Trish McKay

A far wider group of New Zealanders were stunned to hear of the murder of Trish McKay, who was run down in a parking lot at a shopping centre in Newport Beach, California, on 2 July 2024, than just the Ponsonby Rugby Club. Trish’s connection to the club was through husband Doug, who was a significant member of the breakthrough teams of the 1970s, and the couple had many lasting friends in Ponsonby ranks for virtually 50 years.

Why anyone should wish to compound a robbery that failed, because two pensioners refused to have their property stolen, with murder is something that escapes most of us. In California, the three charged men could face the death penalty due to the circumstances involved. In New Zealand, a wide swathe of the community was left in shock.

The Ponsonby Rugby Club and its members offer Doug and the couple’s three sons, Matthew, Sam and Wyatt, and their families, their sincerest condolences. In common with many, club members and longtime friends of the McKays marvelled at the strength Doug and their sons showed as they rose to speak at Trish’s funeral, especially given the circumstances of her death. Courage is clearly a family characteristic.

Doug McKay played first-five for Ponsonby between 1975 and 1978, racking up more than 50 appearances in that time. He made the South African tour in 1975, started every match at home after his return, and was a significant contributor to the club’s first Gallaher Shield win in 22 years in 1976, only missing one match when he was rested prior to the final as an injury precaution. His steady control of the game was a boon to a side learning how to cope with the pressure of being a front-runner, and from the moment he came into the side the 10 jersey was his to lose. Some good players were kept on the sideline during that time, as McKay led the parade of influential first-fives the club has had in the post-Gallaher Shield drought years.

After giving serious rugby away, McKay rose to high places in the business world, and among the various posts he held were two notable ones – chairman of the BNZ, and chairman of the Eden Park Trust Board. 

2023 Luncheon Fundraiser

On December 1st, Ponsonby Rugby proudly hosted it's 2023 Ponies Luncheon fundraiser, and it was a massive success for our Club in so many ways!

The lunch brought together 180 club members, Old Boys, sponsors and Ponies whanau-  many of whom had not seen each other in a decade or so. What an occassion!

Led from the front by The Crowd Goes Wild funnyman, James McOnie as MC, our guest speakers were sensational, with charismatic new All Black Head Coach, Scott 'Razor' Robertson, stealing the show. We sincerely thank Razor for the giving of his time on the eve of his highly anticipated first season in charge of the ABs. He clearly has a passion and respect for the grass roots scene, and for that we thank him dearly.

Another highlight of our luncheon was awarding our eight Fillies with their club blazer, a remarkable achievement. Melita Williams was to be a recipient of her blazer alongside her fellow Fillies, but it was with great sadness that we shared news of her passing. Mel's blazer was presented to her whanau during a private service.

With Linda Itunu abroad on coaching duty, we had the honour of presenting blazers and listen to our Fillies share a snapshot of what it meant to play for our prestigous Premier Ladies team. It was a priviledge to celebrate with Aldora Itunu, Cristo Tofa, Aeron Warbrooke, Charmaine McMenamin, Kobi Daniel and centurion, Eloise Blackwell.

One of our other objectives of the luncheon was to raise much-needed funds for our Club. This was done through the incredible generosity of our corporate sponsors and supporters and their donations of auction and pledge card prizes. Through the hands of celebrity auctioneer Mark Sumich, we were able to raise over $50,000- an incredibly generous amount of funds which will prove invaluable as we return to our club rooms for the first time in over 12 months.

Once again, thank you to our event sponsors for their support and genrousity of the day.

Thanks also to everyone who attended the event – we couldn’t have achieved these results without your support.

We look forward to making 2024- Ponsonby Rugby's 150th Anniversary- an even bigger and better celebration with all of you!

Ponsonby Life Member, former Chairman and President Peter Harwood, passes away

Peter Keith Harwood, MNZM 22 August 1939 – 17 March 2023

The Ponsonby District Rugby Club sadly acknowledges the passing of one of its outstanding administrators and Life Members, Dr Peter Harwood. He was 83.

Peter did not have an extensive playing background at high levels of the game, but he gave a great deal to rugby over many years. A lot of this work was done while he lived in Melbourne, where he eventually became Dean of Monash University, and he fondly remembered those days in what was pretty much frontier territory for the rugby code.

When he came to Ponsonby, he was much closer to the heart of the game but also much closer to a life-and-death struggle that was going on at the club. The fact the club still lives today is testament to the work done, in conjunction with a tight core of no more than a dozen notable club men, as its ongoing future was often a day-to-day proposition.

Peter Harwood carried a heavy load for many years, as he was in the Chair for most of the wretched times of the 1990s when the club’s future was on a knife-edge. It wasn’t as if he had all the time in the world on his hands, since he was a leading figure at the AUT – and the organiser of the scholarships that became available to young Ponsonby players - but somehow managed to shoehorn another fulltime workload into his already busy schedule.

When the dust had settled – and it took years – Ponsonby began its upward climb of the late 1990s. Harwood had proven to be the right man in the right place, with a special skill at delegating a job to the best possible person and then making sure it was followed through to completion. The 125th Jubilee, in 1999, also occurred on his watch and was a much happier time than those difficult years which immediately preceded it.

Peter suggested the title for the club history produced to coincide with that Jubilee – Passion and Pride – and he had both in abundance. He stepped down from the Chair in 2002, partly due to ill health, and was immediately elected a Life Member. He still served on the committee when he could and also served a popular term as President.

Harwood was very much in tune with the community of Ponsonby rugby and how it fitted into the larger community of Auckland. If he felt there was perhaps some area where the club’s presumed place in the social order fell short of what he expected, he quietly went about addressing that shortfall. He understood the importance of our club to Maori and Pasifika peoples, and made sure others didn’t forget either. To say he embraced the culture of Ponsonby rugby was to understate the situation and his contribution. A man of many talents and interests, he explored avenues that many in his rugby position might have ignored, and such exploration normally led to cultural and intellectual stimulation in the club.

‘Helping make the world a better place’ was one of his measures of success, and he did that many times over. Among his contributions to society in general was the founding of New Zealand’s first Citizens Advice Bureau, in 1970. The number of people who have been helped by this one institution over 50 years would be hard to arrive at, but the benefit to each one would be incalculable.

Harwood was a regular attendee at Ponsonby games to the end of the 2022 season and, in true Ponsonby style, never met a referee he liked. His glass was half-full, if he was lucky, on the sideline (often the tide was right out), and a man who seemed surprised when his favourites hauled another win out of the bag, despite years and years of watching it happen on a near-weekly basis.

Respected by all he came into contact with, Harwood’s true value to Ponsonby may never be fully appreciated except by those he toiled so hard alongside when nothing but total effort and commitment was going to save the club from extinction. He deserves to be ranked high on any list of the most notable administrators the club has ever been lucky enough to count among its own.

Peter Harwood had the ability to encourage people to produce more, without ever belittling their efforts. He just had a way of making everyone want to dig a little deeper, to be a little better, to not let the person next to them down. If what we saw at the rugby club was even matched in his academic pursuits, his students were lucky. We at Ponsonby know we were.

He was awarded the MNZM in 2008, for services to the community and to Maori.

Peter Keith Harwood MNZM died at Auckland on 17 March 2023.

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