Ask Ian McKay if he’s proud to be part of the Maheno Rugby Club, and the life member replies with a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile.
“Very,” McKay says.
“It’s something I’ve committed my life to, really.”
McKay first pulled on the green and black jersey as a 9-year-old, and these days he is still often found sitting on the sidelines of any Maheno game, home or away.
Growing up in Totara, McKay joined Maheno when it was the first North Otago club to offer school-age rugby. He came through the ranks – playing third grade, fourth grade, and senior reserve, before spending 10 years in the premier senior side.
The flanker and prop was part of the Citizens Shield-winning 1961 and 1963 teams, and will never forget a victory against Athletic Marist in 1967.
Maheno had lost to the Athies B side twice in the 1967 season, and its A team had been unbeaten for nearly two seasons.
However, Doug Grant – a mainstay player during McKay’s era – scored a vital winning try to end Athies’ unbeaten record run.
“That was one of the greatest games – I enjoyed it as much as any.”
Three years later, McKay retired from playing, but continued the role of club secretary he had taken up during his final playing years. He also spent time on the social committee and grounds committee, and helped organise the club’s 100th jubilee, 25 years ago.
He looked back fondly on his playing days, but it was sitting on the sideline watching Maheno win the 2016 Citizens Shield that had him bursting with the most pride. It was a nail biting 30-25 extra-time win over Old Boys.
“It will be a game that’ll stick in my mind forever. I just about had a thousand heart attacks.”
It had been 16 years since Maheno had won the shield, and it had been struggling for a few years. Players were scarce and the committee was considering dropping Maheno out of the premier grade.
“As a club, ex-player, and a supporter, we’ve really got to thank the administrators from 2010 to 2016 that stuck with the club and kept it together. They were well rewarded with that victory.
“That would be the greatest season I think I’ve ever witnessed in Maheno in all the time I’ve watched.”
McKay’s brothers, Andrew and Ron, also played for Maheno, as did his son, Cameron, albeit briefly – and McKay is a “distant relation” of current first five-eighth Lachie Kingan.
It was those personal connections at Maheno that made the club what it was.
“I’ve met a lot of good jokers. There’s people you’re friends with all your life, and now that you’re been watching some of the jokers I’ve played with, their grandchildren are playing,” he said.
After being inducted as a life member in 2017, it is only fitting McKay will tell some tales tonight as a guest speaker at Maheno’s 125th jubilee.
It is a two-day celebration he would not miss for the world.
“I hope there’s some that played with me [there], but there’s a lot that I knew in the ’80s side … there’s a lot of fellas I got quite cobbery with.”
Maheno’s celebrations get under way with a dinner tonight. Tomorrow there will be JAB rugby, a “golden oldies” game and Maheno plays Excelsior before a night-time function.