Millard Stand at Athletic Park

Millard Stand at Athletic Park

Vince Meates, the caretaker at Wellington’s Athletic Park, checks the wet ground before a rugby game on 24 June 1961. The almost completed Millard Stand can be seen in the background.

The Millard Stand was named in honour of the long-serving Wellington rugby administrator J.N. Millard. It quickly achieved a special place in Wellington and New Zealand rugby. Watching a game from its top deck became a rite of passage for many fans.

Six weeks after this photo was taken, France played the All Blacks in what was dubbed ‘the cyclone test’. Many fans stayed away, but 30,000 ‘bewildered, frozen and hardy souls’ were on hand to witness one of the ground’s more bizarre matches. The French writer Denis Lalanne described the ground as ‘a nightmare spectacle’ in his book of the tour, La melee fantastique. Parts of a ‘giddy stand recently erected’ were off-limits because of the extreme southerly. ‘Half the seats were empty’ in the ‘desolate, cyclone-swept stadium’; the scene was ‘pitiful and at the same time wonderful’.

The All Blacks won 5–3 after Don (‘The Boot’) Clarke converted a late Kel Tremain try. Clarke had earlier seen one of his 25-yard drop-outs blown back behind him into the dead-ball area. With the wind now at his back, he aimed the conversion from near the sideline almost straight along the 25-yard line. The wind did the rest, flinging the ball between the posts.

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Neville. Male

Posted: 03 Mar 2022

I remember the Millard Stand well and sat in it many times. Amazingly this article doesn’t mention that the Millard Stand was officially opened the day of this test match. My own story about that particular day was the night before 5 of us 17 year olds slept on the pavement outside the Northern Gate huddled up together against the terrible Southerly weather. Then next morning standing there soaking wet and feeling very miserable my sister came to see me and said it was too cold for my 72 year old Grandfather to go so I could have his seat in the Main Stand on half way two seats way along from Winston McCarthy the match commentator. The film taken of the match when the two teams coming running out from under the Main Stand has me in it. My 4 friends were not impressed when I took off home to change and have a nice hot bath and lunch before returning to Athletic Park just before the Test match kick off. !