THE WELLINGTON UNITED FOOTBALL FAMILY



Today marks the 125th anniversary of the formation of Diamond Football Club.
So Happy Birthday Diamond
Today they are part of the Wellington United club, which allows them to lay claim to being the oldest football family in Wellington. They weren't the first, that was two clubs called Petone Wanderers and Rovers who no longer exist. They aren't the oldest, that distinction goes to Petone (no connection to the Petone Wanderers) who were formed in 1898 and are still going strong today. As a club Wellington United were formed in 1986, but their history cam be traced back 125 years and that's definitely worth celebrating.

So here is an overview of the clubs that make up the Wellington United Football Family

DIAMOND




Diamond 1909 - The earliest known photo of the club PapersPast / Evening Post

125 years ago today, on the 22 February 1893, a meeting took place at the Tinakori Road Hall in Thorndon to form the new association football club called Diamond. 

While this was a new Association Football Club, it wasn't a new club. In 1886 Mr FJ Earle and some of his school friends formed a rugby and named it Star Football Club. By 1891 they had changed the name to Diamond and in 1893 they made the eminently sensible decision to switch to association rules.

The club entered the junior division, which in those days referred to the status of the club rather than today when it means kids, and it was effectively the second division. Despite taking a year to record their first win (against Thorndon score unknown), they set about establishing themselves as Wellington's top team winning the Venus Shield (1st division) five times, including four times in a five year spell. They won the Charity Cup six times and the Challenge Shield three times. In the 18 year period before the war there were only four seasons that they finished outside the top three (and two of those were in fourth place!)

In between the wars, they did win the Venus Shield again but by the start of WWII they found themselves in division 2. When the leagues restarted in 1945 they won that division and re-established themselves in division one and then went thorough a second golden period from 1959-67 where they won the Venus Shield three times in a row, only once finished outside the top three, and made it to the North Island Final of the Chatham Cup.


ZEALANDIA

Zealandia - 1958 Hilton Petone Cup Winners  Wellington United Collection

After the war, the New Zealand government actively sought immigrants to help bolster the population. While most came from the UK, other Europeans also immigrated. For many European's English wasn't their first language and coming to a small country on the other side of the world where a strange oval ball sport was worshiped must have been quite a culture shock. Many of these communities set up football clubs and the Dutch in Wellington set up a club called Zealandia. 

Starting in 1954 in the lower divisions, they had won their way into the top division by 1959, winning the Hilton Petone Cup (which was an end of season tournament at the time) along the way. By 1963 as their members started to age they changed their name to Wellington United in an effort to attract non dutch players and keep the club going. 

With the new Central League starting in 1968 they joined with near neighbours, Diamond and the new club was known as Wellington Diamond United. 

HUNGARIA

The greatest team to grace Kiwi soil. Hungaria - Venus Shield winners 1967

Another immigrant group to arrive in New Zealand in the 50's and 60's was the Hungarian's. In the 1950's the Hungarians revolutionised football, most famous for their 6-3 thrashing of England at Wembley (and also winning the return game 7-1), the failed uprising in 1956 led many to flee the Soviet's and end up in places like New Zealand.

Hungaria, who are often referred to as the best team ever seen in New Zealand by those that were lucky enough to see them play, started in Wellington in 1962 (there were also Hungaria clubs in Christchurch and New Plymouth) and were entered in division three. This was way below their level, but for whatever reasons the authorities deemed that they shouldn't move up, and they stayed in division three for three seasons. Even a 6-0 hammering of 1st division Railways in the Chatham Cup didn't convince the authorities that they should be at a higher level. They did eventually get into the top division and in 1967 just five years after they had been formed they won the Venus Shield. In that five years they had won 81 of the 118 League, Chatham Cup and Hilton Petone Cup games they played, scoring an outstanding 508 goals and conceding 185, with an average score of 4-1.

After two seasons in the newly formed Central League, they beat Auckland's North Shore United in a playoff to secure the last spot in the new National League, where they finished a disappointing seventh in their first season. For their second season they entered an arrangement with Miramar Rangers where they pulled resources and played as a new entity called Wellington City. After one season of this, Miramar pulled out, but Hungaria continued to support them and Wellington City continued on. Hungaria also continued in their own right winning their way back to the top Central League division before they dropped down again. In 1979 what was left of the club joined up with Wellington City.

WELLINGTON CITY

Spats Wellington City 1983

City started in the National League, but struggled being the third Wellington team in the league and never finished higher than seventh place and were relegated in 1975 (and were replaced by Wellington Diamond United!). Initially struggling to keep going, their first training run in 1976 apparently attracted only five players, they managed to get a team together and established themselves as a useful Central League division one side finishing runners up twice and third twice. With a lucrative sponsorship from Ray John's Spat's niteclub and a home ground at Newtown Park, they made an attractive proposition for a merger and that's what happened in 1986.


WELLINGTON DIAMOND UNITED

Wellington Diamond United National League Champions 1981

It took WDU five seasons to get into the National League and they only lasted two in it before getting relegated in 1974. Despite that set back they did make it to the Chatham Cup Final, where they lost 2-0 to league runners up Christchurch United and they also set a league record score beating Eastern Suburbs 8-0. They only spent one year out of the National League, winning the Central League with only one loss, and then winning the National League in 1976. They set about making themselves a permanent fixture in the league and won it again in 1981 with a team that included a certain youngster by the name of Wynton Rufer. A third title came in 1985 with a team that was made up of entirely New Zealand born players (a first for the National League), with an average age of 23 which was (and possibly still is) the youngest to win the league.

While they were National League Champions for the third time, they still didn't have proper home. They played their home games at the Basin Reserve but needed somewhere to call home. A merger with Wellington City was proposed and agreed, along with the ridiculously long name of DB Spats Wellington City Diamond United, which was thankfully shortened to Wellington United, and the new club took to the field in 1986 at their home ground of Newtown Park. 

CELEBRATIONS

Wellington United are organising several events to celebrate the milestone of playing football for 125 years. These include a champagne brunch on Easter Monday, before the first home game of the season (against old rivals Miramar Rangers). The bigger events are planned for Queens Birthday Weekend. Keep an eye on their facebook page and Website for details. 





  



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Comments

  1. As a young Junior footballer growing up in Wellington in the late 50's and early 60's I played from 6 years old for the Diamonds Football club. We had a great coach Don Griggs was his name and we trained and played some games at Strathmore School ground. I remained with the Diamond's club until I was at college and have wonderful memories of the great times and great people who gave their time for free. Coaches and administration was excellent. I could not have had a better club to start off with. I remember the end of year function for all the kids teams at a hall somewhere in Strathmore also. I remember the food supplied was great, we had Charlie Chaplin movies to watch which made all laugh and then we had the presentation of trophies and medals for each team. I am pretty sure I still have a black and white medal (Diamonds Colours then) stored away somewhere more than 50 years later. We had a great team in the juniors two of whom went on and played for New Zealand. They were Michael Simeonoff and Arthur Brown. Who I was good mates with for many years after. In fact Michael visited me here in Australia a few months ago. I didn't do as well as they did. But I did play for a New Zealand University team against an Australia University team. I also played for most of the amalgamated clubs later. Including Hungaria, Wellington City and Wellington Diamond United. I had a fantastic time playing for all of them. I did not play for Zealandia, I was to young then. But I do remember watching them at the basin reserve. I have nothing but good words to say about this club. It was Diamonds that gave me the confidence and passion that allowed me to be heavily involved in Wellington football for well over 50 years now. If I have one regret it was that I did not return to Diamonds when I left college. I was only 15 and I thought I might not be good enough to get in their central league team. So I went to Northern and then Waterside two clubs my dad had played for (Northern) and he had also worked on the Wellington Wharves. They were both the wrong clubs for me at a young age. But I did a bit later get to play for Hungaria and Wellington City in the Central league and later in my mid 30's with WDU in their National league squad. And I have great memories of all the games I played for them also. The Hungarians I have Brian Willman to thank who was manager coach and at wellington City coaches Bob Minshull and Dave Gollan. And at WDU the great Barry Truman. I was so lucky to have known and trained and played with all those great people who made living and playing football in Wellington and absolutely awesome experience . And one that shaped my life by giving me confidence, fun and the chance to associate with many great players, coaches, referees and administrators. Wellington would just not have been as great without all these clubs that now make up Wellington United or the people who were in various ways part of them. Many who became friends, some who have now passed away, but most will always remain in my memories of the great times had in Wellington Football.

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