Giving Back: Raglan Local goes Full-Circle with Raglan Football Club

In small-town Raglan we share thankfulness for community members that turn up and fight the good fights that we can’t always participate in. A salute to roadside collection teams, lifeguards, coastguards, fire team, and prime responders. Without these people Raglan wouldn’t be such paradise. However, without throwing ourselves into a flaming inferno, how else can we help?

I spoke with Reuben about giving back to the Raglan community through coaching. He has started to coach the Raglan Paaua’s alongside Jess and Lee Poolton. Every year the Raglan Football Club in partnership with Waibop Federation and New Zealand Football Association offer a coaching course at Te Uku. With a flourishing Football Club comes the need for more coaches, more committee members and more hands-on-deck. 

Reuben’s dad Bernie was part of the initial group of parents that wanted to bring soccer to Raglan kids back in 1978. It’s all thanks to the iwi who enabled a local group to use the space for recreation. Reuben’s dad Bernie notes key players in this process: Eva Rickard, Ellen Dando, Eric Petchell and Clint Baddeley. Everyone, kids and seniors alike, must be grateful for this recreational use of the land.

Prior to this, the NZ defence force used the land for barracks, but it is iwi land. Reuben remembers heading down there as a child, “We were picking up the glass and stones out of the ground before there were football grounds”. Reuben recalls New Zealand reaching the World Cup finals in 1981-82, “That was half the passion, we all wanted to be soccer stars, we played football at school, football at home we were going football crazy.”

Sheryl Hart was a cornerstone of the Club, formerly known as the Raglan Rock Riders. Sheryl pushed things on in the early days. Reuben recalls the aggressive school bus drivers that would load up the kids and take them to the Hamilton games, “We would roll out of the bus and say, ‘Who’s got boots today?’ it was hearty”. I asked Reuben what sort of songs the kids would sing on the bus, “Trash-songs like, ‘2, 4, 6, 8 who we gonna THRASH today’”. 

One thing that remains key, is that back in the late seventies the club was formed primarily for the kids. “It was all about the kids,” recalls Reuben, “Another person to thank is Gordon Jowsey. The junior club was very powerful, many teams from Raglan were undefeated”. One thing that has rekindled Reuben’s passion for soccer is the team-sports aspect of the game. He wanted his daughters to participate in a team sport and thought that soccer might be a good place to start.

Reuben remembers being in the under 7’s team by the time NZ made it to the World Cup Finals, “If we scored one goal it was maybe enough. It was all about winning and losing. In the first game we might lose by ten, and in the next game we might lose by one.” I asked Reuben what strong childhood memories he has of playing football in Raglan, “It was always a buzz, it was all about friendship, we were quite competitive us boys. The big thing for me was being able to score goals and the breakdown of the dynamics of the team. From these base friendships we were able to perform well together. We were all at the Raglan Area School and we used to like going to away games into Hamilton, we used to walk barefeet down to soccer, our boots were cracked, and the apparel was rugged.”

Reuben talked about the psychology of the sport and how important team sport is for childhood development, “The sport pushed me on in many ways, it raises the bar. It’s the journey of the year, a long-term thing, it gets you involved with something. It’s about fitness, keeping them running and testing their spirit. I talk to my team about being a team not just a bunch of players. In Raglan there’s individualised sports: surfing, skating, those are self-searching sports, but a team-sport balance sets you up for life. Football carries across cultures, social groups and agendas.”

I asked Reuben about the coaching aspect of his role, “Soccer is about work at home, kicking a ball, watching soccer on TV and seeing how the game works. Coaching is such a collective make-up socially, there are different energies and skill levels on all grounds, different socio-economic backgrounds and we are all there on the fields. There is nothing differentiating any more, it’s all the same, everyone is the same. It’s a good thing to do rather than just ‘take’ waves and rides. Team sports broaden the horizons. Forget the surf report, it’s actually the kids turn.” When he coaches, Reuben gives images that help the kids visualise the game, he says, “It’s like a fish and chip packet blowing down the pitch with ten seagulls fighting over it. But soccer is not about that, soccer is about space”. 

I asked Reuben what it feels like to be doing a full circle, “It’s giving back to the community you were born into. There is so much scope for girl’s football now. You set a bar and get them achieving as high as possible. I tell the girls it’s not what you can’t do, it’s what you can do.”

 1982 Raglan football team.
2012 Raglan Dolphins first girls team.
2021 Raglan Paaua’s at Wednesday training.