It’s a good thing the Wooden Cup women’s hockey and men’s rugby matches between St Bathans and Becks are a friendly rivalry, as anything more could fracture friendships and split spousal ties.

St Bathans rugby coach, manager and former player Phil Smith first played for the team when he moved to the town in 1992, but is viewed by current neighbours as something of a traitor now he lives in Becks. That probably pales beside the strife his wife, Janet, gives him, as she coaches the Becks women’s hockey team.

A tale of two towns . . . St Bathans player Nicole Dowling (centre) tries to break the ball free of Becks players Anna Duncan (left) and Rosie O’Brien during the match for the hockey Wooden Cup.

Mr Smith said the matches originated between the Irish and Welsh miners back in gold rush days, but the Wooden Cups (one for each sport) had only been in existence since 1948.

A humble prize . . . Wooden cups for women’s hockey and men’s rugby have been vied for by St Bathans and Becks since 1948.

In addition to bringing the community together, the matches raised $3000 towards maintenance of the Becks Memorial Hall and a further $300 for the Omakau first responders.

The cups had not been played for since 2020 because of Covid, before which both were won by Becks for four consecutive years.

St Bathans bit back this year, winning the rugby 45-31, and the women notching up a 5-3 win to take the hockey cup for the first time since 2013.

Hockey players of the day were Hope Oliver for Becks and Nicole Dowling for St Bathans.

The rugby players of the day were Daniel Adam and Sam Jopp for St Bathans and Chris Pemberton and Sam Porter for Becks.

At 52, Matt Fowler was the oldest player.

Community support . . . Spectators watch the match between St Bathans and Becks for the rugby Wooden Cup early this month.

Next year marks the competition’s 75th anniversary. Organisers were keen to hear from anyone able to help plan the festivities.