In 1969 Brent Elder left the Wairarapa for Canterbury to further his rugby and farming careers and ended up joining the Linwood RFC…but not before attending a morning pre-season training run at New Brighton beach with the Christchurch Club. Somehow Brent left behind his ‘rugby towel’; a towel that he’d been given to mark his first International match, against the Springboks for Wairarapa-Bush in 1965.
Roger Mahan, a barn-storming loose forward for Christchurch at the time, picked up Brent’s towel and took it home. On the that season, Christchurch beat Linwood 18-3 at Rugby Park and Roger gave Brent his towel back, to wipe away the tears. With a marker pen Roger had written on the towel and named it 'The Crying Towel'.
Every season ever since, the Towel has gone to the losing team of this first round fixture.
At last Saturday’s Axemen’s Club luncheon before the game it was great to see five of the Linwood XV from 1969 in our clubrooms. They were Brent Elder himself, down from Masterton, their captain and hooker Tane Norton, loose forward Ian Mallard and prop Des Bartlett. While Fergie McCormack was there last Saturday…he was not 49 years ago. On the that year, Fergie was setting a world record in scoring 24 points for NZ against Wales on Eden Park!
Sadly no one from the Christchurch XV that day was able to attend last Saturday. Players from that team we know of are 15. Jim Stenhouse (Auckland), 13. Murray Loveridge (Kawerau), 12. Rick Knight (Napier), 11. Murray McEwan (Chch), 10. Derek Arnold (c) Darfield, 8. Paul Dalzell (Nelson), 7. Calvin Cochrane (Nelson), 6. Roger Mahan (Madrid; he was in the clubrooms four weeks ago), 5. Wayne Rissman (Chch), 4. Murray Deaker (Auckland), 2. Bruce Francis (Ashburton) and 16. Theo Bunker (Chch). Four Christchurch players, John Gordon, Frank Townsend, Hugh Cottrell and Bob Hearn have since passed away.
The ‘Original' Linwood and Christchurch teams in the CRFU programme from 1969:
Next year to mark the 50th game, a dinner on the night before the match is planned…for anyone who has played in this game. I’m sure it will be a function worthy of a fixture that has become part of Canterbury rugby folklore.
The Axemens Club operates as an independent group within the Christchurch Football Club (Inc). It was formed to provide:
a) A continued sense of belonging and purpose to those members whose playing days have ended. Regrettably, in many cases such valued members are not seen regularly until some years later when a son, nephew or grandson commences playing rugby at the Christchurch Football Club. The desire is to retain our ex-players by providing another team environment with those of common interest & situation. The Club needs the continued support and input from such members and the Axemens Club is a vehicle to encourage this.
b) An opportunity for new members to the Christchurch Football Club to meet fellow Axemen and to feel both welcome and comfortable enjoying the membership of the Club and all it offers.
c) The opportunity to support and encourage Christchurch Football Club rugby from the junior club through to the senior side. This can range from an active coaching or managing role, administration through to pure support.
d) The opportunity to meet with fellow Axemen at various rugby orientated luncheons, held in the fine facilities our Club enjoys, prior to watching a local or provincial game as well as to be informed and entertained by a guest speaker.
e) The opportunity to continue to contribute to the well-being of the Christchurch Football Club by sponsoring various projects within the Club (some examples follow), to actively seek new players/members and to generally be an ambassador for both the Axemens and Christchurch Football Clubs.
Since the formation in 1990, apart from the camaraderie and enjoyment experienced by all Axemen who attend the various functions, practical assistance has been given to the Christchurch Football Club, including:
It is the intention to continue with such projects in consultation with the Executive of the Christchurch Football Club.
Who qualifies for membership of the Axemen Club?
Any person who feels they can support the purpose of the Axemen Club and who want to contribute to and enjoy the fellowship of fellow Axemen, provided that the number of Axemen does not, at any given time, exceed the number of years since the Christchurch Football was established in 1863.
Who runs the Axemen Club?
The Club is properly administered by the annual election of an executive consisting of:
What does it cost to become and Axeman?
The current annual membership fee is $100.00 and entitles you to all of the following advantages:
How do I join?
Please enquire with any of the executive about membership when next in the Clubrooms. Look for their easily identifiable table! You can also fill in the form here and we will contact you about becoming a member.