Friday, October 14, 2011

Suburbs Rugby Football Club, Avondale

Sad to see a sign I've grown up with deteriorating like this. The laurel leaves which formed a wreath around it are gone -- I doubt the neon works anymore for the torch's flame. Haven't been down at the bottom of Racecourse Parade at night to see if it does.

This is part of the former HQ of the Suburbs Rugby Football Club, before they moved to New Lynn and a headquarters at Sister Rene Shadbolt Park on Portage Road.

Suburbs Rugby Football Club, once based at Racecourse Parade here in Avondale, trace their origins to a long discussion held in Larry Tierney’s barber shop in 1918, at the corner of Crayford Street West and Great North Road (where they sell mobile phones these days). The name Suburbs was chosen because the players came from Avondale, Point Chevalier, Mount Albert and as far away as Epsom, as well as New Lynn players who had organised the year before. The Avondale Jockey Club offered Suburbs the use of their grounds as playing fields and facilities at the racecourse as dressing rooms. The new club was on its way.

By 1920, eight playing fields were in use on the racecourse, with over 100 players competing there on Saturday afternoons. In 1922, for £210, the Racecourse Parade clubrooms site was purchased, and the club incorporated in 1923.

From 1931, Suburbs Club promoted rugby in primary schools such as those Avondale, Blockhouse Bay, New Lynn, Point Chevalier, Owairaka and Mt Albert. At Arthur Morrish’s printing works on Upper Rosebank Road, card evening were held to raise funds for the club. In 1935, the club’s official monogram was introduced – a winged and flaming Olympic Torch, with victor’s laurel leaves incorporating the name Suburbs on a scroll.

The Avondale Home Guard was given the use of the club’s facilities as a headquarters during World War II; when the military authorities requisitioned the use of the club’s training shed as well for storage purposes, the club shifted temporarily to a local bakehouse. However, on the flip-side of such disruption – when the war ended, the club was able to purchase and install a hot water system in the club’s facilities which originally came from the Avondale Navel Transit camp.

In 1953, larger clubrooms were planned, to cater for the increasing post-war membership. These, after delays, were completed in 1959.

1977 was a golden year: Colin Farrell became the club’s first All Black, Glenn Rich became the club’s first Junior All Black, and the Senior Team won the Gallaher Shield, along with the title of Auckland Club Champions, for the first time in the history of Suburbs Club. The clubrooms were redeveloped in 1977-1978. Now, though, Suburbs Rugby Football Club has moved on to a new headquarters at Sister Rene Shadbolt Park, Portage Road, New Lynn, while still retaining their old clubrooms at Racecourse Parade.

Information from 75th Jubilee Booklet for Suburbs Rugby Football Club, 1993.

Photos taken September 2011.


  1. That's a very sad demise Lisa to see it like that. I remember that sign in its heyday. The entire building looks like a victim of the recession like so many others in Auckland. Sad to see.

  2. But all is now looking great at Sister Rene Shadbolt Park. Beautiful fields, easy access for the public, and Stages 1 & 2 of the 3 stage redevelopment are completed ( Hall/Dining Room; Changing Rooms; and Stage 3,Demolition of the Bay Lynn Changing rooms on the North end of the main building,and construction of the new Clubrooms. All scheduled for completion before the Club turns 100

  3. Did they keep and re hang all the old rugby team photos?