First Chatham Cup football final

1 October 1923

Seacliff were the winners of the first Chatham Cup (Otago Daily Times/Waikouaiti District Museum)

At Athletic Park, Wellington, Seacliff from Otago defeated Wellington YMCA 4-0 in the first final of the Chatham Cup, which has become New Zealand football’s longest-running and best-known national club competition.

The trophy – a fine silver replica of the English FA Cup – was presented to the New Zealand Football Association on 15 December 1922 by Captain C.B. Prickett on behalf of the crew of the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Chatham, as a mark of appreciation for the hospitality they had received during the ship’s tour of duty in New Zealand waters.

Only a few clubs entered the first competition in the winter of 1923. Qualifying was organised on a geographical basis, with the final to be a North Island vs South island affair (as it would be each year until 1970). Wellington YMCA defeated local rivals Waterside and Hospital (Porirua), then Nelson Wanderers, Dauber’s Motor Depot (Foxton), and finally Huntly in the North Island playoff. Seacliff had an easier route, crushing the only other South Island entrant, Oamaru Rangers, 7-0.

The final was played on 1 October in warm conditions on a pitch described as ‘like lightning’. According to New Zealand Truth, the game was ‘a bright exhibition, with Seacliff always having the whip hand. The whole team played with machine-like precision, and it was a treat to see the way they combined.’

For Seacliff, 1923 was as good as it would get. The club reached the next two Cup finals but lost them both, including a 1925 rematch with Wellington YMCA. The southerners would be runners-up for a third time in 1929.

The Chatham Cup has been contested every year since 1923, except 1937 and 1941-44. The most successful clubs in the competition’s history have been Auckland’s Mount Wellington (now University-Mount Wellington) with seven wins, and North Shore and Christchurch United with six each. For most of the 20th century the cup final was held in Wellington, with the Basin Reserve hosting 52 matches.

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