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Obituary: Gary V.Higgins – Thames Valley Representative #474

– Obituary –

Gary Higgins in 1966

Gary V. Higgins. Thames Valley Representative #474

It is with great sadness that we record the passing of Gary Higgins in Auckland on 29th August 2021. Gary was one of the great characters of Thames Valley rugby and he was a member of the Fabulous XV (which became the Fabulous XIV) that defeated Australia in 1962.

In his early teens he made a name for himself whilst attending the Paeroa District High School – he was in the First XV in 1956 and 1957 and also represented the Thames Valley Third Grade team in these two years. Paeroa won the Coulter Cup in 1957 by defeating the other five high schools within the Thames Valley. Higgins scored five tries in this series – missing out against Thames but scoring twice against Te Aroha. He played No.8 and is well remembered for his strength and determination and he was a real handful for his opponents.

By 1960 he was living in the Te Aroha District and playing senior rugby for Waihou. Waihou won the Thames Valley Senior Championship for three years in a row -1960,61,62 with Gary featuring in their strong forward pack each year. He made his debut for the Thames Valley senior team in 1961 against Counties and played in all eight games that season, scoring a try against King Country.

The following year came the victory over Australia when seven gallant Thames Valley forwards held their own against the eight Aussies. “Higgy” is well remembered for becoming involved in a scrap with one of his opponents which led to his team mate, Doug Mold conning the referee into thinking that two Australians were fighting each other so thee made the team mates shake hands and get on with the game.

Gary did not play representative rugby from 1963 until 1965 but in 1966 he turned out for the Kerepehi Club and again for Thames Valley. Kerepehi won the Senior Club Competition thus giving Gary his fourth Thames Valley title. He had the distinction of scoring a try against both Canterbury and Auckland that year and was selected for the Combined Counties/Thames Valley team to play against the Lions.

The Lions won13-9 at Papakura. T, P, McLean wrote:

There was always a snarl to the game. Body checks, late tackles, obstruction, punches, kicks, excessively vehement rucking – you name it the game had it.

One can only visualise Higgy in the thick of it with no quarter given and no quarter asked for.

He finished his representative career at the end of 1967 but has always remained in close contact with his 1962 team mates who all enjoyed his company with lots of banter and good humour.

The Thames Valley Rugby Union offers our sincere sympathy to Gary’s family and all of his team mates who had the privilege of playing with him.

The Paeroa District High School 1957 First XV which won the Coulter Cup.
Gary Higgins is fourth from the left in the middle row.
Two other members of this team also went on to play for Thames Valley – Jack Pascoe fourth from left in the back row and Alan Wilkinson second from left in the middle row.
The coach Mr Stan Neild, far right in the front row, had also played for Thames Valley.

 

1962 Thames Valley Team Reunion (2012) with the match ball used v Australia
Front Three: Ron Kerby, Alan Wilkinson, Norm McMillan (Coach)
Next Four: Gary Higgins, Bill Walsh, Doug Mold, Jim Maxwell.
Next Five: Ray Wells, Maru Rangi, Trevor Kilpin, Andy Townsend and Ted Engebretsen (TVRFU President)
At Back: Doug Brown, Jim Darrah and Jack Pascoe.
Absent: Terry Shaw and Kevin Barry = in France
Deceased: Jim Mita and Rex Holden.
*Since 2012 Kevin Barry, Ron Kerby, Jim Darrah and Gary Higgins have also passed away.