From The Old Club: The History of the Christchurch Football Club 1863 -2013.
Written by Tony Murdoch
Jack Manchester (1908 - 1983) captained the 1935 All Black team on the third tour of the UK. It was not a resounding success with test losses to both England and Wales and in a sense Jack’s reputation wrongly suffered. For members of the Christchurch Club he remained a much esteemed member and eventually a Life Member, having served with distinction on the field and in the committee room. His returns to the Bangor Street clubrooms in the 1960s and 1970s were invariably marked by glowing references to ‘Jack’ and his service to the club. He was the Club’s second All Black captain and an integral member of the great Christchurch Senior team of 1930.
At the time of his passing Jack Manchester’s life-long friend and team mate, Beau Cottrell, wrote “Jack was a grand fellow to play with, he was so keen and enthusiastic about the game and he retained this enthusiasm for it right through his life”. Beau also told a lovely story of the beginning of their friendship and the work they put in to become All Blacks of the very highest calibre. Beau’s tribute echoes with memories of long ago when two young men, who became friends, pursued a common goal. They would meet in the gathering dusk of the evening to hone their skills - the one leaping in imaginary lineouts, the other raking the ball in imaginary scrums.
For those who trained at the lighted ground at the Armagh Street bridge the ghostly figures of two of the Club’s great men, silently practising, is easily imagined and savoured.
Beau wrote, “We first came together in 1928…We started meeting after 5 o’clock and going out to training on Tuesday and Thursday nights in Hagley Park. Jack really loved his rugby and during the winter had few other thoughts but football. When we got to know each other better we used to meet at a near-by tea shop and have morning tea together and our conversation was inevitably football and all that was happening in the football world”.
“Jack was a tall fellow and a natural lineout forward and I was a hooker. On other nights we would go to the lighted training ground and I would throw the ball to him for lineout practice and he would put it in for me to have hooking practice… We were both tremendously keen and as the season went on, we both became quite proficient at our particular skills.”
Manchester’s playing years with Christchurch began in 1927 and finished in 1936. He was key member of the great 1930 team which won the senior championship. The forward pack in this side was formidable with All Blacks Ron Stewart, Beau Cottrell and George Scrimshaw. Manchester played as a tight loose side-rower alongside this talented trio. Playing in a championship winning team would have helped his career and when Canterbury won the Ranfurly Shield in 1930 he gained further exposure. In the 1932 match against Otago he was responsible for initiating a try that encapsulated the brilliance of this team and was talked about for many years.
JK Moloney in his book Rugby Football in Canterbury wrote, “In the second spell with the score 9-6 in Canterbury’s favour there came a try which was characteristic of the [teams] brilliance…Manchester started it by fielding the kick-off and throwing a long one-handed pass to Innes from whom it went to King, then to Oliver…then to Cottrell who gave it to Bowes… [Who] dashed over to score a try.”
Jack Manchester was born in Waimate and his secondary education was at Timaru Boys High School where he was in the 1st XV for three years from 1924 to 1926. Described as “… a great lineout forward, a tireless worker in the rucks and very fast in the loose” he was 6 foot and one inch tall and weighed a little over 14 stones. He played mainly as a blind side flanker although it should be remembered his career spanned the demise of the 2-3-2 scrum and until 1931 he was one of three middle-rowers. He captained the All Blacks on the 1935 tour and ended up playing lock for much of the tour.
It is a tour which saw both Wales and England defeat the All Blacks and following the great success of the 1924 Invincibles was seen as something of a failure. Lugger Manchester as skipper shouldered some of the blame but Terry McLean writing in the Club’s 125th history put the tour in perspective when he wrote,
“Jack Manchester was always aware that his captaincy on the 1935 - 1936 tour was derided. He also must have known that his appointment was political in the sense that the stand out for the job, Frank Kilby of Wellington, was much too strongly minded to accept what were the dictates of the Auckland Manager Vincent Meredith…Manchester was in fact a fine solid hard-working forward, useful at the lineout and a devil of a man for keeping his nose close to the ball…at the conclusion of the hard-fought test against Wales, amidst a mass of cheering Welshmen Lugger found his way to the referee Cyril Gadney and said, “Thank you very much for a fine game Sir”,
Years later Gadney said of Jack Manchester that he was, ‘A great gentleman’.
Seasons for CFC: 1927 - 1936
Matches For Canterbury: 59
Matches For South island: 3
Matches for New Zealand: 36 (9 Tests)