TRIBUTE – Kevin Barry
22 April 1936 – 16 August 2014
All Black Number 623
Kevin Barry died suddenly on Saturday 16th August 2014. Having made 23 appearances for the All Blacks he was Thames Valley’s most successful rugby player. Kevin was born in Lower Hutt and was the son of 1932-34 All Black, E.F. (Ned) Barry – a policeman who worked in several New Zealand communities. Kevin played his early rugby in Masterton and Pahiatua but in 1953 he attended Sacred Heart College in Auckland. Sacred Heart won the Auckland Secondary Schools’ Championship that year and besides pulling his weight in the forwards Kevin was the team’s goal kicker.
With his father stationed at Whitianga in 1954 Kevin turned out for the Mercury Bay Club and his form was such that he went straight into the Thames Valley senior team. Since the Union’s formation in 1922 this was the Valley’s most successful team: Played 11 games Won 7 Drew 2 and Lost 2. Points for 154, Against 88. In their first nine games the team remained undefeated and their victories included a famous win over Auckland by 25 points to 17 – a game which Kevin really cherished. For his efforts that year K. E. Barry was named as one of the New Zealand Rugby Almanack’s Five Promising Players of the Year.
Having decided to become a school teacher Kevin attended Ardmore Teachers’ College in 1955 and was an automatic selection for the newly formed South Auckland Counties Union.
It was ironic that the first ever representative game for Counties was against Thames Valley at Waiuku with the home team winning by one point. (The Valley reversed this result with a 17-11 win at Paeroa later in the season). Kevin was a key player for Counties for six seasons. He played three games for the Bay of Plenty, Counties, Thames Valley Combined team in 1956 including the match against the Springboks at Rotorua where T. P. McLean wrote: “Barry made some exceedingly fine dashes off the side of the scrum in the early part of the game.” His early promise was finally rewarded in 1957 when Kevin played in his first All Black trial and was later selected for the New Zealand Under 23 team which toured Japan. In 1959 he made the first of two appearances for the North Island.
In 1961 Kevin transferred to Auckland and experienced his most successful provincial season.(see cutting left) Auckland held the Ranfurly Shield and Kevin showed his ability as a tight forward by locking the scrum in all of his fifteen appearances. That year he wore a distinctive white headband and spectators sure new when Barry was making one of his devastating runs. After the shield challenge from his old union, Counties the following report was written: “And an extra large gong for Kevin Barry. It seemed to me that he got fed up with all the messing about up and down the side line and elected to put some real ginger into the attack. I guess that Counties must have wondered what hit them.” Auckland successfully defended all eight shield challenges and Kevin’s contribution to the team was recognised by “ Bystander” ( reputed to be T P McLean) in the final match programme of the year when reviewing the season: BEST Forward in Auckland: If I plumped for Whineray, Barry might jump on me: if I said Barry-well Whineray has a nice line of right crosses that I prefer not to sample. You take your pick. K. E. Barry was also selected as a reserve for the Rugby Almamack’s 1961 New Zealand XV.
After such a great season Thames Valley supporters could not believe their luck when Kevin arrived in Paeroa as a representative for the Atlantic Oil Company. He quickly linked up with the Paeroa West Club, boarding with the Shaw family and became lifelong friends with Terry and his parents. His good form on the rugby field continued and after participating in All Black trials he was selected for the All Blacks tour to Australia. As the 623rd All Black he made his debut against Central West at Bathhurst on May 16th 1962 scoring two tries for good measure. All in all he played 6 matches on the tour and scored 20 points. Against Newcastle he was tried at prop and again played in this position for the North Island on his return to New Zealand. There was no doubting Kevin’s skills and ability but he was seen as being not quite big enough for an international lock. However he outplayed two international rivals when he led Thames Valley to an historic victory over Australia at Te Aroha on September 18th later that year. Kevin captained a spirited team which played most of the game with fourteen men but they held on to win 16-14. In all of their history this is Thames Valley’s best ever result. The comradeship of that 1962 team is a joy to behold. The team has had many reunions and the departure of their captain, to the great playing field in the sky, leaves a gap that cannot be filled.
Kevin again played in New Zealand trials in 1963 and was selected for the All Black tour to the UK, France and Canada. He played in 17 matches and scored two tries, most often appearing as No.8. Although he did not receive an international cap Kevin was a valued and popular team member.
Back in the Valley he did his best to inspire the local side to play to its potential. Every year Thames Valley played all of its neighbours in the Coronation Shield districts (unions with far more players and resources).They would usually record a couple of victories and were rarely defeated by more than a few points. In Kevin’s 200th first class match in 1968 Thames Valley gained a very satisfying 15-14 win over Waikato at Hamilton.
In 1965 Kevin again played for Bay of Plenty/ Counties /Thames Valley against the Springboks at Rotorua and the following year he captained Counties/Thames Valley against the Lions at Papakura. This was a particularly torrid match but Kevin scored a try and the combined team only lost 9-13.
Kevin retired from provincial rugby at the end of 1968 by which time he had played 67 times for Thames Valley and captained the team in 53 of those matches.
K E Barry played his last first class game of rugby for the Barbarians against Auckland in a Commonwealth Games benefit match at Eden Park in 1972. The Barbarians included international players from Australia. Fiji, South Africa & New Zealand and Kevin’s 205th game ended on a high note as the Barbarians won 31-16.
We farewell and salute a true champion of Thames Valley rugby. He was taken far too soon but his name will live on not only because of his playing record but because he was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
Kevin scored 125 points in first class rugby:
First Class Matches Summary
K Plummer TVRFU STATSman