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Wellington Hockey Stalwart Rex Manning ONZM has died

Longtime player, president and patron of Northern United Hockey Club in Wellington, William Rex Manning ONZM, has passed away at the age of 91. (10 October 1927 - 26 May 2019)

A service will be held at Tawa Baptist Church on Saturday, 1 June at 2:00pm.

Rex joined Wellington Tech Old Boys hockey club in 1944 when he left college. Two years later, while still a teenager, he was made club delegate to the Wellington Hockey Association.

It only took Rex two years to join the Senior team, where he played for 17 years, with 7 as captain. The highlight was the legendary 1950 team, which won the senior championship for the first time (shared with Karori) – and the only time in the first 50 years of the club history. That was back in the days when, in Rex’s words, “We didn’t warm up or stretch or anything, just had a few hits before we ran on. And lemons, not water, at half time.”

Tech Old Boys later became Northern United, where Rex served as team captain, selector, coach, club captain, president and patron. Rex never just played the game; he was always helping run the organisations that allowed everyone else to also play the game he loved.

When Rex retired from playing, he immediately switched to umpiring, coaching, and drawmaster/ umpires appointee for WHA. His son Bruce recalls a typical Saturday morning in the Manning household in the 1960s:

“Dad would have already done the draw on Tuesday, so it could be put into the paper on Thursday; then at some ungodly hour of Saturday morning, if it was raining, the phone would start ringing. If grounds were closed, he would have to rearrange the draw, ring the radio station to broadcast cancellations and game changes, and ring the umpires to tell them their new games. Then it was up and off to coach the junior team Ross and I played in. Back for lunch and more phone calls – he was always on the phone – then off for his two games as umpire (at 1:15 and 3 pm), and we would all meet up at the clubrooms at Alex Moore park to socialise and hear team results. Repeat the next week..."
— Bruce Manning

According to the 50th Jubilee booklet, Rex would field up to 300 calls a week during hockey season.

This involvement over a long time saw Rex receive the 1992 Club Administrator of the Year award from the Johnsonville Sports Association.

From 1986-2010, Rex was involved in the Foundation for the National Hockey Stadium, doing the turf timetabling, chairing the Trust Board, running the Pavilion and fixing the goals. On one occasion he tried to convince a lawn bowls player that they should hire the turf for special bowling events. The man said “you’ll never get bowlers playing on turf, it just won’t happen” – Rex remembered this every time he passes an artificial turf at a lawn bowls club. Along with another Northern Club member, Ken Wood, Rex was instrumental in the fundraising and installation of the Maidstone Park and Elsdon turfs, the bowling clubs have had to put their own turfs in.

Rex’s continual presence in the pavilion was handy for many teams, when they had no umpire. Rex filled in as an umpire until he was almost 80! Rex continued to attend committee meetings and was still at the turf at the weekends, watching a new generation of Northern United hockey players.

Rex served as patron of the Northern United Hockey Club, of which he was also a Life Member. He was also a Life Member of the Wellington Hockey Association. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to hockey in 2000. In 2012 he received a Hockey New Zealand Gold Award. These accolades however, barely recognise Rex’s over 70 years service to hockey.

Rex will be sorely missed by his family, friends and all of the Wellington hockey community.


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