The following article was first published on this website in 2014.
The Oriental-Rongotai – Poneke Swindale Shield match tomorrow is for the Jimmy Grbich Memorial Shield.
Grbich, a regular Wellington and New Zealand Maori representative played for Poneke throughout the 1950s and early 1960s before tragically dying in a late night car accident near the Tawa motorway interchange. He was 31.
Grbich, of Dalmatian and Maori descent, came to Wellington from Pukekohe in 1950 and joined the Poneke club for whom he played every season for up until his premature death. Poneke won the Jubilee Cup in his second year at the club in 1951
In the golden age of club rugby, crowds of several thousand plus would regularly attend Athletic Park on Saturdays for Jubilee Cup rugby and the calibre and personality of players such as Jim Grbirch was a key reason why.
He started his rugby life as a wing and outside back and moved into the forwards to become a multi-skilled flanker and loose forward, not unlike some of the dynamic players of the modern era such as Victor Vito, Rodney So’oialo and Ories’ own Ardie Savea.
He represented Wellington for six consecutive seasons from 1957 to his death. He was a regular New Zealand Maori representative, touring Australia in 1959, playing against the British Lions in Auckland in 1959 and touring Tonga and Western Samoa in 1960, playing against Samoa in the first ‘Test’ on that tour. He played in an All Black trial in 1959, scoring a try.
Grbich’s death rocked the Wellington rugby community, not least the Poneke club and eastern suburbs community for whom he had been an integral part of for over a decade.? Wellington selector and coach Clarrie Gibbons paid tribute to him at the time: “It was my privilege to be associated with Wellington representative teams of which Jim was a member for a number of years and I would say that every rugby player who played either with him or against him would agree when I state that not a fairer player pulled on a rugby boot,” said Gibbons.
“Jim played truly for the love of the game and that stood out for him whether it was a house match or a Test match,” added Gibbons. “He was indeed a grand player because he could play either back or forward and play equally well in any position.”
Gardiner, a long-time member of the Oriental club, also a good friend of the Grbich family, presented the Jim Grbich Memorial Shield in 1964 and it has been contested every year since between Poneke and Oriental (1964-67) and Oriental-Rongotai ( since 1968) in their first round ‘Battle of the Cutting’ clash.
As well as being a clash between two of the leading sides in the Swindale Shield after six rounds, Ories will also be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy for the first time after winning it off Norths last weekend.
The last five Jimmy Grbich Shield results have been:
2018: Poneke 28 – Ories 25
2017: Poneke 30 – Ories 30
2016: Ories 20 – Poneke 19
2015: Ories 28 – Poneke 27
2014: Ories 31 – Poneke 10