Celebrating 90 years of Selwyn vs Knox sports rivalry

A University of Otago college competition with a colourful history is celebrating its 90th anniversary with the rivalry as fierce as ever.

Written by UO Communications Adviser Sean Flaherty (for the Otago Bulletin)

A University of Otago college competition with a colourful history is celebrating its 90th anniversary with the rivalry as fierce as ever.

The Cameron Shield, contested between Selwyn and Knox, is the original showdown between Otago colleges that pre-dates the University’s annual inter college competitions.

This year’s shield was won by Knox College, bringing the running total to Selwyn 46, Knox 44 – not that anyone’s counting (they are really).

“Knox cleaned up early on but Selwyn’s being doing pretty well since 2014,” says Selwyn College Warden Luke McClelland with a small hint of pride.

This year’s women’s rugby game, one of the final events on the Cameron calendar, was typically hotly contested.

“The game was a classic Selwyn-Knox nail biter, with Selwyn scoring the winning try seconds before the final whistle.  Final score 24-22 to Selwyn.”

The shield, named after the Rev Dr Andrew Cameron, grew out of the “friendly” sporting rivalry between Selwyn and Knox, Otago’s first two male-only colleges.

“Winning the Cameron Shield became almost an obsession with the two colleges, and often tended to dominate life in them,” one history notes.

Over time various sports have been added or dropped. For example, the traditional game of fives was replaced by “indoor basketball” in 1959.

The current prominence of women’s rugby is testament to a more recent evolution which started when the colleges became unisex in the 1980s. It took a little longer for the women’s events to be awarded equal points as the men – but they got there after a constitutional change.

Cultural competitions, where students battle it out for the Neville Cup, have also been folded into the rivalry.

That keen sense of competition possibly reached its peak – or its nadir depending how you look at it – when the shield was stolen from the wall of the Selwyn dining hall in 2005.

The thieves evaded security to make off with the heavy oak shield – along with a gavel and 14 salt and pepper shakers.

The shield and gavel were returned anonymously a few days later but the salt and pepper shakers were never found.

The return of the shield allowed that year’s event to get underway but there seemed a shadow over the first contest, the men’s cricket. Winners Knox were quoted by Critic as saying: “We played cricket but don’t know what game Selwyn were playing.”

“If only the shield could talk, they’d be a few stories to tell!” Luke says.

Planning and organisation starts early each year and gives ex-residents a chance stay engaged with the colleges through coaching roles.

Selwyn Sports Representative Anna Engelbrecht says: “The Cam Shield is an awesome part of our shared tradition that is actively upheld by each community and previous residents who coach the sporting teams.  The competition forms a big part of our yearly calendar and takes a bit of organising but is so worth it given it’s part our culture”

By Selwyn College | Posted: Saturday October 29, 2022