Ross Shield tournament is now well established as the pinnacle of primary schools’ rugby in the Hawkes Bay Rugby Union,
but like many now famous trophies, it has had a checkered career especially in its early days. Mr J A Ross
a Napier businessman and keen sports enthusiast, donated the shield for competition among primary schools in the HBRFU area.
The record of the individual school holders is engraved on the shield itself and it is apparent that schools from Napier
South only became involved much later, probably due to transport difficulties at the time.
It is as well to recall that in those days primary schools often retained pupils until they were fifteen. Up until
the late 30’s age was often a point of debate.
After World War 1 after the competition had lost some of it’s impact, Secretary Manager of HB Education Board
Mr W Dunn was instrumental in setting up the basis of the present competition where a selection of players is made from the
schools in “Sub Unions” and the teams meet at a tournament.
The basic format has survived, however debates have raged over various issues but none more than the issue of weight.
Today this is still at the forefront of discussion with the weight finally being raised last year by the HBRFU to 56kg.
The 1939 minutes asked the weight to be raised from 8st 7lb (54kg) to 9st (57.2kg) the vote was split and the chairman used
his casting vote to retain a status quo. The weight debate ran most years until the early 60’s when
it was settled on 8st (51kg)
In 1988 Taupo competed for the Ross Shield for the last time as their ties with the Hawkes Bay Rugby
Union were severed and now were under the King Country Union. To prevent a bye, Hastings being the most
successful of the Sub Unions was divided into two districts and now enter 2 teams, East & West.
The Ranfurly shield did not command respect in it’s early days, and it survived much controversy, dispute and
criticism, to be the most sought after trophy in New Zealand rugby. The Ross Shield has been through all
of that and survived, in fact growing from strength to strength. It is a tournament for boys and now girls who are striving
for excellence at their level, striving to help their team win and for five teams, accepting defeat, this can not be a bad
thing. Those of us who have shared in the Ross Shield experience say so with pride and so too will future
generations of players, managers and enthusiasts.
Infomation care of: http://www.rossshield2007.co.nz