Since opening in 1928 with eighty-five students Massey Agricultural College has grown into a large multi campus University of over20,000 students among themmany talented footballers who have given much strength to Manawatu Rugby. The Massey Football Club, its name suggesting that rugby was considered to be the only form of football in New Zealand, was established in 1929 from a role of 175 students fielding two teams in the junior grade for its first two seasons, one of which was coached by the Registrar C.C. (Charlie) Yates. Their first match was played at the Showgrounds (Arena Manawatu) on 18 March 1929, against Palmerston North High School Old Boys. The match was kicked off by Prof Peren’s young son Roger. The score is not known, but apparently Massey lost.
A permanent club was formed in 1930, an in 1931 the club had a junior and senior team with Jack Le Quesne (former Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa rep. and brother of 1960′s Hawke’s Bay Coach Colin Le Quesne) being captain. In 1932 a third grade side was added in local competition, gradually the strength of the club grew and in 1939 the Massey Senior Side won the Manawatu Senior competition.
Incidentally Roger Peren was to continue his connection with Massey. Almost 60 years later, after a successful career as a diplomat, he was appointed Director of Massey’s New Zealand Centre for Japanese Studies, and he attended the Universities 75th Celebrations in 2002.
Regular games against Lincoln Agricultural College (Canterbury) were begun in 1930 and Victoria University in 1931. Massey gained the right to compete in the New Zealand Universities tournament in 1936 and entered a team in the following year. In 1938 the inter-school University match was held in Palmerston North and the club reached a peak in its early development when it won the Manawatu Senior Championship (Hankins Shield) in 1939.
Apart from 1942 Massey has fielded a senior team each year and in 1968 a second senior team, subsequently named “Massey Rams”, was added. Since 1950 the club has won or shared the Hankins Shield (Senior I Champions) on fourteen occasions and the Abraham Cup (Overall Manawatu Club Supremacy) eighteen times. The club was particularly strong in 1972 when the Abraham Cup, Hankins Shield, Jubilee Cup, Senior Reserve, Under 21 and Under 19 competitions were all won.
The club’s original colours were light blue jersey, white shorts, light blue socks with mid navy blue tops. A second set of colours were added in 1968 with the introduction of a second senior 1st division team, light blue and white hooped jerseys, white shorts and light blue and white hooped socks. In 1975 all teams changed to mid navy shorts. The clubs crest was originally a horned Ram’s head taken from the early Student Associations emblem, but in 1990 this was changed to the current ‘Racing Ram’ Logo. For the 2003 season MURFC has introduced a new styled strip, still very much cambridge blue, but including navy blue elements. The 2003 South African Touring Squad was the first to wear this new strip at the Tukkies Tournament that was held at the University of Pretoria from the 20th February to the 7th of March.
The club has always been a major contributor to Rep rugby, particularly of fast enterprising backs. In 1997 Massey fielded 22 of the 95 rugby teams in the MRFU competitions.
Massey has eight All Blacks – Mike O’Callaghan, Robert Burgess, Kent Lambert, Doug Rollerson, Lachie Cameron, Kevin Schuler, Chresten Davis and Mark ‘Bull’ Allen, yet countless others of similar ability played for the club in their earlier years including Wilson Whineray, Kel Tremain, Andy Haden, Lee Stensness and former Wallaby captain Greg Davis.
The University’s three Rhodes Scholars have each featured in Massey Rugby. Mac Cooper (1934), Alan Stewart (1941) and John Reid (1961). Both Cooper and Stewart won Oxford Blues and were selected for Scotland, although Stewart was unable to play, he being injured a week before the international in 1948.
Dr. Alan Stewart has had a long association with Massey and has supported Rugby club with much interest. After serving in the Navy during the War he returned to Massey as assistant lecturer 1945-46 before going to Oxford. Back at Massey in 1949 he was senior lecturer in animal husbandry returning to Britain as consulting officer for the Milk Marketing Board in England and Wales 1954-58. From 1959 to 1963 he was Principal at Massey, becoming Vice Chancellor in 1964 a position he maintained until his retirement in 1981, the year in which he received a knighthood. Sir Alan’s son, Dougal, continued the family involvement in local rugby, he being a New Zealand University rep, administrator of club affairs and more recently the Chief Executive Officer of the Manawatu Rugby Union from 1995 to 1998.
The club has awarded 5 Life Memberships, Sir Alan Stewart, Associate Professor Dr. John Skipworth, Dave Patterson, Jim Henson and Associate Professor Ian Steffert.
Competition games were not played at Massey University until after the War, but as more land was acquired so too were facilities and the University now provides seven fields for MURFC teams. For many years the club gathered at various places around the city for after match functions, one of the most unusual sites being down in the cellar of the former Midland Hotel during the late 1950′s. The old brick building in Cuba Street, at one time the City Fire Station, was used during the early 1980′s before Massey opened it’s own Winter Sports Club facilities on Campus until 1996. Currently the club has entered into an agreement for ‘SCARFIES BAR’ to provide an after match venue for it’s members.