Tradition, legacy, success: Kiwi Hawthorn celebrates 50th anniversary of Dewar Shield Premierships

· Dewar Shield
by Rugby Vic Media

A club ‘steeped in history’, Kiwi Hawthorn Rugby Club will commemorate its three-peat of Dewar Shield Premierships on Saturday July 17.

In one of the most remarkable runs of success in Victorian Rugby history, the club will be hosting a Premiership Reunion in celebration of the 1970, 1971, 1972 Premier Division titles.

Each premiership was special in its own right.

In 1970, Kiwi kicked a drop goal at the death to win the title, with 14 members of the premiership team playing for the Victorian State Team.

In 1971, the team produced its masterpiece, going through the season undefeated, only achieved in very few occasions in the history of Victorian Rugby.

In 1972, the team included Wallaby winger Doug Osborne, who went on to play three test matches for Australia in 1975.

The formidable side went on to enjoy a decade of dominance, winning a further four Dewar Shield titles in 1976, 77, 79 and 80.

A key figure in this era of premiership success was Administrator John Woodhouse.

John joined the club in 1963 and became Secretary during the club’s run of premierships before then taking over the Presidency in 1975 for seven years.

Having played an integral role in Kiwi Hawthorn’s glory days, Woodhouse is credited for providing stable administration for the era’s most successful Victorian rugby club.

“We just had an abundance of great players and coaches,” Woodhouse said.

“I think it was due to the calibre of our players and staff at the time that we achieved incredible success.”

Kiwi Hawthorn had the unique honour of producing two homegrown wallabies while still playing for the club. Alongside Doug Osborne was the “single, greatest player in the club’s history,” John Meadows.

Playing 22 tests for the Wallabies between 1974 and 1983, Meadows played well above his lightweight for a prop and was claimed as the most technically proficient Wallabies prop of his era.

According to Woodhouse, Meadows made an outstanding contribution to the club and brought back leading-edge techniques from the Wallabies.

“He came to us as a young lad from England in 1963,” Woodhouse said.

“He was playing as a lock in those days, and his first year was in the seconds with me.”

“He didn’t last long there.”

“He went from a lock to a prop. He was such a strong upper shoulder player; he wasn’t a huge guy like some of the props today, but he was strong.”

“It’s a real testament to our club. A legend like John Meadows made the wallabies from Kiwi Rugby Club.”

“He didn’t have to go to Sydney or Brisbane. In AFL dominated state, that is no mean feat.”

Kiwi Hawthorn has a proud tradition of success.

Winning its first Dewar Shield Premiership in 1927, the club went on to claim a prolific run of titles in 1928, 1929, 1931 and 1939.

The club was founded in 1923 by New Zealand servicemen and is a ‘proud celebration of both the competition and partnership that has long existed between Australia and New Zealand.’ The club joined forces with Hawthorn Rugby Club, previously Old Scotch Boys founded by alumni from Scotch College, in 1987.

Kiwi Hawthorn produced countless state players, including Premiership heroes and club legends Gerry Frost, Peter Signal, Garry Kearney, Grant Furlonger, John Meadows and Victorian legend Paul Barnes - who will all be reuniting at Kiwi Hawthorn’s Premiership Reunion in July.

Director of Senior Rugby at Kiwi Hawthorn, Scott Baker, who has “lived and breathed the club for 40 years” believes it is the legacy of these past club legends that makes up the club’s fabric.

“Kiwi Hawthorn has a proud history of success,” Baker said.

“We’ve had a rough trot over the last 20 years, but our previous success and dominance will always stay with us.”

“We’ve been a club of all nations and a home away from home for many.”

“Our strong brotherhood is what breathes our legacy.”

Like many community clubs reeling from the effects of COVID-19, Kiwi Hawthorn was forced out of its home ground of 30 years at Auburn High School.

However, they found a new permanent home at Lewin Reserve, Glen Iris.

In a full circle, the club now finds itself back at one of its original home grounds.

Now in charge of taking Kiwi Hawthorn back to the promised land, Scott Baker has his sights firmly focused on reigniting a new era of success for the club.

“We are a club with aspiration but have a stack of work to do to compete with the Dewar Shield clubs,” Baker said.

“We’ve had 72 registered players – which we’ve grown pretty significantly from 2019.”

“For now, we’ve got our eyes firmly set on vying for a top-four spot in the Premiership”

Now patron, life member and club historian, John Woodhouse wrote the history and heritage book of the club, published in 2010.

It is a culture of diversity, inclusiveness and community engagement that Woodhouse firmly believes is responsible for Kiwi Hawthorn achieving a record 14 Dewar Shield titles.

“We are a club that contains people from all over the world,” Woodhouse said.

“We have a huge representation of people from Fiji, Cook Islands, England, Wales, Scotland and Australia.”

“That’s the thing; it’s the comradery that makes our club.”

“Whether you are big or small, we welcome everybody.”

“And in two years time we’ll be turning 100 years old.”

Celebrating a 100-year milestone in 2023 will be a momentous achievement for the ‘Kiwis’.

But for John Woodhouse, his one final wish is to see Kiwi Hawthorn back to where it belongs.

“It was a pleasure to be part of the club when we won the Dewar Shields,” he said.

“I’m hoping that one day we can get back into the Dewar Shield division; that’s our big aim.”

“We’ve got a lot of players signed up with us this year and if they continue to stay with us then we have a good chance of doing that.”

Kiwi Hawthorn will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 1970, 1971 and 1972 Dewar Shield Premierships on Saturday July 17 at the Riversdale Hotel.

To book your tickets and to find out more information on the Kiwi Hawthorn Premiership Reunion, please click here