A marvelous effort and a great thankyou to those early sponsors. Our ranks had by now swelled to 32 and that number has been maintained in active players to this present time. A large number of the "Originals" have retired to social status and two have sadly passed away, but in all we have a membership of 55 and are still battling on and enjoying this great game of ours.
In early 1994 a proposal was put to the Burnside Rugby Club executive that if they would pay the entry fee to the world Golden Oldies rugby tournament to be held in Christchurch in September 1995, a team bearing their name and colours would be established. They agreed and the ‘Battlers’ were born.
A quick whip around the clubrooms and local drinking hole, the Russley Hotel, a bit of arm twisting and a none too sturdy band of stalwarts decided to give it a go. Twenty two in all (eight of whom are still playing) assembled for the first game on 29 May 1994 against The Bays G.O. at Governors bay on the Banks Peninsula. A baptism of fire to be sure and some quick re-thinking called for. Drastic steps were taken, more recruits and TRAINING!!! To cut a short history shorter, these steps were taken and for the rest of 1994, in borrowed gear, the team grew in numbers and stature and battled on towards 1995.
Because of sponsorship arrangements the team became known as the Burnside Battling Firehawks (since reverted back to Burnside Battlers) and by April 1995 through incredible sponsorship, we were proudly arrayed in new jerseys, shorts, socks, tracksuits, sweatshirts, polo shirts, caps and ties, all stored in numbered gear bags.
A brief mention must be made of the 1995 Tournament which in itself was a great success and a very memorable experience for all participants. Six thousand people from all parts of the globe hell-bent on a week of fun and fraternity seems pretty impossible and hard to achieve, but it was accomplished and will ever remain as one of life’s highlights.
To end this history without mentioning two other highlights of 1995 would be not only churlish, but downright dangerous!
The 1st - our transplant trio, Frank Booth and Gordon Hooper (heart by-passes) and Lou Austin (liver) formed our famous front row and were featured on T.V. overseas. Lou is the only one still playing and still manages to attract undue attention for one reason or another, a bit of a Prima Donna we suspect.
And 2nd, but certainly not least, the Battlers wives and partners formed a netball team for the tournament. Known as the Battlers’ Bunnies, this competitive, combative, confusing group of delightful ladies played and PLAYED!! with spirit (bottled) and verve and became, and have remained, an integral part of our team.
In conclusion, the Battlers remain in great heart, new blood has injected ongoing enthusiasm and, dare we say it?, ability. We intend to participate at "Brisbane 2003" and hope to renew old friendships there, but in the meantime an invitation to any Golden Oldies visiting Christchurch. We are based at the Burnside Rugby club and would welcome any who comes, just mention the Battlers and you will be looked after.
Peter McKeefry (Head Prefect)
29 June 2002