Fifty-two years ago this week, retired farmer Brian Johansen lined up for CHB in a rugby game against perhaps the most formidable opposition team to ever visit the district.
On a Tuesday afternoon in Waipukurau on May 11, 1965, CHB played against a Napier team containing no fewer than six current or soon-to-be All Blacks, including some of the most revered names in New Zealand rugby: Kel Tremain, Bill Davis, Ian McRae, Blair Furlong, Keith Murdoch and Nigel Thimbleby.
Now 78, Brian Johansen said he remembered 'bugger all' about the game, which he played as a 27 year old. It was only 50 years later after seeing the original gameday programme that he realised the quality of the opposition.
"I'm not sure if there's ever been, or will ever be, a rugby game in CHB with a team featuring so many All Blacks," said Brian, a retired farmer from Makaretu who played premier grade club rugby for Takapau from age 18 to 30 -- apart from a season or two when he played for Waipukurau when Takapau couldn't field a team.
Though his normal position was at first-five, Brian is listed in the programme playing at breakaway at No. 9 -- back when player numbers were in the opposite order to what they are today.
Not that he minded. The position switch meant that he got to go up against one of his heroes, Napier's captain and Hawke's Bay and All Blacks legend, Kel Tremain.
"He was one of my rugby idols growing up," he said.
Tremain scored a try in the game, but Brian said he couldn't recall if Tremain out-played him that day.
"But I am sure he had his fun with me," laughed Brian, who only knew of two CHB teammates - John Hamilton and Mike Mohi - who were still "kicking around" today.
Though he couldn't remember the exact score in the game, Brian said there was "only 20 points or so in it".
"I am pleased to say, all I remember is they didn't give us a thrashing," he smiled.
For the record, Napier went on to win the game 38-6, but only led 9-3 at halftime. However, according to HBRU historian Adrian Hill, Napier only fielded four All Blacks that day.
Bill Davis did not play and was instead replaced in the line-up by Russell Exeter, Adrian said, while a young Blair Furlong, listed as a reserve and still only a future All Black at that stage, never took to the field.
Adrian said Keith Murdoch, generally associated with Otago rugby who in 1972 became the first and only All Blacks player ever be sent home from an overseas tour for disciplinary reasons, played for Napier and Hawke's Bay during that one season in 1965.
Napier 38 (Tries: Little (3), Condon, Bishop, Watts, Johnson, Exeter, Tremain; conv: Bishop (4); pen goal: Bishop) def CHB 6 (Try: Mohi; pen goal: Angus).
- CHB Mail