Passed Away 1964
Andy Leslie has been a household name in Petone since the 1970s, as Petone’s home-grown All Black captain. But the name was also very prominent from 1928 through to 1945, when Andy Leslie snr was an outstanding player for what was our very successful1st team.
Andy Leslie was in fact the first person to be appointed a Life Member of our club, and that was in 1945 at the age of 36. He had joined the club in 1927 as an 18 year old immigrant from Scotland, but after just one game he moved to Christchurch and completed the season there, including with appearances for Canterbury.
Andy had arrived in Petone when our club had spent most of its 30 years’ existence in one of the Wellington One Divisions, but had never won a championship. On the national scene, the Chatham Cup had been presented to New Zealand Football by the crew of HMS Chatham, and first played for in 1923. And as an industrial dormitory borough, Petone was attracting new young residents, some of whom were good footballers. The scene was set for 1927 to mark the change of Petone’s football fortunes and for us to win our first Wellington One championship, albeit ‘B’, and to commence a golden period of success.
A Scotland schoolboy representative against England, Andy had played his youth football as a central defender. But when he returned to Petone in 1928, we had another tough Scot in that position – Jimmy Campbell – whose qualities had seen him selected in 1927 to play two games for New Zealand v. Canada. So Leslie’s 1.8 m and 80 kg frame, and a sharp turn of speed, saw him transform into a very successful centre forward.
In 1928, his first season up front, he scored 22 goals and 9 of these contributed to us winning the Chatham Cup. In 1930, he scored 30 goals, 7 of which were in our successful run to again win the Chatham Cup. The pinnacle was achieved in 1931 however, when he scored 33 goals – 23 of them in our winning the Venus Shield for the first time. In just four seasons he scored 98 goals for Petone! He was unsurprisingly lured back to Scotland where he played a season for 2nd division Hibernians and a season for Bo’ness.
When he returned to Petone in 1933, he netted 23 times and contributed significantly to our again winning the Venus Shield. A further 27 goals in 1934 saw him move quickly to his 100th league goal in May 1935, in just his 74th league appearance. The team’s successes during the early 1930s, on the back of Leslie’s performances, would have been a great lift for the local community whose lives had been badly affected by the unemployment and general economic conditions brought by the great depression.
Leslie’s prolific goalscoring saw Petone in top table positions right through the 1930s until his 22 goals of 46 helped us again win the Venus Shield in 1939, just weeks before the outbreak of World War II. He carried on with his goalscoring feats and in July 1941 scored his 200th league goal, at the Basin Reserve. After the Japanese entered the War at the end of 1941, many more of our players went to fight or to week-end training camps that took them away from most football. The resulting lack of players forced us to withdraw our team for 1943, but either side of that Andy coached and invariably played for the team while struggling with his own injuries, and still managed to score goals.
In all, he scored 286 goals for Petone in all fixtures between 1928 and 1945, including 215 league goals in 173 games. In playing for the first team through to 1945, he had gradually moved back to left half and then to –where he started it all – centre half.
The coverage of Andy Leslie’s play in the newspapers typically referred to him as an inspiration and used superlatives for his shooting prowess, heading ability and football craft. He also had an enviable reputation for sportsmanship and gentlemanly behaviour.
He represented Wellington 19 times in the period 1928 to 1939, scoring 15 goals. But so few were the international games played in those years that it wasn’t until 1936 that Andy was selected to play for New Zealand. He played in one game against the visiting Australian team, was injured, and then in 1937 was selected for all three tests against the visiting England amateur team.
After the War there were not enough players for a club senior team, so over the 1946-48 period Andy kept the Petone flag flying and focussed on coaching youth, including local representative teams. There are no club records surviving from much of the 1940s but we do know that Andy was often the link with the Wellington Football Association and that his presence and service over these difficult years helped significantly to ensure the club’s survival and eventual resurgence.
But his major contribution over this period in terms of lasting effect was to team up in 1949 with our first centurion Peter McVean and former captain Jimmy Campbell to visit the many post-war immigrants from Britain staying at the Fort Dorset army camp in Seatoun. They were there to encourage the immigrants to play football for Petone, and their mission was so successful that eventually enough players were secured to fill three teams. Andy then coached the resulting 1st team, which became known as the “Settlers”, to win the 1949 Chatham Cup competition from the depths of the Wellington 3rd division equivalent.
Andy went on to put in a lot of work in serving the Club as a coach of club teams, as a selector, and as a management committee member through to the early 1960s. Sadly, he passed away ahead of his time in 1964.
In acknowledging Andy’s contribution to the club in 1945 with our inaugural life membership, club members would not have known just what a foundation rock Andy was to be over the whole 36 years he was with us – on and off the field.