The origin's of the Union Cricket Club go back to 1876, with the Tradesmen's Cricket Club. Over the following years the Tradesmen's C.C. would be known as Trades, United Trades, and then Union in November 1880. However in the mid-80's, when a real (more likely imagined) military scare with Russia threating to invade New Zealand, the Tradesmen's C.C. formed with the Tradesmen's Racing Club, the Capulet Cricket Club in 1885. Tureka was a Cricket Club based on the Excelsior Rugby Club and Railway workers and was formed in the 1898. Both of these clubs would be founding members of the North Otago Cricket Association in 1899, with Tureka becoming the first club to win the Senior competition after an undefeated season in 1899-1900. Records indicate that Tureka would repeat this feat in five seasons later in 1904-1905. Capulet despite good numbers during the 1880's slowly started to struggle and withdrew from the competition in May 1908.
The Union Cricket was founded in 1909 with the combining of the two Takaro Park clubs, Capulet and Tureka. With cricket at a low ebb in 1909 a meeting was called to form a club. It was decided to call the club United but at the following meeting this was changed to Union. According to research done for the clubs centenary in 2009 a Mr D W Rosie was elected treasurer, who worked for the Union Steamship Company, and subs were set at five shillings. Union played its first known game against the North Otago Farmers Co-Operative Association at Takaro on Thursday 21 October 1909 and recorded a win by 40 runs. The scoreboard was:
The team and individual performances
C Rivers 1 wicket, R King 12, J Matryn, A King 48 not out & 4 wickets, J Gibson 21 & 1 wicket, D Rosie, G Bain, Hurndall, Knights, P Bateman, F Couper result: a win by 40 runs.
The 'A' team started Union's winning tradition playing five matches, winning three, and losing one against the Albion club, Dunedin. The 'B' team lost to St Paul's Bible Class by one run.
At the time of the clubs centenary in 2009 it was lucky to have the original minutes book from 1909. The following was copied from the inside cover of the book minutes book (this article was originally taken from a newspaper on Thursday 22nd of September 1910):
Union Cricket Club
The Union Cricket Club held its first annual meeting last night, when Mr R Wood presided over an attendance of more than 25 members, all of them enthusiastic, so that the clubs prospects this season are good.
After the report and balance-sheet (previously published) has been adopted, officers were elected as follows:- Patron, his Worship the Mayor (Mr R. Milligan); president, Dr Orbell, vice-presidents, Drs Douglas, Garland, M'Adam, and Whitton, Messrs E.P. Lee, T Williamson, and W. Mowbray; captain, D W Rosie; deputy-captain, C Stagpoole; secretary, H L P Bateman; treasurer, D W Rosie; coach, A H King; auditors, Messrs R King and A Keith; committee- Messrs A Aing (A King?), J Martyn, G Bain, A Keith, with the captain, deputy captain and secretary. The Borough Council wrote granting the club permission to play on Takaro Park. The opening day was fixed for October 6, and the Match Committee was instructed to arrange as many matches as possible for the season. Twenty new members were elected.
A hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Mr R King, the retiring secretary, also to Mr Wood for presiding at the meeting.
When the club was founded there was no formal local competition. A number of fixtures were organised against local and outside competition to keep members active. There had been two unsuccessful attempts to form an association, the Waitaki Cricket Association in 1892, and the North Otago Cricket Association in 1899 but Waitaki only lasted one season while North Otago had effectively gone defunct in 1909. In a time when many clubs were founded and then disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared Union found its first test when war was declared only 5 years later. Many of its members were to serve overseas, some its members sadly not returning. It was during the war years in 1915 that a new sports field had been opened at what was the Tyne Street Gardens, King George Park, with the club playing its game at the ground in 1915 where it has played many games since.
With the end of the war and the return of servicemen there was a shift back to peace time activities. This provided enough emphasis for the return of local sport with the North Otago Cricket Association springing back to life in 1919 and the re-introduction of a club competition. Union was a full member and entered teams in both Senior and Junior competitions. It took the club only two seasons to win its first senior premiership, in 1920-1921, and in the process becoming the first to win the newly introduced Borton Cup. It followed this up the following season winning both Senior and Junior grades.
However for parts of the 1920's Union struggled to provide a Senior team and only entered Junior teams in 1924/25 and 1925/26. While it was struggling to find players on the field, it did celebrate the contribution of one its star players and administrators, Fred Ongley, who became the clubs first life member in 1926.
Union quickly recovered from its player struggles in the middle of the 1920’s surging back to win the Borton Cup four seasons in a row under the astute captaincy of future life member Jack Maddigan, winning the premiership from 1928-29 to 1931-32. It was during this time that the Senior team started to develop a rivalry with another club.
At times there was a heated rivalry with the Oamaru Cricket Club. One story has a game that was called off during the late twenties due to a dispute over a player umpire decision. Oamaru would refuse to play Union until official umpires were appointed to the games and Oamaru would even pay for the umpire’s travel. These two clubs would frequently fight over premierships in the North Otago Senior Competition for a number of decades. The Cup would return to King George Park 7 times in the 1930ies before war would be declared.
Union wasted little time to win the Borton Cup after WW2 returning the cup back to KGP in 1947-1948. However over the next few decades the Borton Cup was to be dominated by the Oamaru Cricket Club, who had many skilful players and for two seasons had then New Zealand captain John Reid in its ranks. But over the years Oamaru started to lose its hold on the competition and other clubs started making headway and become more competitive. In this time period the Borton Cup made a visit to the club 13 times of which Seniors won the Borton Cup/Duck Hunt double 5 times. The lower grades provided a number of highlights with the Junior team being competitive in its competition. Union continued be strong and the next time period, while at times not showing in the trophy cabinet, showed that the club was still as competitive as ever. Such was the strength of the club during the 1960s the club had two teams entered into the Borton Cup competition.
At the start of the 1980’s the club was once again the to see its name engraved on the Borton Cup with four consecutive premierships and names such Payne, Taylor, Donaldson, Bowman, Robertson and Brown appearing in the Union team sheet. It was also during these four seasons that the club won both the newly introduced Senior Reserve Competition as well as the old Junior Grade renamed Second Grade showing how strong the club was on the field. It was a perfect lead into the clubs 75th anniversary celebrations in 1985 as the club looked to be stronger than ever both on and off the field. It was only later that it was determined that the club was formed in 1909 and not 1910. For this “75th” season, the club had 6 teams playing regular Saturday afternoon cricket. That season the Senior team finished second, beaten on the very last ball of the season. The decade would be seen out with two of its club legends, Russell Payne and Ted Tempero awarded life membership in 1988.
The 1990s saw Union start on a period of success that would see it dominate the local senior competition. It would make eight of the first nine senior finals, frequently as top qualifier, and while it was hit and miss in victory in the final it would be the team to beat. While the senior team was strong, the club also had two very competitive sides at Senior Reserve level. This led to a unique event occur at the end of the 1996-1997 season. With Seniors being top qualifiers and the Union Senior Reserve Blue side being top qualifiers in their grade there was a clash as the top qualifier hosted the final in both grades. The Blue side scheduled to play their arch rivals, Union Senior Reserve Gold. King George Park had two wicket blocks but only the number one block was considered to be big enough for Senior Reserve. A compromise was then undertaken with the Senior Reserve final being played on the Saturday, while the Senior final was moved to its reserve day, the following day. However the Saturday saw rain, to the extent that play wasn’t able to be considered let alone to start. Both Senior Reserve captains then travelled around the district to find a ground situatable to play on, with the best ground being King George Park 2. The following day led to a situation that hasn’t been repeated, a club hosting two finals on the same day at its home ground. For the record, Seniors won their final against Oamaru by 7 wickets, while Union Gold beat Union Blue in a low scoring match.
With such a strong senior side, most of its players would be selected regularly for the North Otago Hawke cup side, while two of them would go even further. For the first time the club would boast of two current members being first class players with Duncan Drew and Neil Rushton. Rushton would also reach New Zealand levels, being selected for a New Zealand districts side to play Bangladesh. Union would celebrate its 90th season in 2000 with a treasure trove of awards including the Borton Cup, Dick Hunt Rosebowl, Knowles Maddigan Trophy and the 50th Jubilee Cup.
In 1997 the club rewarded a long serving player of the club and former president of the club David Meikle. Still at time an active player, he started with club in 1967 and had continually played for the club over those years. For his long years with the club, it awarded him life membership.
Union bookend success during the 2000’s winning the Borton Cup at the end of the 2008-2009 season starting another four run of Borton Cup championships in a row. Despite going undefeated in league play going for the fifth championship in a row they would lose to eventual winners Albion in the semi-final. During this period the Senior Reserve Cup also returned to King George Park for the first time in 2011-2012, as they beat Valley in an exciting final at Weston.
Much of the club success over these years was down to Peter Cameron. As President for 11 years, he had seen the club rise to a high level of success both on off the field. He was captain of the senior side during most of the 9 years during the 90ies and had led the club to a level of financial security while other clubs were struggling. In 2008 he was made a life member of the club. He would later be made a life member of the North Otago Cricket Association in 2017, then two years later in 2019 was made a life member of the Otago Cricket Association. He joined fellow Union life member Ted Tempero as the only two from North Otago to be life members of Otago Cricket. As of 2020 he still holds the post of club treasurer, a position he has held since 2003.
In 2009, as part of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Centenary celebrations and in recognition of the contribution volunteers make to cricket, the ICC awarded 1000 Centenary Medals to volunteers around the world who had demonstrated exceptional commitment to the game of cricket. The ICC asked New Zealand Cricket to identify 50 people who have had a longstanding contribution to cricket in New Zealand with our life members Ted Tempero, Russell Payne and Peter Cameron making the list. It is believed that this is the most medals awarded to members of a single club in the world. One other to receive the medal was Mike O'Conner, who is a past Union member.
Later that same year, the club celebrated 100 years with a number of events over labour weekend. With attendance of over 100, a get together was held on the Friday night at King George Park, while a formal meal was then held the following night. Cricket games were also played with two past vs present games on the Saturday and our long-time opposition on the Easter Tour Naseby played a Union team on the Sunday.
For the next decade it would be a case of close but so far for the senior team. Continuing to be one of the most competitive teams in North Otago it would frequently make semi-finals, usually as one of the top two qualifiers only to lose in a semi-final. From 2013 onwards it would only make the final once, a 45 run loss to Albion and would not win the Borton Cup for the rest of the decade. Lower grades would be very competitive as well making a number of finals.
The 2010’s would see arguably North Otago’s most successful period at Hawke Cup level with Union club members continuing to make key contributions to the side. Three of our club members (Duncan Drew, Glynn Cameron and Scott Cameron as co-manager) travelled with the side to Palmerston North in 2010, Drew etching his name in North Otago folklore scoring a critical century as the side won the Hawke Cup for the first time. Drew would return in 2016, along with fellow club member Brad Fleming, as North Otago regained the Hawke Cup this time against Buller.
This decade would also see two new life members made for the Union Cricket Club, Robert Coates and Neville Donaldson. Coates was for a long time the clubs groundsman producing the best wickets in the district. He also was a player was well playing at all levels for the club over a prolonged period. Donaldson had two stints at the club, the first mainly as a player and the second as a player as well as administrator. Coates was elevated to life membership in 2013 and Donaldson in 2017.
With the start of the 2020’s our Senior side one again proved its credentials going through the 2019-2020 Borton Cup season undefeated. It was set to play Albion in the 27th edition of the Borton Cup final, but with the coranvirus 19 pandemic leading to all cricket being cancelled in New Zealand the final was called off. With the Union Senior team being undefeated in league play thus making them the top qualifer for the playoffs, under the competition rules they were deemed to be the winner of the North Otago Senior competition and winner of the Borton Cup for the season. This was the first time it had won the cup based on league play since 1991-1992.