You are here
Home > Club Rugby > Pioneers of rugby in Wellington 041: Leo Heazlewood

Pioneers of rugby in Wellington 041: Leo Heazlewood

One of the battlers of club and representative rugby in the 1920 and 1930s.

Leo ‘Toucher’ Heazlewood’s job as a railway worker took him to four provinces throughout his career, but it was his three years at Wellington that were his most fruitful and influential on the club and representative teams he played for.

Heazlewood was a goal-kicking fullback and consistently rates in reports as a steadying hand and sound player, as well as possessing deadly accurate goal-kicking skills that won many tight games for his club Athletic and for the Wellington representative side.

He was born in Dunedin in 1905 and made 12 caps in 1926 and 1927 for Otago out of the Zingari-Richmond club.

Moving to Wellington, he joined the Athletic club and quickly became one of the Wellington Senior Championship’s most valuable players and was the top points scorer in 1929, ahead of University’s Fred Ransom whose side won the inaugural Jubilee Cup title that year.

Athletic 7s Beale Cup winners 1929. Heazlewood second from the right.

Athletic had been champions in 1926 and remained one of the top clubs throughout the next decade before their maiden Jubilee Cup win in 1936. In Heazlewood’s three years in Wellington, University were champions in 1928 and 1929 and Petone in 1930.

He played 19 matches for Wellington in three years, which included consecutive wins over Otago that saw him kick dropped goals in both games, beating Great Britain 12-8 in 1930 and beating Southland 12-3 for the Ranfurly Shield later in 1930.

He also was involved in three All Blacks trials, in 1927, 1929 and 1930 – for the upcoming tours to South Africa and Australia and the in-bound tour by Great Britain respectively. He appears to have been unlucky on at least two occasions.

In 1927 he played for the South Island against the North Island and in all three trials for the following year’s Springboks tour. In the last trial match, he was knocked out and had to leave the field whilst tacking Auckland wing Fred Lucas.

In 1929 he played for the North Island against the South Island and was up against the returning George Nepia who got the nod for the Australian tour. Of Heazelwood, the Dominion also wrote: “Heazlewood gave an almost faultless display of fielding and kicking, but he wilted twice when defence was called for.”

In October 1929, Heazlewood played for the New Zealand XV in their 37-18 win at Wellington over the New Zealand Māori XV. The New Zealand XV featured 11 All Blacks, while Nepia was the opposing fullback.

Moving away from Wellington, Heazlewood spent 1931, 32 and 33 in Auckland. He played for the Manukau Rovers club, who were mid-table (fourth in two years he was there) in the 10-team Auckland Senior Grade championship.

He made eight of his 15 appearances for Auckland in his second season there in 1932, including at fullback for Auckland on 6 August of that year at Athletic Park that saw them beat Wellington 24-14.

Next stop for Heazlewood was Canterbury where he played for Linwood and later made three appearances for Canterbury in 1938.

In 1937, he was the leading scorer in Canterbury club rugby, scoring 93 of his team’s 181 points. The following season he was a leading player in helping Linwood win the Canterbury Senior Championship, playing alongside up and coming Fred Allen.

He was a Canterbury selector in 1941 and coached Linwood in the 1940s.

Heazlewood played 57 first-class matches, scoring 266 points.

His life ended where it had begun, in Dunedin, passing away there in 1985 aged 79.


  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016
  • Athletic Football Club. Diamond Jubilee 1877-1937 Souvenir Programme.
  • Auckland Rugby. Fifty Years’ Record of Rugby in Auckland 1883-1933. Seabrook & Farrell, Auckland 1933.
  • Dominion Newspaper – various reports 1929, 1930.
  • Saunders, Larry. The Canterbury Rugby History 1879-1979. Published by the CRFU, 1979.
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed
  • Swan, A.C. History of New Zealand Rugby Football 1870-1945. A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington 1948.

Similar Articles

Leave a Reply