After a good season in 1972 Wanganui arranged a larger fixture list in 1973, 17 matches, up from 13 in 1972 and 11 in 1971. The main feature of the programme was a four match South Island tour in July.
The 1973 season had started well for Wanganui, with a win over their larger neighbours Taranaki, in New Plymouth too. There was also a win over the touring Victoria side. But though there were still some good results the balance of the season was rather disappointing, including the four tour matches.
July 17 v South Canterbury. Lost 12- 27.
“ 19 v North Otago. Won 26 – 13.
“ 21 v Otago. Lost 9 – 31.
“ 24 v Southland. Lost 0 – 14.
After Marlborough had unexpectedly won the Ranfurly Shield from Canterbury Wanganui challenged for the Shield but were well beaten 6 – 30 by the “Red Devils”.
Wanganui won seven of their 1973 matches, lost ten and scored 237 points whilst conceding 348.
Short tours like Wanganui’s were common in New Zealand rugby before the National Championship started in 1976. In 1973 a number of unions made such tours:
Auckland, 3 matches Sep. 29 – Oct. 3.
Buller. 3 matches Jun. 30 – July 5.
Counties. 3 matches Sep. 12 – 22.
Manawatu. 4 matches Sep. 1 – 12.
Otago. 4 matches Aug. 22 – Sep. 1.
Southland. 5 matches Aug. 22 – Sep. 5.
These short tours added variety to the season, rewarded the top performers from the unions and gave valuable exposure to players. With little rugby on television these domestic tours allowed fans to see talented players from other parts of the country that otherwise were just a name. The 1973 Wanganui team had one such player in 18 year old Bill Osborne who went on to play 48 matches (16 tests) for the All Blacks, forming an excellent midfield partnership with Bruce Robertson.
It is to the credit of administrators, mostly part timers, that such tours could be organised and financed. They were a significant part of the provincial system that played such a big part in the development of New Zealand rugby.