The Golden Years at Petone

  26 August 2013   John Bradbury   History
 

In 1927 Jim Campbell, a Scottish immigrant who had played professional football in Edinburgh, joined the club which was then in the Senior B division. He was a robust centre half (centre back these days) with a booming voice and he dominated opposing forwards. Within three months of his arrival he was selected straight from club football to play for New Zealand against Canada, the first Petone player to achieve national honours. Such was the infrequency of internationals, it was his one and only appearance.

 

Petone was captained in 1927 by Wellington representative goalkeeper Peter McVean, who had joined Petone the previous season. A solid defensive unit conceded only 8 goals that season and the team lost only one match in winning Wellington Division One B and the Power Cup. Thirty seasons after being founded the club’s 1st team had won its first championship, and were promoted back to Division One A after 7 seasons in the B division.

 

Even better was to come though when in 1928 Scotland schoolboy centre half, 19 year old Andy Leslie, joined the club and with Campbell entrenched in the centre half position, he was made centre forward (striker these days). The team was more balanced and even more successful, going on to win the Chatham Cup final against Northern of Dunedin at the Basin Reserve.

 

But 1928 saw quite a coming of age in other respects off the field. Our first clubrooms were built where Petone Cricket Clubrooms now stand; an admission fee was charged to watch the games; the whole pitch was roped off; and a large advertisement was lodged in the Hutt and Petone Chronicle for the full 18 weeks of the season.

 

And the irony –the team played with such class that the WFA scheduled most of its games at the Basin Reserve to benefit from a city crowd and more gate money! Even so, there were occasions of crowds as large as 1000 people at the Petone Rec to watch the team – wouldn’t that be good at Memorial Park one of these days!

 

After a very solid 1929 in which the club came second in the Division One A championship and lost the North Island final of the Chatham Cup in Auckland, the 1930 season promised much. The Petone team didn’t disappoint, going successfully through the rounds to win again the coveted Chatham Cup, beating Western of Christchurch 2 –1 at the Basin Reserve.

 

Inconsistent performances in competition games, coupled with fielding a weaker team for the two games following their Chatham Cup victory, saw the club come 5th in Division One.

 

But 1931 was a season of superb performances which culminated in Petone winning the Division One championship and the Venus Shield for the first time with 22 points from a possible 26; averaging 4 goals per game; and with star centre forward Andy Leslie averaging 2 goals per game himself.

 

Another ‘away’ North Island final in the Chatham Cup saw Petone lose in Auckland, but the club had forged a remarkable four year record in the knock-out competition.

 

A shock Chatham Cup first round loss in 1932 and a 5th placing in Division One were a step down from what Petone had enjoyed since 1927. A large contributing factor to the drop in success was that Andy Leslie had been lured back to Scotland to play for Hibernians and he missed the whole 1932 season. In the four seasons he had played he had scored 98 goals in league and cup games!

 

Success came again in 1933 with Andy Leslie’s return and Petone won the Venus Shield for the 2nd time in three seasons with Leslie scoring 16 league goals. The team also won the local knock-out competition for the Auld Cup.

 

These had been great years for Petone and three key players contributed a great deal to the successes. Goalkeeper and Wellington representative, Peter McVean, went on to become our first centurion in 1934. Jimmy Campbell, the captain and centre half, had played for New Zealand, captained Wellington, and was a commanding defender. And Andy Leslie, who had initially come to Petone as a centre half, had astonishingly reached 100 league goals in May 1935 - in just his 74th league appearance for the club!

 

Over the five seasons between 1934 and 1938, Petone performed very consistently and were twice second in the Division One A championship and twice third. In 1936 Andy Leslie and Syd Haines, our left back, were selected to play for New Zealand against the visiting Australian team and in 1937 Leslie was picked for all three tests against the visiting England team.

 

Then, in 1939, the Club’s 1st team produced some great football to win Division One A and the Venus Shield once again, with Leslie scoring 21 of the team’s 46 goals, eleven years after first making his mark for Petone as an outstanding goalscorer. But September 1939 also brought World War II and an end to Petone’s golden years of sustained dominance in Wellington football.