1910 to 1919

If the first decade of the 20th Century saw the British Empire at the peak of its powers, the second saw so much that was taken for granted taken away. And, in the second half of the decade, there was a war which eventually touched every country on Earth. If the War didn't touch them, the flu epidemic that followed certainly did, and that combination meant there was never any going back to how things had been.

It was much the same at Ponsonby, although hardly as dramatic. The decade opened with the abandonment of the District Scheme, as Ponsonby had become too powerful from top to bottom and, under the rules which governed the scheme, there was no logical counter to this domination.So it transpired that Ponsonby's overwhelming strength, the reason the scheme was enacted in the first place, also became the reason it was abandoned.

The club had an aging Senior team, but more threatening was the new code, rugby league. For a couple of years Ponsonby was relatively immune to the advances of scouts but, in 1910, the trickle of players leaving became a flood. Before the dust settled half a dozen of that great 1909 team had switched codes and represented New Zealand, while lower grade players were leaving in droves. The exodus gutted the club, and did a lot of harm to rugby in Auckland which, it should be noted, was slow to react.

Hot on the heels of that threat came war, declared in August 1914. By the time the 1915 season rolled around many men had already joined up and many more were just about to do so. Then, a year later, the NZRFU in a fit of misplaced patriotic fervour, declared rugby was only to be played by boys under 20, which was the call-up age. It was a shortsighted policy that served no purpose and, while it wasn't a huge problem in a lot of New Zealand, in Auckland it could have finished the game as city's leading football code for good.

The Auckland Union, fortunately, reacted quickly this time. It appointed a committee of five leading coaches and referees to draw up the 'Auckland Rules', which would make the game faster, more open and more appealing, and therefore countering all the attractions rugby league held for the man in the street. The five, who included Ponsonby stalwart George Nicholson, came up with a playing code that was 50 years ahead of its time - that was how long it took for their four amendments to  be written into the Laws of the Game.

Nicholson also knew what the modifications allowed players, and during the War began teaching his Ponsonby charges, from top to bottom, how to make fullest use of that scope. His work led to the greatest era of any club in Auckland history, as one team after another ran off long championship sequences, but that story is for the 1920s. Suffice to say that between 1916 and 1919 Ponsonby won the Silver Football for the first four of what eventually proved to be 15 consecutive seasons.

The War may have changed everything in society as it was known. As far as the club was concerned, those changes proved to be immensely profitable.