John Walker RIP

John Walker, the founding chairman of Melville United’s parent club Waikato United, has died (November 18), aged 90, after spending several years in residential care.


Melville United offers it condolences to John’s family ahead of a private service.

Walker was a key figure in Hamilton AFC in the 1970s and was elected club president in 1986, after which he worked hard to heal a fractious divide in Waikato football.

Under his leadership Hamilton AFC and Claudelands Rovers settled their differences and in 1988 were able to bring national league football back to the region through the composite club structure of Waikato United.

United won the Chatham Cup in their very first season of existence, and Walker was later named administrator of the year at the Waikato Sports Awards.

Walker chaired the club for the first three years, after which he retired. Waikato amalgamated with Melville AFC in 1996 to form Melville United.

Having emigrated from Scotland in his early 20s, Walker’s playing career was cut short by a horrific leg break but he become an important figure in football off the pitch in Hamilton. In 1967 he formed John Walker Printers, and in the early 1970s his professional background assisted Hamilton AFC to publish some of the first club match programmes in New Zealand featuring match photographs.

John was also a very hard worker in undertaking fundraising ventures in an era before pokie funding, and on at least three occasions got Hamilton AFC out of difficulties.

Despite having built a highly successful business, John was a frugal, practical man who was unimpressed by airs, graces and pretentiousness, and had a habit of speaking bluntly, though remained highly respected in football and was well regarded by Waikato United’s players.

Melville chairman Bruce Holloway, who served under Walker’s chairmanship on the Waikato United board in 1990, said he deserved to be held in the highest regard for a lengthy contribution to the code.

“John was a staunch defender of his club(s), knowledgeable on football and life in general, and very well connected in the wider community,” he said.

“Few have worked harder than John in the annals of Waikato football.”

A fuller tribute to John will be published later in the week.

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