Last season it was Wellington United celebrating 125 years, this season it is Waterside Karori and like Wellington United, Waterside Karori have an interesting story that involves a few clubs that get them to where they are today.

Those clubs include Swifts,Waterside and Waterside Karori and this is a brief overview of the histories of those clubs. I have been lucky enough to be asked by the club to write a book for their 125th anniversary and have started work on that. If you or any of your family or friends have been involved in any of these clubs, have any photos, stories, pictures please get in touch davewebsterdufc@gmail.com or fill out the form on the club website


1911 Venus Shield Champions, Swifts AFC

On the 15th May 1894 at the Central Hotel in Wellington a meeting was held, presided over by Alex Henderson. The majority of the attendees were members of the St John's Parish. St Johns at the time was considered a suburban parish being then on the outskirts of town. The church still stands today on the corner of Willis and Dixon Street.

The meeting was to discuss the formation of a new football club and it was readily agreed. The new club would be called Swifts and would play in Maroon jerseys.

Just four days later this new club played their first ever game. It ended in a 0-0 draw against the United club and was played at Hobson Street. The team line up that day was Jacks, Earle, Brunton, Henderson, Darby, Hearne, Thompson, Deighton, Bagnall, Hawley & Naylor. At the time the match was probably more significant for United player Bell breaking his leg in  a clash with Naylor. As no substitutes were allowed in those days Darby stood down for the rest of the game to make things even

That first season saw them record only two wins (both against United) but over the next three seasons they  were almost unbeatable, losing just three games and securing the Venus Shield three times in a row from 1895-97. They went on to win the Venus Shield another four times by 1911.

Like many clubs, they were hit hard by the first world war and while many clubs disappeared, Swifts survived although they found themselves in the second tier until the 1930's. They won promotion back to the Senior A division during this time but spent most of it fighting relegation. When the second World War came along to compensate for the lack of players available, Swifts teamed up with Diamonds and Institute Old Boys to form Comrades. When the war was over Comrades were disbanded and the clubs competed in their own right. Swifts found themselves in division 2 and even dropped into division 3 in the late 60's.

By the 1960s Swifts had become a club made up largely of ex Englishmen and led a somewhat nomadic existence. The club rooms, as such, were usually the secretary's house, addresses in Kilbirnie and Newlands were known to have been used. The after match functions were held in the Regent Hotel on Manners Street. In 1968 Bob Hancock suggested that the club move to Karori, where there was already a junior club with 15-16 teams and a name change to Karori Swifts.


1981 Waterside Central League team

On the 22nd December 1920 the Waterside Athletic Club was formed for staff of the Wellington Wharf. The main object of the club was "the furtherance of clean sport and the betterment of the community". They set up Boxing, Athletic, Swimming and Gymnastic sections before deciding to add a Football section in early 1921

On the 7th March 1921 the Evening Post reported that the club was to form a football section and two days later in the 9th March Waterside were affiliated to the Wellington Football Association and entered in the senior division.

After finishing mid table in their first season, they won the league for the next two seasons, losing only one game in the league over that period as they set themselves up as one of the teams to be beaten. With their position as Watersiders they were able to offer jobs to new immigrants and also had access to players from visiting ships (as long as they were in town for more than seven days).

The late 30s and 40s was the clubs golden period winning the Venus Shield six times, and the Chatham Cup four times, including three times in a row, (1938,39,40) a first that has only been repeated twice since then (by Christchurch United and Waitakere City).

In 1951 the Waterfront dispute happened and workers were locked out for 151 days, this had a huge effect on the Waterside Football Club, with many players unable to work and having to find ways to provide for their families, football wasn't a priority and the team plummeted from the being the top team in Wellington and one of the best in the country to division three.

The club recovered and by 1968 found themselves in Central League Division One a league they would go on to win four times before successfully negotiating the National League playoffs and winning promotion to that division for the 1978 season. It was around this time that the club entered what was an extremely lucrative sponsorship deal with Columbus Line. The club became known as Columbus Waterside and the owner of Columbus Line, German Erwin Ludewig became Patron and funded the club, sometimes to the tune of $50,000 a year!

While achieving their goal of National League in 1978, they only managed one season finishing 11th and getting relegated. Over the next few seasons they were around the lower end of Central League Division one and were relegated to Division two in 1983. They bounced straight back and finished second. While a cash rich club they only had four teams and with the NZFA encouraging teams to merge and develop youth sections, Waterside started looking around for an appropriate club. They almost ended up with Onslow Juniors but talks to buy the Nairnville Park club rooms fell through and it was their first team manager, Ray Graham's still active connection with his old club, Karori Swifts, that gave them a suitable partner.


Karori Swifts Central League Division Three (South) Champions 1981

Karori Swifts spent their first few seasons in Wellington Division one until they joined Central League Division Three, two seasons later in 1975 they won promotion to Division Two, but they were relegated after just one season. The third division of the Central League had been split into geographic areas to save on costs and Karori Swifts made themselves at home in Division Three South until 1981 when they won the league title. This time they lasted two seasons in division two before being relegated back to Three South. It was during this time that saw New Zealand International Cricketer Bruce Edgar turn out for them as well.

By 1986 they were in the Wellington Super League and they started to discuss the possibility of a merger.


Waterside Karori Central League Champions 1988

To outsiders it seemed strange, the working class, generally radical Watersiders teaming up with a club that represented a traditionally conservative area. But to the clubs it made perfect sense. Waterside were a cash rich club with a strong history and an ambition to play at the highest level, where as Karori Swifts had the numbers with 10 Men's, two women's and 40 junior teams.

To ensure that this could work 1987 saw an informal merger where the first team played as Waterside Karori and teams below stayed as either Karori Swifts or Waterside. Success was instant with the club winning the Central League and so in 1988 the clubs formally merged and Waterside Karori was born.

While Karori Swifts had played in Maroon, Waterside played in black and white stripes, these were actually traditional Karori sporting colours, in fact when Waterside were formed they faced a challenge over their colours from a Karori AFC who already played in those colours. The original compromised was for Waterside to add a red sash to their shirts, but after a couple of seasons Karori AFC disappeared and Waterside took the black and white stripes.

The first full year of the merger was another successful one with the club winning the Central League again and this time promotion to the National League. It was a challenging time in the National League with four Wellington clubs (Wellington United, Miramar Rangers & Hutt Valley United being the others) the talent was spread thinly and Waterside Karori struggled just avoiding relegation in 1990, before finishing last in 1991. Despite this they had the biggest and most boisterous crowds and had a couple of memorable games including thrashing Gisborne City 7-1 and a stunning 3-1 over the mighty Mt Wellington, which has been called the best performance of the club in recent times.

Waterside Karori dropped down a tier and when the Central League was discontinued in favour of Federation based leagues in 1999 they found themselves in Capital Premier. They were to stay in this league for the next 18 years and eventually after 10 finishes in the top three the managed to gain promotion to the rejuvenated Central League

As well as the book the club will be having a celebration or two during the year, keep an eye on their website, facebook and twitter pages for more info