The Foundation Years
The KEMPSEY RUGBY UNION CLUB was first formed in 1877, the same year as Newcastle and Maitland. It was a member of the Southern Rugby Football Union, the founding predecessor of the NSWRU (1874).
In 1892, the SRFU changed its name to NSWRU and the Union decided to devolve its organizational structure by creating Branch Unions. This was a result of the rapid growth of the game throughout Country NSW and the difficulty of communication.
In 1895, the MACLEAY BRANCH of the NSWRU was formed, headquarters, KEMPSEY. (The Manning River Branch, HQ Taree, was formed in 1894).
Participating clubs in the Macleay Branch were:Kempsey, Grafton, Bellingen, Port Macquarie and Telegraph Point
The year 1895 was a very significant one for Country Rugby because that was the year of the inaugural COUNTRY WEEK, a competition between Branch Unions with costs shared between the Unions and the NSWRU. Records indicate that the Macleay Branch participated.
Two dates are significant. 100 years after Kempsey was formed they won a premiership in the modern MNCRU competition. 120 years after the formation of the club, Kempsey will be holding its 40th anniversary of the modern era.
1974– A rugby side started in Kempsey. Peter Field, Terry Rayner and Warren Clark visited a Coffs Harbour monthly meeting to seek assistance in getting started. (They were resplendently dressed in leather coats and ties, unlike the Coffs crowd that had been at a training run). Des Hoy, Roley Green and Peter Kennedy, all Coffs identities, gave great assistance to the Cannons in the following years. “All Got Class” premiered after a visit from the reserve bank team; the watering hole at the Kempsey Hotel switched to West Kempsey Hotel.
1975– The inaugural meeting of the Kempsey Rugby Union Club was on the 10th April 1975. Those present at the meeting where C. Cooney, N. Downes, P. Field, B. Cameron, W. Clarke, P. Hatton, T. Hirst, P. Needs, B. Warren, J. Jeayes, A. Nugent, O. Williams, B. Rogers, L. Coupei, R. Johnson, T. Rayner. Geoff Steinmetz was elected President with Peter Fields and Warren Clarke being elected secretary and Treasurer respectively. Warren Clarke was elected Captain/Coach for the season. The fees were set at a staggering $2 (and they couldn’t get everyone to even pay then). A donated set of jumpers arrived from Mosman RUC and a letter of thanks was sent to Mosman. That year games were played with the following results:
• Port Macquarie, 21 d Kempsey, 12
• Kempsey, 18 d Port Macquarie, 6
• Coffs Harbour, 24 d Kempsey, 0
• Kempsey, 28 d Kowboys, 0
• Coffs Harbour, 30 d Kempsey, 6
1976 – The following year, at the Annual Meeting on the 5.2.76, C. Cooney was elected President, A. Nugent, secretary and A. Parker, Treasurer. Terry Hunt was elected Coach. It was moved that a set of South Sydney Rugby Jerseys be sold to the players. Warren Clarke was re-elected as Club and game Captain. The Cannonballs won the Consolation Plate at the end of the year Grafton Knock Out (with the help of a few ring-ins). First raffle roster drawn up – T. Rayner and T. Hanlon to kick off.
The Cannonball name came about when Geoff Steinmetz had to find a distinctive name that started with K, hence Cannonball (Steiny’s dictionary had all the K words torn out). The first club colours were the blue colours of Mosman RUC, then South’s (red and green) and finally the old gold of CRU.
It is interesting to see the colours in which the 1977 team played their first competition game – the jerseys didn’t arrive in time so we played in training jerseys. The following year the jerseys went to Port Macquarie with Leo Hauville but the game was in Kempsey. (Leo swears it was the fastest trip ever made between Kempsey and Port). When the current colours of gold and black were adopted we were told they had to be changed because they clashed with NSW Country.
1977 – The club won its first Premiership under coach, Garry Munday and Captain Dick Carmichael. The first Club Dinner was held at the Kempsey Golf Club with a contingent of Coffs Harbour supporters in attendance. Cannons Won Consolation final at Grafton Knock Out, 16 – 8.
1978 – Following a number of retirements the Cannons had a very poor year in 1978 even though we hosted the Grand Final (because we had won in 1977). In 1978 we sponsored a race at the Kempsey Cup, after dining on chicken and champagne at the West Kempsey Hotel. We also hosted the Observer Trophy between MNCRU and FNCRU with the after match function being held at the Masonic Hall.
1979 – First “bumble bee” jerseys; Peter Moroney selected the NSW Country Schools 1sts; Tristain McCafferty, MNC Player of the Year; Minor Premiers in First Grade; Lost 7-4 to Port in Grand Final; Hosted the NSW Primary Schools RU Carnival; Jeff Sayle guest speaker.
1981– Beaten 22-3 in Grand Final; curry night in Munday’s garage; affiliated with Kempsey Sports Council.
1982– First year for Reserve Grade competition, lost semi 6-4; Finished 3rd in competition; under 16 team played in games Vs Port, Taree; Brian McMahon declined all positions he was nominated for; began inaugural Slave Raffle.
1983– defeated Port in both grades 1984 – the opening of the Peter Hetherington “School of Rugby”; Lost final 6-4 in 1st grade, 3rd in Reserve Grade; Under 16 players, Kerry Munday, Stephen Hannan, David Walker, Shane Jennings, Tony Ussher and Kevin Smith selected to tour with Northern NSW Schools side to NZ; welcome our first scrum machine; visit to Vanuatu by club members; purchased first dress jumpers.
1984– Peter Ingram selected for NSW Countrys 21’s; Glen Jasprizza selected in NSW Country 21’s Victoria; Lost 9-0 to Port in Grand Final, Reserve Grade 3rd; Inaugural Crescent Head Vs Kempsey Golden Oldies game; purchases tackle bags; entered float in Cavalcade of Sport.
1985 – Glen Jasprizza selected in NSW Country 21’s; David Munday Reserve Grade MNC Player of the Year; Cannonballs take to cricket; Life members to Terry Rayner and Garry Munday at 10th Reunion Dinner with guest Tim Lane; 1st Grade finished 3rd losing final 22-3 and Reserve Grade losing minor semi 15-3; Record expenditure on entertainment expenses, even higher than football related expenses; The gang of 4 (Buddha, Munz, Houghy and Ticky) took an under 16 team to NZ. Kempsey players were Adam Casselden, Greg Walker, Ben Hough, Grant Gardner, Michael Polke and Andrew Packwood.
1986 – Assisted with Crescent Head Triathlon; Glenn Jasprizza selected in NSW under 21 team; affiliated with Kempsey Sports Foundation; Kerry Munday, Marcus James selected to play in Tooheys Cup game at Wauchope on David Campese’s side; trip to Yamba; Glenn Jasprissa selected for the NSW U21s.
1987 – Reserve Grade Premiers, coach Phil Carroll; Club incorporated; inaugural club tie; first game Vs Nambucca at Bowraville. Munz scored a try; visit from San Martin, Argentina; Melville HS runners-up in Year 10 Statewide Knock Out; Andrew Packwood MNC Reserve Grade Player of the Year, Mick Sheridan runner-up; Jamin Drummond selected in Country Schools Seconds; Glenn Jasprissa selected for the NSW and Australian U21s.
1988 – Under 19 Premiers in inaugural MNC under 19 Competition under coaches Phil Carroll and Garry Munday; Tony Norton selected for NSW Country tour to NZ; land donated by Mr Ian Walton at Crescent Head for playing fields; began affiliation with Roger Whitmore at Kempsey Pool/Gym; Development application lodged with Council for ground at Crescent Head; Glenn Jasprissa selected for the NSW and Australian U21s.
1989 – Under 19 Premiers; James Lancaster selected in NSW Country U 19’s; Tony Norton selected for NSW Country Vs Lions; Fifties night at Crescent Head; Tony Norton MNC Player of the Year; first trip to Armidale Knock Out; offer of house from D.Wilcox
1990– Foundation Memberships began; defeated Port (first time in 2 and a half years); Noel Downes scored against Nambucca (first try in 16 years); the Chaddies rejuvenation packages (read “magazines in plastic covers”); the Priests, Pimps and Prostitutes Ball at Crescent Head; Buddha’s 200th game; first local derby with South West Rocks, score 9 all draw.
1991– Reserve Grade undefeated at home and Reserve Grade minor and major premiers; MNCRU Club Champions; Lee Clay, MNC Best and Fairest; Roman Ball at Crescent Head; move to Railway Hotel; Chris Symons chosen for NSW CHS.
1992 – Cannonballs Gold and Black Race Day; goal posts erected at Ian Walton Park and first games played between Kempsey and the Goalers and Coffs Harlequins; MNC under 19 minor and major premiers; Shane Webber MNC Player of the Year; Tony Norton MNC Player of the Year; the Bill and Phil Show; 3 out of 3 Vs Grafton; season blast off at Kempsey Races.
1993 – 1st Grade major and minor premiers; Reserve Grade premiers; Trevor Baillie, MNC Player of the Year; visit from Kensei RU Club; Adam Hudson, MNC Under 19 Player of the Year; Simon Poidevin, guest speaker; Karaoke Night at the Golf Club; went to Rugbyfest in Dubbo and lost “Raffles” on the way home.
1994 – Player profiles introduced in the Macleay Argus; Danny Hough selected in NSW Country Schools Vs Welsh Schools; Kempsey runners up in 3 Grand Finals.
1995 – 20th Reunion Dinner at Kempsey Macleay RSL; Ian Walton grounds declared open; 5th consecutive year in Grand Final for Reserve Grade; Allan Nugent received Life Membership.
1996 – Bernie Robinson made Life Member of the Cannons; suffered our worst defeat ever at Coffs; Grafton entered comp (for a couple of years); conducted schoolboy 7’s on Friday nights; Christmas Party at Bellbrook Police Station.
1997 – Blues day at Crescent Head; only Marrieds Vs Singles held and banished to history; Friday night junior football continued; Brindabella (home games) and AKUBRA (away games) Player of Round introduced; Scott Edwards in NSW Country U 19’s; Presentation Dinner at Brindabella; great financial position thanks to Chris Mowle and canteen workers.
1998 – Race Day sponsored by club; first ladies game between St Pauls and Melville (who will forget Paula Brennan’s front on tackle?); under 19 Premiers and minor Premiers; increased exposure for sponsors; some games played at Crescent Head with after match functions at the Tavern; transfer of club stalwarts Terry Rayner and Tony Norton and families; dinner held at Bowling Club; Slave Raffle at Hodgman’s; Under 19 trip to Gold Coast; $15,000 allocated with the aim to finish Clubhouse for the ’99 season; the Bill and Phil Canteen.
1999 – First visits from Singleton for game and Blast Off at the “Kempsey Cannonball Race Day”; Jamie Lind and James Lancaster selected for the NSW Country team v Ireland and were defeated 44-6; first interclub games with New England clubs; trip from Hell to Glen Innes; the “Bill and Phil Shows”; huge progress on clubhouse and change rooms; the “Benelong Haven Cooking Range”; Reserve Grade defeated in final; clubhouse/change rooms destroyed by arsonists in November; club returned to West Kempsey Hotel
2000– First Ashes 10’s held; $3000 seeding grant to Kempsey Junior Rugby under Presidency of Phil Harvey; Shannon Jones, Trent O’Donnell and Justin Hanlon selected in the Regional U 21 side to play in the Country Carnival; Peter Hadlow drew up plans for clubhouse; Reserve Grade side only; Bill and Andrew Bennet take out two top club awards.
2001 – 40 Cannonball heads shaved for Leukaemia Research; Rugby Week held in June; Centenary of Federation, 100 years of Rugby; Chris Hunter, Brendan Crouch and Mick Webber selected in the Regional U 19’s side to play in Wagga; Lance Byrne and Kullen Beathe selected for Country Week at Moree; under 19’s runners-up in premiership; Scrum machine purchased and subsequently used about twice a year.
2002– Club fielded 3 teams; won consolation plate at Armidale; won Ashes Tens in under 19 and Opens; joint premiers in first grade; Kullen Beathe’s fatal accident in Grand Final; Golden Oldies approached to run Crescent Head canteen.
2003 – Juniors fielding almost 5 teams; introduction of Smart Rugby; Kempsey hosted NSW Country U 23 competition; canteen committee going very well thanks to Tanya Byrne; Dave Bartlett stood down after 14 years as Secretary.
2004 – First Crescent Head 7’s held formed by James Lancaster, Lance Byrne, Doug North, Garry Munday and Allan Nugent; Randwick won the men’s division and Warringah won the women’s division.
2005 – Crescent Head 7’s was a big success thanks mainly to the large amount of time donated by James Lancaster, Lance Byrnes and Doug North and the extremely generous donations from Doug North and his band of merry sponsors; defeated Port in 3 grades at Kempsey; 30th year anniversary dinner at the Kempsey RSL; Mathew Brennan Received Life Membership.
2006 – Move to the Railway Hotel; Mexican waves, toilet plungers and joker draw; Roving Cannonballs dominate the MVDCA competition, Rugby Ball at Crescent Head; Cannonballs field 3 grades.
2007 – Cannonball Euro trip to watch the Rugby World Cup – Allan Nugent shuts down the Piccadilly Line on the London Underground after leaving a suspicious bag (the Caribee) behind for which the bomb squad robot had to be called into action; Toby Nugent stars in television commercial that promoted healthy living and beach cricket (Howzat); Under 19’s competition changed to Under 18’s; Kempsey Runners up Under 18’s; Armidale tour in tuxedo rugby attire; Kempsey Fields a women’s rugby team
2008 – The MNCRU competition was divided into two pools, Southern and Northern; Kempsey put into Northern Pool; Under 18’s win both Minor and Major premierships; Gary Munday steps down from MNCRU Board of Directors; Armidale tour in bikinis
2009 – First grade and Under 19’s runners-up in Presidents Cup and Under 19’s premierships respectively; Inaugural preseason derby with the Old Bar Claims to contest the prestigious ‘Hetro Ball’; Move to the Great Northern Hotel; Tour de Armidale; DA approval for upgrades to Kullen Beathe Club House and Ian Walton Rugby Park facilities; New synthetic Jerseys adopted
2010– Under 19’s runners-up in premiership; Mexican Night at the Rugby Ground; First grade enter a side in the preseason Forster 10’s Tournament; Allan Nugent accepts coaching position at German rugby club RK03, Bill Yabsley and Kale Waters go along for moral support and the mention of beer; Allan Nugent named Bundesliga Rugby Coach of the year
2011– Under 19’s win both Minor and Major premierships; Kempsey Junior Rugby Union enjoyed a great 2011 season with 90 kids registered, covering the age groups Under 8’s, Under 10’s, Under 12’s and Under 14’s; Return to annual preseason tour to Armidale Knockout in German lederhosen rugby kit; Todd Giddy traded to RK03 rugby club; Move to the Macleay Hotel; Jared Fuller establishes a new rugby club in Bingara and captains them to a grand final in their first season
2012 – Under 18’s win Minor and runners-up in Major premiership; Tom Hiramatsu named MNCRU Player of the year; 1992 and 2002 grand final reunion and presentation dinner; Luck of the Irish themed Armidale tour; Dave Munday wins a set of goal posts through a email competition
2013 – Under 16’s take the field for the first time coached by Lance Byrne. Crescent Head 7’s celebrates its 10th anniversary with Nathan Sharpe in attendance; Major upgrades to stormwater drainage; Newly won goal posts erected on field 1 and revamped goal posts erected on field 2; Field 2 resurveyed and upgraded; Major upgrades to town sewer and water systems; Eric Kerr named MNCRU Highest Point Scorer in Reserve Grade; 18’s, reserve grade and first grade all make the semi finals; 1993 grand final reunion and presentation dinner; Top Gun themed Armidale tour
2014 – Club was award MNC Zone Club Champions for only the second time in our history. First grade lost a very cloase semi final against Port Pirates while U18’s lost the grand final to Bowraville. Annual end of year presentation held at Crescent Head rugby grounds with big top marquee and live music attended by just over 110 people.