St Ives Rugby Club had its birth in April 1957 when “a motley team of 12 year olds trooped onto the field to inaugurate the Saints tradition”. At this time, St Ives was still a largely rural community made up of market gardens and orchards. The intervening years have seen a remarkable transformation from this humble beginning to one of the strongest, most consistent and most successful Rugby clubs in existence.
The Club was established at a meeting of interested fathers, mainly from St Ives Central Public School, at the home of Ray Badger in Memorial Ave, St Ives. The meeting was called by Fred Layton and John Carroll in response to Gordon Rugby Club's “Learn to Play Rugby” promotion at the time. Having canvassed all the local schools, Fred and John then called a meeting at St Ives Central Public School to launch St Ives Rugby Club to the Community.
The original Committee elected were: President Fred Layton, Secretary Sam McNamee, Treasurer Ray Badger along with Fred White, Joe Davis, Norm Johnston and Barney McKay. Early Club meetings were held in churches, schoolrooms or often in private homes.
An Under 12 Team was fielded in the Gordon Junior Rugby competition with play commencing in 1957. The first training run was on Turramurra Memorial Oval before the Club moved on to play our first competition games on the St Ives Village Green adjacent to where the community hall now stands.
The founding President, Fred Layton, was inspirational in the amount of time and effort he put in to our Club, arranging to pick up and deliver boys to and from their homes on both training and playing days as well as canvassing all the local businesses for assistance by way of donations of trophies and incentives. Milkshakes and chocolate frogs at the local delicatessen were very popular.
The dedication of Fred Layton was vital to the survival of the Club, which was incorporated with the Terrey Hills Club until the late 60s. He remained Club President for ten crucial years.
In 1958 we fielded our first Under 10 team and the Club's motto was 'YOU PLAY FIRST RATE IF YOU START AT EIGHT'.
The Club needed to grow so Fred went further afield and enlisted boys from Terrey Hills including an orchardist, Jack Hanlen, who had 6 sons and a truck he used to carry the boys into St Ives for training and games each week. Next came Clive Thompson from Terrey Hills and his 2 sons, Clem and Reg, and their friends who made up an Under 14 Team.
Whilst a struggle at the outset, the rapid growth of the district as a suburban area in the mid 1960s saw a tremendous growth in junior ranks. 1959 saw the Club win its first premiership through the Under 10s. In 1963-64 the Club won the Conway Cup for the most successful junior club in N.S.W. The Under 18s won the premiership and the Under 21s were narrowly beaten in their Grand Final this year. The Saints winning habit was well underway.
In 1965-66, the Club fielded eight Under 8 teams and one or two teams in each age group to Under 21s. Home games were played at Hassall Park, then a “gibber” ground, half its present size.
In 1967 the Club elected John Zampa as President and "The Godfather" as he was affectionately known, continued on the good work of his predecessors with his own band of supporters.
In 1967 St Ives entered its first team into the Sub-district competition and so began the rise of St Ives Rugby Club as a force in Subbies Rugby. In 1969 this became two teams. One name that was more than instrumental in that era was the late and great Barney McKay, a true legend of our Club. The Sub-district teams went from strength to strength, winning their first premiership, the McLean Cup, in 1972 and the Barraclough Cup in 1973, a win that saw the Club’s promotion to Division One.
In 1971 with the Juniors continuing to be a powerhouse in local Rugby and now 2 teams in the Subbies Competition, John Zampa and his supporters set about building our clubhouse at Hassall Park over the top of the existing two change rooms. This was indeed an amazing feat considering the difficulties dealing with councils of the time. Since then the Clubhouse has been extended several times and stands today as a testament to all those involved over many years. It is the envy of all visiting clubs.
In 1973, the Club sent its first contingent of two teams, the Under 15s and 16s, to New Zealand, a tradition that has endured to the present.
In 1974 and 1976, the Kentwell Cup was won and the following year 21st birthday celebrations were held in Willoughby Town Hall. The St Ives Rugby Club had certainly come of age. It was independent, being responsible for its own finances and for the running of its own clubhouse and it was having a great deal of success on the paddock in both the Junior and Senior Divisions. The then Life Patron, John “The Godfather” Zampa, wrote: "In a venture such as this, success depends on people, people who are prepared to give their time, people who don’t just stand back and knock, but who are prepared to give it a go. The Club has these people so we can look forward to a good future.”
These words have proved prophetic as the Club has developed from 1977 to the present. As the Club has enjoyed 30th and 40th year celebrations, it has enjoyed many more premierships and has seen the substantial upgrading of its facilities.
Demographic changes saw junior numbers drop in the early 1980s, a slide that was arrested with the game’s increased profile with the local staging of the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and Australia’s success in the 1991 World Cup Final.
In the mid 1990s player numbers for the Club topped 350 again, a level maintained to the present. A healthy relationship between the Rugby Club and the St Ives Cricket Club has flourished, providing use of the clubhouse for the cricketers, many of whom are members of the Rugby Club, filling “the summer void”.
Over the years, St. Ives has maintained its level of representation in representatives, both in Juniors and Seniors. The Premierships have also continued to flow.
With over 50 years behind us, St Ives Rugby Club has good cause to reiterate the Godfather’s claim of more than thirty years ago, “we can look forward to a good future”.