Sports correspondent & historian
As we reach our seventies, more of our contemporaries fall at the hurdles in the last straight. A couple of weeks ago one of my real good mates passed away unexpectedly, which was a pause in time to look back on a life well-lived.
Forty-year Western Bay of Plenty resident Bruce Dodge, was one of the best known faces of rugby administration in the Bay of Plenty, since he moved north from Gisborne four decades ago – but there was a lot more to Dodgey than the love of the great game.
Born during the great depression, there were few of the luxuries of today’s world around when Bruce was in his formative years. Rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer were the only real choices for the sports mad youth of the nineteen-forties.
Education at Gisborne High School, prepared Bruce for a life in regional New Zealand, which was focused on the primary industries such as the forestry, freezing works and fishing. The younger Dodge found employment in accountancy work following in his father’s footsteps.
While Bruce played the great game at Gisborne High School and then at High School Old Boys club, a move into sport administration came when Dodgey was in his twenties. After early service at High School Old Boys, he became the Secretary of the Poverty Bay Rugby Union. He would occasionally reminisce of representing Poverty Bay, at the New Zealand Rugby Union AGM’s, held at the old Huddart Parker Building on the Wellington waterfront.
With Bruce’s father, holding a major role with the Poverty Bay Turf Club, the young Dodge was pressed into duty when the races came to town. In his later years, Bruce would often utilize his TAB online account to chase the daily trebles on a weekend, with a fair bit of success.
One of Dodgey’s greatest strengths was his ability to relate to the many facets of society, from the workingman in the streets to the people of power in regional New Zealand. Financial roles with East Coast Fisheries and later Sandford’s when he moved north, saw him rubbing shoulders with men (and women) who worked and played hard and sometimes weren’t afraid to express their thoughts in very basic English.
As a one of the founders of the annual North Island Old Boys Easter Rugby tournament in the early 1970’s, Bruce had a natural home with Tauranga Old Boys Rugby Club, when he arrived in the Western Bay of Plenty in 1978.
Bruce quickly emerged himself in Tauranga Old Boys and became a club delegate to the Tauranga Sub-Union and later the Western Bay of Plenty Sub-Union. He was a guiding light in the formation of Tauranga Sports, when Tauranga Old Boys and Otumoetai Cadets came together in the 1980’s.
In 1985 Bruce became a member of the Inter-City Rugby committee, which administered the first Bay of Plenty wide competition, kick-starting thirty years of Bay of Plenty Rugby Union voluntary service.
Dodgey was a past master at rugby draws and for a long period managed the Baywide senior rugby draws. When Bruce was rung about perceived wrongs with the competition draws, the caller usually didn’t get to hear what they wanted, as Bruce was master of fairness in ensuring that all clubs had an equal share of home and away games.
Recognition of Bruce’s service to rugby in the Bay, saw him bestowed life membership of Tauranga Sports, Western Bay of Plenty Sub-Union and the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union.
Bruce has now joined his beloved Helen on the other side - RIP Bruce Dodge.