How Marist St Pats came to play in red

It is often noted that the Marist St Pats playing uniform mirrors that of the British and Irish Lions. With the famous touring side in the country, let's look back at how MSP came to play in red.

The adoption of the now famous Marist St Pats scarlet jersey in 1974 was a momentous happening. The club had been formed out of the merger of Marist Old Boys and St Pats Old Boys three years earlier.

Once the club’s name, Marist St Pats, was agreed it was much harder to avoid a mix of colours in the jersey. Neither was more significant nor more attractive than the other. Various combinations were suggested: more white and no white; cubes such as the Harlequin quarters; and half blue, half green.

Any compromise was unattractive. In the end the striped version on display in the Hataitai clubrooms was accepted. It was largely a balance of blue stripes and green stripes, separated by narrow strips of white.

However, the striped version was never particularly exciting. The green and blue stripes were insufficiently distinctive and as the white took on touches of either white or green, a rather sad grey came to dominate. The jersey soon lost favour.

From the 1996 history of Marist St Pats, 'Battling On'...

'Foundation secretary Pat McInerney saw the problem clearly every Saturday during the 1971 and 1972 seasons and had a quiet word with the WRFU secretary Oscar Wrigley towards the end of the 1971 season.

McInerney sought Wrigley's advice on how the dress problem might be resolved and it was Oscar who came up trumps with the suggestion of the British Lions colours, namely scarlet jerseys, dark blue socks with green tops.

The colours had previously been registered for a small club in the Hutt Valley which had gone out of existence and the WRFU secretary was diplomatically persuaded to put them on hold. McInerney's foresight meant MSP had the first cut at the British Lions colours in New Zealand.

When the heated apparel debate bogged down the 1973 AGM a model was wheeled in dressed in the colours of the British Lions.

'Red is the colour of the dirty British,' one former club member was heard to say at the time 'and I'm not going to be part of a club with a red jersey.' That gentleman was true to his word and has not been to the clubrooms since.

Despite such opposition the meeting agreed to the change which accelerated the move away from the two former identities helping MSP to become an identifiable club in its own right.

Amidst the tense debate there was humour and a comment by a prominent player at the time that: 'most if the Irish have red faces anyhow' did help ease the tensions between the green and blue factions.

All Black Grant Batty had been very much behind the move for the club to adopt a similar playing attire to that worn by the British Isles touring side, the Lions.

The status of British rugby had risen to its highest peak in 1971 when the Lions won their first test series against New Zealand.'

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. Some purists, diehards and conservatives in the club took many years to convince. Some never accepted the neutral scarlet playing colours. The winning ploy was developing consistent success at the top levels and throughout all grades of Wellington club rugby.

The scarlet jersey of the Red Machine has become famous. No one would dream of changing Marist St Pats' playing colours now. ‘The Red Machine is here to stay!’


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The evolution of the Marist St Pats jersey as displayed at the clubrooms. (Left to right) Marist Old Boys (1921-1971, St Pats Old Boys (1926-1971), the first Marist St Pats jersey (1971-74), the now iconic red Marist St Pats jersey (1974-present).
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