From The Old Club: The History of the Christchurch Football Club 1863 -2013.
Written by Tony Murdoch
After the 1928 All Blacks lost the first test to South Africa the selectors moved Ron Stewart to wing forward, ironically replacing another Christchurch man, George Scrimshaw. He was highly effective but when New Zealand had the put-in he joined the front row on the side the ball was being put into the scrum thus creating the ‘loose-head’.
Ron Stewart (1904 - 1982) played briefly for the club in the 1930 season having been an outstanding and long-serving South Canterbury representative, making his debut for the province as a 17 year old. The NZ Rugby Almanack of 1983 rated him “one of the country’s greatest loose forwards.”
Born in Waikia he was as a member of the Timaru Boys High 1st XV for three years (1918 - 1920) and in 1921 played for South Canterbury against the 1921 Springboks. Standing at an impressive 6ft 1inch and weighing over 15 stones he cut an impressive figure. Allied to his stature he was athletic and fast, an ideal combination for a loose forward. His five tests for New Zealand were either in the back row or as wing forward and much of his representative career was as a back-rower.
He made his All Black debut in 1923 against NSW and was selected for the 1924 ‘Invincibles tour but because of injury only played 9 games on that lengthy tour. He again represented NZ against NSW in 1925 and 1926 impressing with his skill and stamina. Remarkably he played at fullback when the 1926 team played against Auckland on its return.
A sure selection for the first All Blacks tour to South Africa he played in all 4 tests and 18 of 22 matches and was a key component in the enabling the All Blacks to draw the series 2-2. In 1930 he moved to Canterbury and joined the Christchurch Club, representing the province and also New Zealand in the second test against the 1930 British Isles touring team.
A newspaper review of the tour said of his performance that, “RT Stewart has been another splendid forward and has further enhanced the reputation he already had before the tour. Stewart was picked as a scrum forward but in many of the matches on tour including the second, third and fourth tests he played wing forward and he seems to have filled that position very satisfactorily. For a man of his size he has a remarkable turn of speed…he took part in no fewer than 18 [of the 22] matches on tour.”
Team photographs, especially those of the 1930 Canterbury team show Stewart as a formidable figure. His physicality seems to leap from the faded images and only Alex Wyllie and perhaps Doug Herman have imposed themselves on the camera in such a formidable way. The photo in this profile shows Stewart following Maurice Brownlee on to the field in South Africa and both are ready for action. With Stewart at the heart of the great Christchurch team of 1930, alongside Beau Cottrell and the emerging Jack Manchester. Contemporary reports commented upon the excellence of this particular Christchurch pack of forwards and there is every reason to agree with Beau Cottrell’s assessment that it the best ever forward pack in the club’s history.
Ron Stewart served in the 6th Field Artillery in Italy, including the bitter campaign around Cassino. He was a selector of the famous Kiwi Army team of 1945 and on moving to Southland served as a selector and on the management committee.
Seasons for CFC: 1930 - 1931
Matches For Canterbury: 5
Matches for South Island: 7
Matches For New Zealand: 39