Between them the Clarke’s totalled 408 games for Waikato, starting with Ian (a prop) and Don (a fullback, aged 17) who debuted in 1951. The brothers that season helped Waikato win the Ranfurly Shield for the first time, with Don kicking the two penalties in their 6-3 challenge against North Auckland in Whangarei.
Doug, a five eight or fullback, made 42 appearances for Waikato from 1953 to 1962. But for his brother he might have played more, his biggest season was in 1960 when he made 12 appearances. Seven of those were at fullback while Don was touring South Africa with the All Blacks. He refereed at first class level and was Waikato RFU president 1994-95. As a cricketer he had six games for Northern Districts 1957-61.
Brian first played for Waikato in 1960, making 13 appearances. leading the Rugby Almanack to comment: “A further member of the Clarke, B E, displayed most pleasing all-round qualities as a forward, and ably filled variously the positions of lock, No. 8 and side-ranker”. He continued to represent Waikato until 1966, 70 games in all.
Graeme, whose Waikato debut was in that 1961 match against Thames Valley, also a lock forward, made 72 appearances for the union 1961-67. He weighed 17st.4 lbs (110kgs) in 1967, a big man for that time, but his best season may have been in 1966 (14 games) when the Rugby Almanack reported “ The outstanding forward was G A Clarke, tall, weighty and forceful lock who took a lot of stopping when in full cry”.
Ian appeared in 126 Waikato matches, including that 1961 lifting of the Ranfurly Shield. An even greater occasion may have been in 1956 when along with Don, he was part of the team that beat South Africa 14 -10 in the opening match of that year’s Springbok tour. For the All Blacks he played 83 games (24 tests) and had the honour of being invited by the Barbarians (UK) in 1964 to play for the club against his touring 1963/4 All Blacks. He played, and scored the Barbarians only points in the match – a dropped goal from a mark. A most respected figure he refereed to first class level and was NZRU president in 1993. During his presidency he spoke out against the just announced decision to have the manufacturer’s logo appear on the All Black jersey, but appeared to be the only official voice to do so.
Don was such a feared long range goalkicker that his ability as a fullback was sometimes under estimated. He appeared in 226 first class games, of which 98 were for Waikato and 89 (31 tests) for the All Blacks. He was one of the New Zealanders invited to play in the South African 75th jubilee matches in 1964. As a cricketer he played 27 first class matches for Auckland and Northern Districts as an opening bowler, his best return being 8 wickets for 37 against Central Districts in 1963. Chosen as New Zealand Sportsman of the year in 1959.
The Clarke’s appearances for Waikato:
And that game in 1961?
August 12 1961, at Sports Domain, Te Aroha.
Waikato 11. N R Blackburn & Alan Hayes tries: D B Clarke, pen. goal and con.
Thames Valley 8. R J Wells, try, pen. goal, T E Shaw, con.
Referee. Mr J Mitchell (Thames Valley).
Five brothers representing the same provincial team on the same day? Certainly most unusual but perhaps not unique in former times when families were larger and less mobile. If someone knows of other remarkable family representations the Rugby Museum would love to hear about them.
The Clarkes were not the only set of brothers to achieve sporting distinction. The Bracewells in cricket and rugby are one the Ropatis in rugby league and rugby are another. And there will be others e g:
The rugby playing Finlayson brothers.
1925-30 All Black Innes “Bunny” Finlayson from North Auckland was one of six brothers. “Bunny” and brothers Bain, Owen “Tote” and Angus represented North Auckland, the latter also playing for Auckland, the North Island and, in 1929, a New Zealand XV. Callum Finlayson, Angus’ twin, played for Otago 1927-33. The sixth brother, Jack (Bain’s twin) was North Auckland RFU president 1940-46, an NZRFU councillor 1946-49 and president 1950.