Stanley Sydney McPherson Dean was a titan rugby administrator for over three decades in the first half of last century.
Dean was a Poneke Football Club, WRFU and NZRU administrator, Chairman and President for many years and also served twice as All Blacks manager on two overseas tours.
Originally an Aucklander, Dean became a naturalised Wellingtonian and operated out of the Poneke Football Club for over 40 years.
Born in 1887, he attended Auckland Grammar School and played for the Grafton Club in Auckland also for the Mines club in Johannesburg during a short stint living and working in South Africa.
In 1914 Dean was living in Gisborne and was as a Poverty Bay selector.
He moved to Wellington in 1919 with his role working for the South British Insurance Company and settled in for his long administrative career.
Joining Poneke, he became that club’s delegate to the WRFU and the club President between 1927-32 and again between 1934-66.
Dean was elected to the NZRU Management Committee in 1920 and became NZRU Chairman in 1922 until his retirement in 1947 – 25 years of being NZRU Chairman. He was also President of the NZRU for a year in 1931 and was made a Life Member in 1947.
He was WRFU President in 1953, the year Wellington won the Ranfurly Shield defended it over several heady weeks and then lost it. In this year he was also instrumental in assisting the Poneke club lobbying the Wellington City Council for a site on a parks and reserve ground, and the Kilbirnie Park clubrooms and gymnasium was built (recently upgraded to become the Hub, Toitū Pōneke). In 1953 he was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.
If that wasn’t enough, Dean went on two tours as All Blacks manager, as well as one of the most famous tours of them all.
His first trip away with the All Blacks was as Manager to Australia in 1922. This was an eight-match tour in July and August of that year with three ‘tests’ against New South Wales which were lost 2-1.
Two years later he was Manager of the 1924/25 All Blacks on their Northern Hemisphere tour.
This team was unbeaten in 32 games overseas and included test matches against Ireland, England, Wales, and France. The team scored 838 points and conceded only 116. The All Backs ‘Invincibles’ were away for six months.
What was remarkable (perfectly normal in those days) was that Dean was the sole non-playing support staff officer inside the tour party, which comprised 29 players.
These days international teams tour with an army of support staff. The last British and Irish Lions tour party in New Zealand in 2017 had dizzying array of non-playing support coaches and adjutants.
The role of manager on these tours was part administrator, tour leader and organiser, part PR and media manager and part player welfare officer. As well as playing, these tours consisted of a constant round of engagements, dinners and functions. There was rarely a day or night off. Dean was in the thick of it all.
Dean also attended ‘Imperial’ rugby conferences in London in 1924 and 1935 as one of two delegates, New Zealand being admitted to the IRB [World Rugby] in 1948 in large part owing to his tireless work behind the scenes.
In 1951, Dean was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his service as chairman of the Fire Boards Association of New Zealand – so rugby wasn’t his only extra-curricular calling.
Dean passed away in Wellington in 1971, aged 82.
- Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
- Chester, R.H. and McMillan, N.A.C. Centenary. 100 Years of All Black Rugby. Moa Publications. Auckland 1984.
- Palenski, Ron, Chester, R.H. and McMillan, N.A.C. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand Rugby. Hodder Moa, Auckland 2005.
- Poneke Football Club. A willing Band of Youths. The History of the Poneke Football Club. Wellington, 1984.
Swan, A.C. History of New Zealand Rugby Football 1870-1945. A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington 1948.