Vodafone Warriors to mark stalwart's passing

New Zealand sport has lost one its most passionate and dedicated administrators following the death last night of rugby league stalwart Bernard (Bernie) Wood.


Made a New Zealand Rugby League life member in 2008, Wood passed away at his Wellington home with his family beside him.


The Vodafone Warriors will mark Woods contribution to the game before their NRL match against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Westpac Stadium on May 11, a night when the Auckland-based franchise will play in the black and gold Wellington colours which defined one of Woods many rugby league causes.


A fiercely proud West Coaster, he spent much of his life in the Capital where he was devoted to the code in the broadest sense but with a burning passion for all things Wellington-related.


This desire would sometimes manifest itself in equal measures of doggedness, feistiness and more than a little parochialism but Woods sheer lust for the game couldnt be denied.


He revelled in fighting for what he believed in for the betterment of rugby league. Particularly memorable were the often-heated exchanges when he and the late George Rainey, then wearing his Auckland Rugby League hat, went into verbal combat over matters relating to Auckland and Wellington.


Educated at Marist Brothers Boys' School in Greymouth, Wood was a New Zealand Schoolboy Kiwi in 1954 and played three years at senior level with the successful Marist club before transferring to Wellington where he also linked with Marist and ultimately became a serial rugby league administrator, as he has been described.


For 24 consecutive years he served as either secretary-treasurer or chairman of the Wellington Rugby League, rising to become the NZRLs deputy chairman in 1992; he remained a director for 10 years. Among his other positions, he managed age group Kiwi teams in Australia and, in 1995, organised the first New Zealand women's rugby league tournament in Nelson.


Another notable achievement could be found in 1990 when he was a driving force in helping to organise the New Zealand sesquicentennial rugby union-rugby league doubleheader at Athletic Park. The league match between the Kiwis and Australia drew a crowd of 28,000, the biggest attendance recorded for a rugby league match in the Capital.


In his roles for local, regional and national rugby league bodies, it has been estimated he raised more than $8 million over 50 years including $1 million to fund the national club competition in the 1990s, and organising the entry of rugby league into TAB's sports betting where the NZRL earns ongoing commission.


Apart from his work as an administrator, Wood wrote extensively about rugby league for a number of outlets and produced and edited the New Zealand Rugby League Annual for 25 years up until 2002.


He was also a noted rugby league and trotting historian, producing major works with John Coffey on the Kiwis, the Auckland Rugby League and the Maori Rugby League; Wood additionally wrote Flying Sulkies in 1981 and The Cup: History of the New Zealand Trotting Cup in 2003.


As recently as last year Wood secured $1.6 million in funding for an all-weather rugby league turf at Ascot Park, home to the New Zealand Rugby Leagues 2011 club of the year the Porirua Vikings. Wood had been the clubs president since 2005.


Of Woods contribution to the Vikings, club chair Pania Houkamau-Ngaheu said: He treats our members as an extension of his family and his love of rugby league is unbelievable.


Our Porirua children have benefited enormously from his energy considering we only had 10 teams a few years ago and now we have 29."