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Much Travelled

By Keith Jenner
February 15 2004

Harlequins came through a close game on Saturday to win by a two point margin. They scored four tries to their opponents two, and the victory continued their impressive form which has seen them defeated only once so far this season, as they try to retain their Premier League championship.

No don't worry, I haven't lost the plot. What I write is perfectly true. It is as true as it would be if I had written that Harlequins were looking forward to the start of the new season as they try to better their performance last season when they won one cup and shared another. However, the season was overshadowed by the death of one of the Quins players during training.

Or I could have written that Harlequins are looking forward to the new season when they hope to improve on last year’s disappointments, which saw then go through the season winless. A new coach, committee and a number of new players mean that the club is confident that this season will be an improvement.

How about that Harlequins have had a successful celebration of their 75th anniversary, which included significant improvements to the clubhouse and facilities.

You have probably worked out by now that I am not talking about NEC Harlequins of London. The Harlequins that I refer to above are those of Dallas, Kenya, Hobart and Melbourne respectively. All these clubs are affiliated with the original.

There are in fact many Harlequins around the world. A search on Yahoo brings up clubs in Belfast, Pitsburgh, Atlanta, Denver, Oxford and Hawaii amongst others. Most of these clubs have merely named themselves after Harlequins and there is no official connection. However, there are a few who are affiliated with our club, and it is these who we will have a more detailed look at.

Pretoria Harlequins

The first to be officially associated with the main club was the Pretoria Harlequins. They started life as the Civil Service Club, but when the membership needed to be extended beyond the Civil Service, it was decided to change the name to “The Harlequin Rugby Club” and to ask for permission to use the Harlequins colours as well as the name. This was unanimously agreed in February 1906.

The club celebrated its 100th anniversary recently, but current information is rather hard to find. In “The Harlequins, 125 Years of Rugby Football”, Philip Warner states that the Pretoria Harlequins resemble the Barbarians more than an ordinary club. It has produced a number of internationals and has strong representation in other sports such as Cricket and Golf.

Melbourne Harlequins

The Melbourne Harlequins were formed in 1928, meaning that they have just celebrated their 75th anniversary. Originally membership was restricted to people born in Britain, but this restriction has since been lifted.

The main activities of the club were Rugby and Cricket, and it was on the cricket field rather than the rugby pitch that the first success was achieved.

On the 7th of March 1929, the Melbourne Harlequins played the Sydney Bohemians at cricket at the St. Kilda Ground. The Harlequins team comprised five club members plus six members of the MCC party who were in Australia for the Ashes whilst the Sydney Bohemians had seven Harlequins and five members of the Australian team.

Initially, the playing record was very disappointing, with just a handful of wins in the first three seasons. However, things improved after the war and in 1948 the club undertook its first interstate tour to play the Hobart Harlequins. This was so successful that the “Jersey Match” was played each year between the two clubs. From 1949 to 1994 matches were played annually, with the prize being an old Melbourne Harlequins Jersey, the venue alternating between Melbourne and Hobart.

In 1978/79 the club celebrated its Silver Jubilee with a series of major events including the Jubilee Cricket match that mirrored the game of 50 years earlier with members of the MCC touring party once again taking part. A club history was also planned but this did not happen. However, the project has been re-initiated for the 75th anniversary and should be published in late 2004.

In 1987 the new clubrooms were opened and these have been extended as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations to include four new changing rooms, referees rooms and a well-equipped first aid centre together with the erection of competition quality floodlights on the main pitch. These improvements give the club the best facilities in Victoria.

As part of the anniversary celebrations an International Harlequins Rugby tournament was held with Harlequin teams from New Zealand, New South Wales and Victoria taking part. The amateurs from the London club initially accepted the invitation, but unfortunately were unable to make the trip. However, The Harlequin Gentlemen did play in and win a tournament that was hosted by the Melbourne Harlequins in July 2001 to coincide with the Lions tour to Australia.

The team colours follow the theme of the original Harlequins, being black, maroon, sage green and pale blue quarters. The club fields at least 15 teams each week, with more than half being in junior competitions. Last season two teams made it through to the grand finals, with one of them winning and one losing.

Although Rugby is the main sport, the club still plays friendly cricket, golf and darts. All rugby enthusiasts are welcome to visit and will be made very welcome. The website address is www.quinsrugby.com

I would like to thank Mark Baxter very much for the invaluable assistance which he gave me in putting together this information. He is in charge of the club history project and I have asked him to let me have details when this is published so I can put them on this site.

Hobart Harlequins

The Hobart Harlequins were formed in 1934, in the early days of Tasmanian Rugby. For the first few years of the clubs existence there were very few other teams locally to play against, but as more opposition was formed during the late 1930s Harlequins were very successful, winning the Premiership in 1936-38.

Following the second world war Harlequins again won the Premiership in 1946-48. 1948 also marked the start of the annual match against the Melbourne Harlequins as described above.

In recent years, the club has struggled for players and as a result have had their disappointments on the field. Following a winless season last year, the club now has a new committee and coach, along with a number of new players and after an off-season of rebuilding they are confident of an improved performance as they enter their 70th year.

The club play in the same colours as the London Harlequins and further details can be found on their web site that is currently being redeveloped.

My thanks to Charlie Nolan for the information which he supplied.

Hamilton Harlequins

This club, based in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand was founded in 1938.

Following visits to England by the All Blacks, some players decided to form a club based on similar lines to famous clubs in England. As a result the New Zealand barbarians was formed in Auckland and soon afterwards a similar idea was followed in Hamilton that resulted in the Hamilton Harlequins.

It was decided to ask the London Harlequins for approval for the club to be called the Harlequin FC and to use the same colours. This permission was granted, but before the club could establish itself the Second World War put a stop to matches.

Following the war, the club was revived. Its aims and objectives were as follows:

  • To renew and maintain old friendships of playing days.
  • To engage in football free from competition, and for the joy of it.
  • To invite promising juniors to play for the club and teach such youngsters the spirit of the game.
  • To play friendly games with similar clubs when such can be conveniently arranged.

As you can see, the priority appears to be enjoyment rather than competition. There has probably never been a better expansion on the old motto “it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part”.

I have been unable to find out details of recent matches, but according to Philip Warner, the membership of the club is restricted to ek-Waikato (County) representatives, All Blacks or members of the New Zealand Services team, and Kiwis and certain invited players. The team often features some very useful players.

Kenya Harlequins

In Kenya Harlequins were founded in January 1952 in Nairobi. They were named after a previous Harlequins Rugby Football Club who had existed in Kenya previously, but had since ceased to exist. We can assume that this club had been named after the London equivalent.

The clubs original colours were brown and white and the committee contacted the London Harlequins to ask whether Harlequin badges could be sewn onto the shirts. However, due to a misunderstanding, only one badge was sent, which was sewn to the Captains shirt for the first game. In this match, played in April 1952, Harlequins played Railways and were victorious.

It wasn’t long before the club was affiliated with the original and they now play in famous quartered colours.

In their fifty-year history, Kenya Harlequins have been very successful and have provided a number of players to the national team. In recent years they have been very successful in the both the Kenya Cup and the Enterprise cup.

However, last season tragedy struck when one of the long-term team members Peter Otieno, known as Bubudiu passed away whilst training. The news shocked the team and supporters and cast a shadow over an otherwise successful season, during which the team won the Kenya Cup and shared the Enterprise cup after the scores were level in the final.

Further information, including player profiles and news can be found on the web site at www.quins.co.ke 

Dallas Harlequins

The newest of the affiliated clubs was founded in January 1971 and was named, as their website states, “in honour of the venerable Harlequin FC of London, England”.

Over the last twenty years, the club has been one of the top teams in America, reaching the last four of the National Rugby Championship six times. In 1983 they reached the final and in 1984 won the championship. They have finished third on four occasions since then.

In Texas, The Dallas Harlequins are the dominant team, having won the Texas RFU championship twenty times since 1981. They have also won the Western RFU championship (which covers the area from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains) six times.

In 1983, the club was officially affiliated with the London Harlequins. A number of players have been selected to play for the USA national team (The Eagles) and the club has also featured some overseas players.

In 1997, the USA Premier Rugby Super League was formed, consisting of 14 teams, one of which was the Dallas Harlequins. This was expanded to 16 teams in 1998. So far Harlequins have been unable to progress past the quarterfinal knockout stage, which they have reached in the previous two years. However, in last season’s quarterfinal they lost to the Chicago Lions 19-18 after conceding a try in the final seconds.

This season, the Quins form has been excellent with both the 1st and the 2nd teams having won all but one of their matches. The Super League starts next month and Quins will be trying to progress into the semi final for the first time.

The clubs colours follow the familiar quartered theme, but with black and green quarters.

More information can be found on the web site at www.quins.com 

 

I hope that as a result of this article we are all now a little more aware of the other Harlequins around the world who do so much to further the name of the clubs. I will try to keep people up to date on the progress of the various teams through the message board.

 

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