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Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 074: Jock Wells

John ‘Jock’ Wells was described as a robust forward and an honest toiler who gave it his all whenever he took the field. These traits saw the Northlander turned Wellingtonian play three matches and one Test for the All Blacks in 1936.

Wells played those games for the All Blacks as a flanker, but the 90kg, 1.78m player also switched between flanker and prop throughout his career, particularly at club level. Additionally, he also kicked goals, so he was a versatile member of any team.

Wells was born in Onetea in the far north and was educated at Dargaville High School and started playing senior rugby for the club with the same name. He played 14 matches for North Auckland from his debut aged 20 in 1928 to 1932.

He moved to Wellington the following year with his job as a bank officer and joined the University club and was selected for the New Zealand Universities team that played two matches against their Australian counterparts. He also played for Wellington B in 1933.

In 1934 he switched to playing for the Athletic Club, whom he would play for throughout the remainder of his career, which later moved to an administrative one with the club, and he was Club Captain for a number of seasons, President between 1959-61 and he became a Life Member.

He played for Athletic for four years between 1934-37 and played 30 matches for the Wellington A representative side over these same four seasons.

Athletic won the Jubilee Cup in both 1936 and 1937 – under Wells’ captaincy.

The 1936 club season was tight, with Athletic defeating Wellington College Old Boys 3-0 in the deciding match on the last afternoon and Wells was the hero of the hour.

In a desperate struggle, a scoreless draw was on the cards, until, with just over five minutes to play, Wells emerged with the ball amongst the forwards, kicked ahead into the in-goal and won the race for the ball for the match and Jubilee Cup sealing try.

Athletic won 12, lost two and drew one of their games in 1936, scoring 168 points and conceding 73.

1936 season summary – Evening Post, 24 August 1936

Following the death of club founder Colonel George Campbell just three weeks before their 60th anniversary celebrations, Athletic defended the title in 1937 in more convincing fashion. They wrapped up the title with over two weekends to spare, with WCOB again second and Poneke third.

In 1936 Wells was selected to play for the North Island team in their annual match against the South, part of a 17-6 win in Christchurch.

From there Wells was selected in the All Blacks, who were going through a transition year following the recent 1935/36 tour to the UK and France and ahead of the in-bound Springboks in 1937.

His test debut was at home at Athletic Park in the first test against the touring Wallabies on 5 September at flanker in a 11-6 win. A week later he was in the All Blacks that beat them 38-13 in Dunedin and regained the Bledisloe Cup after Australia’s win in 1934.

Wells’ other appearance in black was against South Canterbury in a mid-week match between the tests.

The Wellington represeantive team’s results in the 1936 domestic season were noted for being particularly close. There was a 3-16 Ranfurly Shield challenge loss to Otago, a 16-18 loss to Taranaki, an 18-21 loss to Auckland, a 31-26 win over Wairarapa-Bush, a 13-12 win over Manawatu and a 17-19 loss to Canterbury.

Wells played for the North Island again in 1937 in a 30-21 loss in Wellington but missed out on the All Blacks squad to face the Springboks. He played one more season for Wellington and then retired aged 29.

But he strapped the boots on again when overseas during WW11, playing for the 2nd NZEF team in Egypt and coaching the successful 22 Battalion team.

He later served as President of the WRFU in 1969.

Wells died in 1994 three days after his 86th birthday.


  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
  • All Blacks A-Z profile Eric Jock Wells, by Lindsay Knight.
  • Athletic Football Club Diamond Jubilee 1877-1937 Souvenir Programme.
  • Chester, Rod, Palenski, Ron, McMillan, Neville. Men in Black Commemorative 20th Century Addition, Moa Beckett, 2000, Auckland.
  • Evening Post various Senior Championship club rugby news reports 1936 and 1937
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed
  • Headline photo: All Black player Jock Wells. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-196808-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/2314024

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