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Legend holds keys to league museum

Legend holds keys to league museum

Few can claim to have had as much of an impact on New Zealand rugby league as Don Hammond.

These days, Hammond is best known as curator of the Rugby League Museum, housed on the ground floor of NZRL headquarters in Penrose.

But he's also regarded as one of the best to ever appear for the NZ Kiwis, playing in the second row from 1959-65.

A former five-eighth who converted to the forwards in search of game time for his Mt Albert club side, Hammond was outsized by most of his opponents, but this didn't stop him enjoying incredible success in the Kiwis jersey.

"I never cared where I played, as long as I was on the field," he recalls about his position switch.

Known as an old-fashioned type of player who tackled hard and low, Hammond, alongside Ronnie Ackland and Mel Cooke, was part of one of the most effective back-row combinations in New Zealand rugby league history.

He debuted for the Kiwis on the 1959 tour to Australia, before captaining the squad just two years later on the famous 1961 European tour. On this tour, Hammond established himself as a pivotal figure in the Kiwis team, when he helped guide them to a shock win over Great Britain in the first test.Don H

Next, he captained the side to their first test series win against France on French soil, a feat Hammond describes "one of his proudest moments in the Kiwis jersey".

He played 61 times for his country, including 20 test-match appearances, and was one of the true stalwarts of the 1960s Kiwis.

A recipient of the 1964 Auckland and national player-of-the-year awards, Hammond was inducted into the Legends of League in 2010, further establishing him as one of the best to ever play for New Zealand.

Following his retirement from playing, Hammond went on to coach Te Atatu, as well as an Auckland representative side, before becoming heavily involved with the New Zealand Kiwis Association.

This eventually led him to his current line of work.

Hammond played a crucial role in establishing the Rugby League Museum, as he - along with former team-mate and ex-Kiwis fullback Jack Fagan, collected and organised a vast array of New Zealand rugby league memorabilia that, until that point, had been locked away in storage.

The initial idea for the museum came all the way back in 2002 and it took several years of hard work before it could be opened in 2007.

New items continue to be donated to the museum, including one of the original Carlaw Park turnstiles, which "appeared out of the blue one morning".

Every item in the museum has its own unique story and its own special place in New Zealand League history, and it is hard not to feel nostalgic walking around looking at the exhibits.

Thanks largely to the ongoing work of Hammond, the museum now houses a comprehensive collection of New Zealand rugby league artifacts, from as far back as the early 1900s right through to the professional era, and is a must-see for any die-hard league fans.


Over coming weeks, we'll feature some of Hammond's favourite Rugby League Museum exhibits and the stories behind them.

Here are half a dozen to look out for during your visit to the museum open day on August 24.

Captain William John McNeight's 1938 jersey

These jerseys were the first to have the white "V" around the collar and were also were the first instance of having the silver fern point out towards the sleeve. The jersey was donated by a member of McNeight's family and is currently the second-oldest jersey in the museum's possession.

Courtney Trans-Tasman Trophy

This trophy features an elaborate silver cup on top of a beautiful wooden stand. The stand contains a variety of native woods from both Australia and New Zealand, as well as paua inlays. The trophy was last contested in 1972.

1930 Courtney Football Trophy

This trophy was originally given to the Kiwis by R O Courtney Esq in appreciation for allowing him to come on tour to Australia. The trophy was played for in an inter-island competition within New Zealand.

Brian Reidy's boots from the 1961 European tour

The boots have sharp aluminium sprigs that the players had to nail in before a game. When asked if it hurt to be rucked by one of these, Hammond replies that it "hurt a lot less then than the leather sprigs they had even before that".

Ruben Wiki and Tana Umaga-signed jersey and photograph

This exhibit marks a nice coming together of both codes from two great New Zealand icons. The photograph was actually donated to the museum by Ruben Wiki himself.

2003 Women's Rugby League World Cup

One of many trophies won by the Kiwi Ferns, this cup is one of the most impressive in the entire museum.


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