The Jubilee Cup for Wellington club rugby supremacy has been contested every year since 1929, with some 19 clubs winning the title over nine decades. See a XV below made of up winning Jubilee Cup captains.
As with these sorts of posts the below is not a definitive list or best of list, rather a cross-section of players from the start of the Jubilee Cup’s inception to the present day and some in between.
As always with these sorts of paper teams, some liberties have been taken to fill in some blanks – namely the backs where we have named a legendary vice-captain and multiple winner on the left wing, a notable usual inside back on the right wing and moved a first five-eighth to second five-eighth to accommodate two together!
Similarly, we could have named two forward packs of players to have captained winning teams, with names such as Doug Power, Paul Quinn, Tony Meachen, Murray Mexted and in recent years Chris Molenaar, Nick Paasi, Donal Mcnamara, Taniela Korori, Jason Risdon, TJ Fermanis, and Jonathan Fuiamoano all noted as past local legends of the game.
1. Ken Gray
Petone: 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970
Petone had a virtual mortgage on the Jubilee Cup and Swindale Shield (from 1969) for a decade from the mid-1960s. All Blacks prop and captain Ken Gray was a key reason why they established and maintained dominance. Gray joined Petone from Paremata in 1958 as a lock but was later converted to prop and became a world beater. He played eight of his 24 tests at loosehead and 16 at tighthead, retiring in his prime in 1970 owing to his refusal to tour South Africa. Gray, who never made the Wellington College First XV, was a tough competitor on the field but a popular figure off it who went into local politics before dying young in 1992, aged 54.
2. Mick Horan
Marist Old Boys: 1962, 1963, 1964
Like Gray, Mick Horan would tragically die young, his passing of a heart attack in early 1982, aged 47, keenly felt in all Wellington rugby circles. The older of the two Horan brothers who both had a long association in Wellington club and representative rugby as players and coaches, Mick was the first of the pair to raise the Jubilee Cup, winning four Jubilee Cups and captaining three of them. Between 1955-65 he played 172 club matches in succession. After he hung up his boots he immediately climbed into coaching and was later to coach Wellington B. Younger brother Kevin was also MSP captain and later coach and he played 99 matches for Wellington.
3. Kas Lealamanua
Marist St Pat’s 1999: 2001, 2012
Kas Lealamanua won three Jubilee Cup titles as captain – the third over a decade after the previous one. The first in 1999 was the last ever final played on Athletic Park, a 22-16 win over Poneke, the second two years later saw them beat Poneke 21-16. He also scored a clutch try in 2003’s 22-26 final loss to Poneke. He played 27 matches for the Wellington Lions 2000-2003, 31 Tests for Samoa, including two World Cups, and played overseas in France and England for several years, before playing two seasons in the Hawke’s Bay. He then returned home in 2012 and re-joined MSP, assuming the captaincy at the business end of the season from an injured Arden David-Perrott and scoring a try in his side’s 14-8 win over Ories in the decider. Later MSP’s RDO and current forwards coach of St Pat’s College First XV, helping a new crop of promising props coming through.
4. Joe Beech
Old Boys University: 2015
Old Boys University’s captain when they won their maiden Jubilee Cup title in 2015 and the first title for any of their predecessor clubs (University) in 50 seasons. In the final, MSP held off a fast-finishing Marist St Pat’s 30-27. Beech came to OBU from the Wairarapa and played for Wairarapa-Bush in 2013 and 2014. Following the euphoric highs of winning the Jubilee Cup in 2015, Beech returned to the Goats as a player for the next two seasons, before heading overseas on his OE. In 2020 Beech was back home in the Wairarapa playing for Marist in the local competition, after stints playing in Scotland and in London. His return coincided with Marist winning the Moose Kapene Cup for the first time in 18 years, and he made the Wai-Bush representative team again.
5. Malcolm McGregor Cooper
Wellington Axemen: 1939
An international flavour to our captain’s team and complementing current player Beech in our side is Malcolm McGregor Cooper. A lock and No. 8, Cooper had played for Scotland (debut against Wales in 1936) whilst studying at Oxford University. With Cooper at the helm and the day’s outstanding attacking and goal-kicking back, then incumbent All Black fullback Jack Taylor, Wellington won 10 of their first 11 games to set themselves up as a title contender. A key result was their edging of Petone 18-17 in front of a massive crowd and win the Jubilee Cup with a round to spare, Taylor kicking a dropped goal from halfway that made the difference. Their first title since 1901 in the bag, they cruised past Marist Brothers Old Boys 35-20 in the final match of the season. Cooper’s Axemen won 13, lost 2 (both to Athletic) and drew one of their 16 matches as war clouds were brewing in Europe.
6. Parekura Lalaga
Northern United: 2019
Almost a decade after playing in Northern United’s Jubilee Cup winning side in 2010 and scoring a try in the last final at Wellington Stadium, Parekura Lalaga lifted the famous club rugby trophy aloft as captain. A proud Norths junior and 2008 captain of Mana College who won that year’s National Co-ed Cup title, Lalaga was hampered by injury and then moved to Australia for a short while as Norths fell away for five seasons. He returned to Norths and played his 100th game in 2018 as they won the Swindale Shield. In 2019, Norths were runners-up in the Swindale to HOBM and finished third in the Jubilee Cup round-robin. Lalaga’s men then rallied to beat Tawa 18-17 at Lyndhurst Park in their semi-final and then beat Wainuiomata 25-16 in the final.
7. Graham Williams
Wellington Axemen: 1972, 1978
Almost a decade after selection for the Wellington Lions as a school-leaver and then enjoying twin wins for Wellington over the Springboks and British and Irish Lions and on to a brief All Blacks career, Graham Williams won his first Jubilee Cup with the Wellington Axemen in 1972. Williams, who holds the record for most first-class games for Wellington with 174 appearances, won his second in 1978 before retiring from all rugby. Both championship titles were shared, with Athletic and MSP respectively, while Williams’ Axemen teams were runners-up to Petone in 1967, 1970 and 1074. Former Rongotai College student Williams also won the Best & Fairest competition twice (1967 and 1976).
8 Andy Leslie
Petone: 1971, 1973, 1974, 1976
A great rival of Williams in club rugby and loyal teammate in the representative game, Andy Leslie presided over the second half of Petone’s great era of Jubilee Cup rugby. Petone won or shared the Jubilee Cup on eight occasions in 10 years, interrupted by 1972 when Wellington and Athletic shared it and 1975 when Poneke won. Leslie was Petone’s captain in this time, leading one of the most exiting teams seen in Wellington club rugby then and now. 1973 was perhaps their greatest triumph, completing an unbeaten season and scoring over 600 points (4-point tries). Playing a dashing brand of rugby, Petone weren’t the biggest side but they were the most enterprising. In 1974, Wellington won and lost the Ranfurly Shield in a week and later Leslie was chosen for the All Blacks for the first time, and as captain. He played all his 31 All Blacks matches as captain. Later coached Petone to success.
9. Nick Risdon
Hutt Old Boys Marist 2007
A core group of mostly local players came through for Hutt Old Boys Marist in the early 2000s to taste Colts grade success, lift their club out of Senior 1 [Premier Reserve] wilderness and on to second placed in Swindale Shield title and Jubilee Cup semi-finals in 2006 and then the Jubilee Cup title in 2007. Halfback Nick Risdon captained a tough and combative side that mirrored his style of play, that fielded forwards such as future All Black Jeremy Thrush and fellow 200-gamer Polonga Pedro. The Eagles peaked in the championship rounds after finishing fifth in the Swindale Shield, beating Norths 15-5 in their semi-final and MSP 18-10 in the final in a gritty decider that hung in the balance until late in the first half. HOBM won again in 2014 and this time his brother and openside flanker Jason was captain.
10. Don Cederwall
Talisman first five and captain of Poneke’s side that broke Petone’s hold on the Jubilee Cup and won their first title since 1951. Similar to that previous side, this Poneke team was built on guts and camaraderie and Cederwall was the man that led them. Cederwall also won the Billy Wallace Best & Fairest title that year, with both his personal and team success coming down to the final afternoon of the season. Poneke upset Petone 11-9 to win the Jubilee Cup and Cederwall was awarded 3 points from the game and an outright win in the competition over his nearest rival, Ories Fullback Clive Currie. He sealed the upset win with a dropped goal with 10 minutes to play. He also became the first Poneke man to win the competition. Cederwall captained Poneke for six seasons and was later coach to cement his status as a club legend.
11. Ron Jarden
University: 1952, 1953, 1954
Jarden needs no introduction as Wellington rugby’s greatest wing and automatic first choice in any ‘best of’ teams. In club rugby he was an integral member of University’s side that won a three-peat of titles between 1952-54. Left wing Jarden was the team’s vice-captain throughout this era, prop/hooker Ivan Stuart the captain most weeeks, but for the purposes of this paper team he can be elevated to captain. The ‘ace of match-winners’ Jarden was top points scorer in 1952 with 14 tries to his name and 96 points as they won the Jubilee Cup with two full games to spare. University defended the title in 1953 with a record of 12 wins and three losses and in 1954 beat Petone 11-6 in the match that proved to be the final with Jarden himself scoring the last-minute match-winner from a cross-kick. Jarden was to retire from rugby two years later, ahead of University winning its fourth Jubilee Cup of the decade in 1958 under the captaincy of hooker H.P. Jensen.
12. Craig Mackenzie
The first Jubilee Cup winning captain and first five-eighth but listed in several reports as a ‘five-eighth’ so that’s our opening to include him one out in the backline in this list here. ‘Crow’ Mackenzie was carried from the field by the club’s western bank supporters in the last game of the previous season against Poneke after a win that gave them their maiden title, and he went into the 1929 season leading a confident, well-balanced side that scored 217 points and conceded 120, winning 13, losing two and drawing one of their 16 games. Of note, almost the exact same team went from first to last the following season. Mackenzie played for Wellington between 1925-29, played two matches for the All Blacks in 1928 and later in 1929 captained NZU against Australian Universities. He was a teacher at Hutt Valley High School.
13 Trent Eagle
Marist St Pat’s 2002
Trent Eagle won the Swindale Shield with Upper Hutt in 1990, later played 125 Premier games for Johnsonville and then almost 100 more for Marist St Pat’s in a long Wellington club rugby career. He was MSP’s captain and centre in 2002 when they beat a Hurricanes-laden Old Boys University 18-13 at Wellington Stadium in that year’s final, forming an effective midfield combination with Norm Broughton. Eagle also won several other Jubilee and Swindale titles with all three teams he played for. He was later part of MSP’s squad that lost the final to HOBM in 2007. Eagle was also in Wellington Lions squads in 1993, 1997/98 and again in 2001/02, while also being a key member of the Wellington sevens team from 1994-2001. He also coached MSP’s sevens side to several straight Wellington club and additional club sevens titles. Now living in Sydney.
14. Mark Nicholls
Probably Wellington’s best ever ‘five-eighth’, Nicholls was one of four brothers that played first-class rugby and the son of Syd who had founded the Poneke and Petone clubs. Nicholls spent most of his career inter-changing between first and second five-eighths, and he also played some big matches at centre and seems to be have been skillful and versatile in the mould of other such players like Marc Ellis in the 1990s and Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie today so he can slot in here on the wing here! A decade out of Wellington College, Nicholls was Petone’s skipper in 1930 when they won their first Jubilee Cup title. A notable big game of the season was between Petone and Hutt with Petone beating the recently promoted Hutt 22-8 who finished third. Nicholls played for the All Blacks against Great Britain later in the season to end his All Blacks career with 51 matches and 10 Tests to his name. In first-class rugby, Nicholls scored 619 points in 124 matches.
15 Allan Hewson
Hewson captained Petone’s side in 1986 in his final year of rugby. With Hewson at fullback, Petone did the Swindale Shield-Jubilee Cup double. His goal-kicking was deadly and he scored a then record 227 points, surpassing his own record of 214 points that he set in 1980. Hewson also won the Best and Fairest competition in 1986, winning it a second time after his first in 1979. He sealed the Billy Wallace in the decider with a Player of the Match performance in Petone’s 21-13 win over Marist St Pat’s. But it came at a price for Hewson who had been carrying an Achilles tendon injury since early July and the former All Black and Wellington’s all-time leading points scorer was forced to retire from all rugby after the club season. With Hewson at fullback, Petone did the Swindale Shield-Jubilee Cup double, His 227 points in 1986 surpassed his own record of 214 points that he set in 1980.