A walk down memory lane

A full terraces at Newmarket Park watch New Zealand play against Wales in 1971. Photo: Dave Barker.

Football fans who fondly remember when Newmarket Park was the sport’s Auckland headquarters are holding a reunion BBQ at the ground on Sunday 15 March.

The ground, which hosted some of the world’s greatest footballers, was devastated by a landslide in 1979 after being the local home of football since 1964.

It’s now a pleasant, family-friendly park after a $6.7 million rehabilitation programme by the Auckland Council.

The independent supporters group Friends of Football decided to host Sunday’s BBQ to give football fans the chance to meet up and share their memories of when Newmarket Park was in its heyday.

“It can be quite a moving experience when you walk through the park as it is today, and recognise where the terraces and grandstands used to be,” said Friends of Football chair John Morris, who played at the ground for New Zealand and his Blockhouse Bay club.

“The park was a big part of football’s history and I’m quite sure those who remember it will want to reminisce while those who are too young will still be interested in hearing the stories about it,” Morris says.

Guests at the BBQ with tales to tell about Newmarket Park’s greatest moments will include former All Whites Brian Turner, who played many of his 59 full internationals there, and Sam Malcolmson who recalls playing in the last international at the ground (in which New Zealand beat Australia 1-0).

Another player keen to share her memories will be Barbara Cox, who was the captain of the first New Zealand women’s team and who played in the first-ever Auckland representative match at the park in 1973.

Journalist Josh Easby edited match programmes at Newmarket Park in the mid-1970s when the ground hosted such high profile teams as Manchester United, Glasgow Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Juventus, Stoke City, Hertha Berlin, Middlesbrough and others.

“We plan to show people around the park and remind them of what it looked like when World Cup winners like Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks played there,” he says.

Other former players and coaches will share memories of national league games played at the park before regular crowds of 3,000 to 5,000, rising to 8,000 or more for local derbies.

The park also hosted five Chatham Cup finals as well as World Cup qualifying games during the 1970s.

“Everyone’s welcome at the BBQ, whether they have a few memories of their own they want to share … or whether they just want to chuck a couple of jerseys on the ground and kick a ball about on what used to be one of the great grounds,” Morris says.

What: A Walk Down Memory Lane, with Friends of Football

Where: Newmarket Park, Ayr St, Parnell, Auckland.

When: 12pm-5pm, Sunday March 15.

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