Wellington's oldest rugby club snaps 1085-day winless streak

Publish Date
Tuesday, 11 June 2024, 4:59PM

By Will Toogood

In 1870, five years after Wellington was made the capital of New Zealand, Wellington Football Club was formed.

Formed before rugby was even called rugby, “The Axemen” have fielded a team every winter Saturday since and turned out turned out nearly 30 All Blacks, five Black Ferns, 12 Māori All Blacks, and two Junior All Blacks.

The yellow and black they don was adopted by the city of Wellington and the colours remain as such to this day.

But recent years have seen the club lose a number of players as the Wellington scene saw competition for talent and the Axemen’s fortunes began to suffer, particularly in their Premier side.

Until last Saturday the Prems had not tasted a winner’s beer in 43 matches – that’s 1085 winless days with 2364 points conceded. It had even the most ardent supporters unsure where the next win was going to come from.

154 years of mud, sweat and tears must count for something as the Axemen snapped the streak with an in-the-end tense victory over Avalon Wolves, 19-13.

“It was a bit funny in the end, it was quite a tight game. It was sort of a relief, really,” said 10-year club man Cam Roseingrave.

“Someone said ‘What’s going on? It’s like someone’s dead’,” Roseingrave said of the mood in the changing rooms after the match.

The three-year Prems veteran assured the Herald that proper celebrations soon ensued – once the initial shock had worn off and it had dawned on the team what they’d achieved.

Wellington had two previous matches this season where they’d been eyeing victory at halftime, only for it to slip away. Roseingrave said their coach “gave us a bit of a rocket” during his halftime speech to ensure his charges remained focused.

A club of Wellington’s stature comes with a strong and devout following and Roseingrave said it meant a lot to him and the team to give those supporters something to be happy about.

“We made sure everyone came back [to the clubrooms]. We reflected in our changing room about what it meant for the club and all those supporters who have been through a bit of shit, really. It’s just a massive reward for those people.”

As well as the players, Roseingrave wanted to make sure the tireless efforts of the coaching and management team were not forgotten.

“Bringing back a culture of belief and just have brought an amazing culture and really turned things around. Our coach is Fa’a Tonu, he works with a guy called Lua. Then our whole management team of Pama, Eseva, Tank, Kili, Max and Vika.”

With a wrong having been righted, the Axemen can now look ahead, rather than behind them.

“It’s the monkey off the back and people have said hopefully the shackles are off now and we can just start playing some rugby and not worrying so much about what the result is,” Roseingrave said.

At the end of the regular season, the competition splits into a top eight and bottom half cup format. Wellington will be in the Hardham Cup and Roseingrave said the Axemen will be buoyed on in a push for silverware.

“We’re going to have a good crack at that, I think.”

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

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