"The Game That Never Was" ANZAC Day 2014
"The Game That Never Was"
On ANZAC Day 2014 Australian and New Zealand men’s and women's lacrosse teams will face each other to mark the 100 year centenary of a match that was supposed to be played between the two nations yet was subsequently abandoned due to the Great War.
'The Game That Never Was' honours the memory of the founding fathers of the sport in both countries who made the ultimate sacrifice in their duty towards their homelands.
Background behind the 2014 Commemorative ANZAC Games in NZ
The Game that never was – Australia V New Zealand, Anzac Day 25th April 2014, To be played at College Rifles Sports Club, Auckland.
Lacrosse was first established in New Zealand in the 1880’s. An initial look through press archives indicates that a team was established in Invercargill in 1885 and one in Dunedin in 1886. It looks like the game was established by ex pats from the UK and Australia – the obituaries from the 1930’s begin to reveal who the founding fathers may have been – Eric Broughton from Manchester (England) via Sydney (who represented New South Wales), Philip Charles Dickinson Luckie (Auckland Club) , John Francis O’Leary (captain of Wellington) and William Norton also played important roles - press clippings and obituaries can be found here.
By the beginning of the first world war there were thriving leagues in Auckland and Wellington. Teams such as Ponsonby, Auckland, North Shore and Grafton competed in an Auckland league whilst Columbia, Wellington, Kelburn and Capital competed for the “Proud Cup” with games that were held at the Basin Reserve.
There was general excitement in June 1914 with the planned visit of a touring side from New South Wales that was scheduled to playWellington on 5th September, New Zealand on 12th September and Auckland on either the 16th or 19th September. The excitement included a proposal from the New South Wales Association for the New Zealand sides to come in to line with the Australian rules to allow kicking and use a 5 1/2 oz ball instead of a 4 ½ oz ball – the suggestion to use a smaller field was rejected for safety reasons.
By August 1914 local and representative matches were being cancelled, although it was hoped the New South Wales game could be rescheduled for a years time! On 29 August 1914 the simple and understated message in the New Zealand Herald was:
“The Local (Wellington) lacrosse season has been closed and the Proud Cup has been awarded to the Kelburn Club. It is also announced that the proposed visit of the New South Wales lacrosse team to New Zealand has been abandoned, owing to the war”
Attempts were made in Wellington in 1920 to revive this ‘lapsed’ sport but men’s lacrosse was not to be reestablished until 2000 with the beginning of the current league in Auckland.
Obituaries for the “ Men who have fallen” included Lacrosse players such as Captain William Alfred Bowring (died 24th September 1916) who played for the Ponsonby Club and was one of the “first to enlist”. He left with the first contingent for Samoa – probably alongisde members of the College Rifles regiment.
'The Game That Never Was' commenorates the 100 years that have passed since the “abandoned” game of 1914. The Men’s and Women’s teams of Australia and New Zealand are proud to be able to join the Anzac parade and commemorations at College Rifles Sports Club in Auckland.
David Zussman, Manager, New Zealand Men’s National Lacrosse Team