Blockhouse Bay Basketball

Blockhouse Bay Basketball – 1920s style

In the early 1920s, the young women living in or near Blockhouse Bay, formed themselves into a basketball team. In those days each team had nine players, and the game was played on a court divided equally into three sections. Three of the team were defenders and stayed in one of the end thirds of the court. Three were designated centres and stayed in the centre section, and the final three girls were goalies and stayed in the other end of the court. Players were not allowed to move out of their area. Each player had one member of the opposing team to mark.

The game was begun by the referee throwing the ball into the air between two opposing centres who stood facing each other with their hands behind their backs. They then jumped to catch it and throw to another team member. A lot less physical than today’s netball, players were not allowed to run with the ball, nor move while someone was taking aim at scoring a goal. The game was divided into two halves with teams changing ends at half time. During half time they had orange quarters to suck as refreshment.

The local girls at first played against a scratch team from the campers, but eventually established an annual competition against girls staying at Salisbury House. They also played against a team from the Harbour Board.

There weren’t any basketball courts or sports grounds in Blockhouse Bay at that time, so use was made of the foreshore. An ebbing tide had to be chosen and once the mud was uncovered, younger brothers and small boys from the camping families were called in to clear obstacles such as rocks, seaweed and general debris. They enjoyed this as they got thoroughly wet and muddy and often had to be dragged off the court themselves so the game could begin.

Holes were filled in and the court marked out with lines drawn in the mud and portable goal posts, kept in a local shed, were postioned at each end of the makeshift court. As the sea bed was not flat and had a dimpled surface, the local teams had a distinct advantage as they were used to practising on the uneven surface and used to the ball bouncing oddly and gradually becoming heavier as it got wet.

The team called themselves Manukau and wore a uniform of navy gym dresses, white blouses, black stockings and white sandshoes. The stockings and sandshoes quickly became splashed with mud as did the gym dresses. The girls from Salisbury House were rather dismayed at playing on such a court and at first found getting covered in mud rather off-putting. However, most entered into the spirit of the game and enjoyed themselves.

The original Manukau team and committee members were: Florrie Greep, Agnes Gordon, Chrissie Thom, Margaret Thom, Thelma Thom, Joyce Harrison, Florence Keary, Lizzie Scott, Vida Rogers (see photo).

1922 Manukau Basketball Team posed on Blockhouse Bay Beach
Back: F. Keary, L. Scott, M. Thom, T. Thom, J. Harrison. Centre: F. Greep. Front: V. Rogers, C. Thom, A. Gordon.

By 1924 the team had begun playing regularly at the Windmill Road courts in Mt Eden. Some of the original team had left to pursue other interests but there were plenty of players to take their places.