Place to remember old Grafton
The glory days of the former Grafton rugby clubrooms are being remembered, thanks to the building’s new owner.
Documentary maker Bruce Nixon, who bought part of the Mt Eden property earlier this year, plans to line the walls with old photos of the club.
“When I bought it, the real estate agent said she thought it was a former rugby club,” he says.
“So I thought it would be quite fitting to find out a bit more.”
As he dug deeper, Mr Nixon discovered Grafton was known as the magpies and had a black and white striped jersey, like the Hawke’s Bay provincial side he supported for many years.
Mr Nixon decided to get in touch with former members of the club, which was founded in 1873 and folded in 1982.
“I just want to do it a bit of justice,” he says.
And when former Grafton players revisited the old clubrooms, it was clear the building held many memories.
Former Auckland Blues manager Rex Davy, who played for the club in the 1950s, is astounded that some of the original fixtures are still intact.
“They’ve kept the old tongue and groove ceilings,” he says.
“The shape of the building itself is still the same.”
But Mr Davy says the interior, which has been divided into residential units, bears little resemblance to its former life.
“It was our changing room as well as the clubhouse and we only had one shower,” Mr Davy says.
“We didn’t have any plush headquarters like today, but that’s all we really needed.”
Colin Craigie played for Grafton and represented Auckland during the 1950s.
“We used to go for training runs up the side of Mt Eden,” he says.
“You couldn’t drink at the club so everyone used to drink at the Edinburgh Castle.
“If we won you couldn’t get in the place, but if we lost it was just the us and a couple of supporters,” Mr Craigie says.
The high proportion of policemen who played for Grafton also made for some interesting moments.
Former club member Lou Farndon remembers one day in the 1960s when a star player couldn’t take to the field because he was on duty.
“The next thing you know a police car arrived at the ground with sirens blazing and the guy ready to play,” he says.
Grafton amalgamated with the Cornwall club in 1982 because of falling membership.
“The families spread into the suburbs so the city didn’t have a lot of kids,” Mr Davy says.
Several more mergers followed, with Grafton now part of today’s Grammar Carlton.
Grafton won Auckland club rugby’s top prize, the Gallaher Shield, in 1934 and 1946, while they picked up the second division Portola Trophy in 1966.
The good old days: Current owner Bruce Nixon, with former Grafton rugby club members Colin Craigie, Rex Davy and Lou Farndon in front of the former clubrooms.
Winning side: The Grafton premier side who won the Portola Trophy second division club title in 1966.