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Obituary NZTBA Life Member Robin Archer

NZTBA Life Member Robin Archer

NZTBA Life Member Robin Archer


From the All Blacks to Sunline, a life of exceptional sporting achievement

NZTBA Life Member William Roberts “Robin” Archer, who died in Auckland on 9 March 2018 aged 87, was successful in business, active in the community, and achieved fame in rugby and racing.

Born in Invercargill and raised in Gore, Robin was a member of a notable Southland sporting family, and initially attracted attention as a member of the talented 1946-48 Gore High School First XV. That experience, combined with a sharp analytical mind, a thirst for constant improvement and a fierce competitiveness, fuelled a distinguished two-decade rugby career in the first-five eighths position.

Robin gained his first senior representative honour in Dunedin where he was selected for Otago in 1953 while studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics at Otago University. He gained national recognition playing for Rest of New Zealand, a New Zealand XV and New Zealand Universities in 1954 and became All Black No. 563 in the first two Tests against Australia in 1955.

After 24 matches for Otago Robin returned to his home union and played the rest of his career for Southland. The First and Third Tests against the Springboks in the great series of 1956 and eight matches on the 1957 Tour of Australia completed his All Black career, but he continued to be one of the country’s best first-fives for another ten years.

Arguably, Robin’s finest moments came in the Southland jersey he wore 91 times, including as the captain of the team that defied all expectations to lift the Ranfurly Shield from Taranaki in 1959.

Robin was named Southland’s Sportsman of the Year in 1961, and five years later, at the age of 35, he was the outstanding general of the Southland side which stunned the touring 1966 British Lions side in their opening match with a 14-8 victory.

In 1957 Robin married Muriel Charleson, who supported and shared all his sporting interests, especially thoroughbred horse racing and breeding. They were enthusiastic racegoers at meetings around Southland & Otago, as well as Riccarton, Trentham and Flemington, missing only two Melbourne Cups between 1979 and 2010. They also bred and raced horses together for more than 50 years, many wearing the red-and-white Archer silks modelled on the Gore Pioneer Rugby Club colours.

Robin & Muriel’s major achievements in thoroughbred breeding stemmed from their 1981 purchase of a yearling filly by Alvaro out of Honey Carlyle. Named McAngus, she was trained in Gore by Alan Borthwick to a pair of metropolitan wins and a series of stakes placings, and gained immortality as the dam of three-time New Zealand Broodmare of the Year Songline, and grand-dam of Australian & New Zealand Hall of Fame champion Sunline. 

The Archers enjoyed racing success with a charismatic grandson of Honey Carlyle, Philamor, trained by Tony Cole at Te Kauwhata to win five races including the 2003 Avondale Guineas G2 and Waikato Guineas G3. Other Archer-raced stakeswinners were Bolton (1986 Dunedin Guineas) and the Richard Collett-trained Alegrio (13 wins including the 2009 Southland Guineas). 

Robin ably pursued business interests as the Managing Director of Archer Building Contractors Ltd, and later as Chairman of the private property and bloodstock company Archer Corporation Ltd.  He and Muriel raised their family in Gore, then moved to Christchurch in 1989 where they lived for 22 years before a final move to Auckland in 2011.

Robin’s community service included terms as President of the Gore Racing Club and on the Council of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association after many years’ involvement with the NZTBA Southland Branch. He was awarded Life Membership of the NZTBA in 2000.

Robin & Muriel’s three children have all pursued careers connected with sport. Susan Archer was the NZTBA’s Media Officer for ten years alongside her husband, former Chief Executive Michael Martin. Susan has worked since 2010 as the Communications Manager with leading Australian farm Arrowfield Stud. Her sister Kate Agnew is the Head of Events & International at Netball New Zealand, while Les Archer manages the family company, and is a former director of Cullen Sports & Westbury Stud and a past member of the New Zealand Warriors’ Football Advisory Board.

Robin Archer is survived by Muriel, Susan, Kate & Les, sons-in-law Michael Martin & Don Agnew, daughter-in-law Katie Bundle, and grand-children Thomas & Alexandra, Georgia & Bridget and Isaac, Sarah & Matthew.

Philamor - painted by artist Barbara Lewis with Reece Jones aboard wearing the Archer red-and-white silks

Philamor - painted by artist Barbara Lewis with Reece Jones aboard wearing the Archer red-and-white silks


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