reverley and John Atwill.

​​​​​​​Old Star rugby mates getting together in Timaru  

Chris Tobin10:00, Apr 30 2021

Rugby yarns from long ago will be flowing in Timaru this weekend.

Members of a Star Tech third grade B team from 1968, colloquially known as ‘Bob’s Boys’ are meeting up to reminisce and also to remember the man who guided them, Bob Black.

“He wasn’t a coach, he was more a man manager,” team member Neville Richards said.

“He was like a father figure,” Howard Smith recalled.

Black ran a service station at the corner of King and Shaw Sts opposite where NPD Redruth is located today near the site of the demolished Creek Hotel.

“He was an old school mechanic, a jovial character who would be pulling motors apart, and he was always covered in oil,” another team member Blue Cook said.

Richards said the team was never a high-flying combination and Ken Barlow considered as a young bunch of 16 and 17-year-olds there were also a few “rascals” among them.

Yet a strong spirit pervaded their ranks which was enhanced by post match deliberations on Sundays at Black’s service station.

“We were too young to go to the Creek Hotel, but we’d be out the back of the service station having a few beers. When someone came in, Bob would go out and serve at the forecourt.”

And if supplies ran low, a trip would be made over the road to ‘The Creek’.

Richards said in that year’s competition they finished fifth out of 12 teams which came from all over South Canterbury.

They beat the Star third grade A team also, made up of slightly older players, but their crowning glory came in an end of year trip to Central Otago to play in a Vincent sub-union seven-a-side tournament.

To boost chances, Bob’s son John Black, then playing for Timaru Boys’ High School and a future All Black hooker, joined them.

“This is how we did it in 1968.” Howard Smith, left, Neville Richards, Ken Barlow and Blue Cook show some of their old rugby skills.

The team was split in two for the tournament; the B team lost two games and did not advance.

The A team drew against Alexandra, and although the memory was a little hazy, Richards said they met Ida Valley in the semi-final.

Smith remembered standing next to the Ida Valley side waiting to run onto the field and feeling he was playing a bunch of giants. They were older than the Star boys.

“The match was like a final,” said Richards. “It was a hell of a game.”

So much so, victory in the final seemed almost anti-climactic and just who the other finalist team was, has been forgotten.

John Black who would play three tests and 26 matches for the All Blacks from 1976 to 1980, made an appearance in the final.

“We got small miniature cups as prizes,” said Barlow.

“They only had seven to give out, so we had seven cups and eight players.”

Celebrations went on long and hard but next day they had to drag themselves into the fray again, in a 15-a-side match against Omakau.

Richards said after that season several of them advanced to play for the Star seniors but a many dispersed around the country and beyond and in more recent years the Star club merged with Zingari to form Harlequins.

However, a strong contingent were coming for the reunion including John Black who has made a special trip from Australia.

His older brother Les Black of Christchurch would be attending also to enjoy the chat about their dad and to recall the happy days of the 1968 Star third grade B side.