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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