Mr. Robin Doyle, Mr. Craig Wickes, Mr. Ian Colquhoun

Farewell - Mr. Robin 'Digger' Doyle

We wish Mr. Doyle all the best for his retirement after an exceptional period of service (1973 - 2020) to Palmerston North Boys' High School.

While Mr. Doyle will not be teaching at Palmerston North Boys' High School, he will continue in his role as a fitness trainer for a number of our first teams.

Alongside the farewell article (below) which appears in the 2021 Palmerstonian magazine, a number of Old Boys who Mr. Doyle has coached and mentored over the years have shared some of their memories.

Mr. Robin Doyle — Image by: PNBHS

"Anecdotes: From one of Diggers ‘Originals‘ (his first athletics group of PNBHS sprinters – 1973)

‘Digger ‘ his record of athletic achievement at PNBHS is exemplary starting with training a small group of kids with lots of natural ability into becoming a New Zealand champion winning relay team and making kids believe in themselves, turning country boys into NZ ranked sprinters.

Local, Provincial and National winning status for anyone in ‘Diggers’ squad was what it was all about and hence started the legacy of ‘Digger’ Doyle – ‘Digs ‘ to those that got to know him well.

Digger had a heart of gold, he was very dedicated and would go that extra mile for anyone but he would try and hide that side of his personality with razor-sharp wit and comments that would make you laugh, while at the same time they were cutting you to the core, bringing you back to earth and back to reality about not getting too ‘big-headed’ ( keeping you focussed so that you would train harder and perform to your best ).

Diggers low key, old school approach was legendary like wearing corduroys (the same pair for years) and the same shoes that went with them, keeping the same car for years (a mini at first – I don’t know how many times it had been round the clock before he reluctantly sold it and then upgrading to a Honda Accord in the 80’s which he still has!! ) while all the time still living at College House as a boarding master for forty-seven years.  These were some of the things that made Digger an icon and masked the generous, caring teacher that those that knew him and were lucky enough to be chosen to be in his training squad, remember. – he is a star and a real gem who still keeps in touch with many of his sprinters who have known him over the years, what he leaves behind will never be matched – it was a privilege to be part of his athletics teams and I salute the ‘master’ practitioner and wish him well for his retirement – Thankyou Digs !!"

PNBHS Athletics - 1973 NZ Relay Champions — Image by: Martin Genet
PNBHS Athletics - 1974 team in Whanganui — Image by: Martin Genet

Martin Genet, PNBHS 1973 - 1977

"I can remember one thing my now-deceased younger brother Duncan McKay used to often recall Digger yelling across the grounds at Athletics training - Knees up …. “don’t spew”!The saying I recall most is that if you don’t behave I will “Blow your lights out”.

He was a man of few words, but when he did speak it only took a few words to get the message across.

He was a fast winger on the rugby field too. He meant a lot to Duncan - I guess a lot of the great athletes from PNBHS owe a lot to Digger Doyle - Craig Wickes too! He got those with talent to use it! I wasn’t quite fast enough ;-)"

Craig McKay, PNBHS 1977 - 1981

Mr. Robin Doyle — Image by: PNBHS

"Digger, my first memories of you were as a third former in your PE class and you taking us out to throw a softball.

Once I’d thrown it you said, Wickes you’ve got the fast-twitch fibre which means you can run fast, would I like to try out for our athletic team?

Obviously I said yes and I can honestly say it was a great choice. I enjoyed athletics immensely all the way through PNBHS schooling years. The success we had as a relay teams and me personally was just the by-product. The real satisfaction for me was doing an individual sport that you and you alone got the rewards for all the effort one put in. Didn’t matter if it was the 20 x 3 high knee raisers, pulling the tyre for 40mtrs through the school quad at lunchtime or the multiply sprints or practice starts we did at training.

Digger you’re coaching, dedication to the sport and all the boys you have taught and the success they have achieved is a testament to you. Without teachers like yourself, minor sports would be lost in schools. PNBHS will miss you greatly

On a personal level, I would not have found the love of running, the level of athletic success or being able to make the rugby teams I played for without your involvement. For that, I can’t thank you enough. Both mum and dad appreciated all the additional effort you put in and the times you came around home for a chat.

Hope you keep well in your retirement, will catch you up for a beer when I’m in Palmy next.

Mr. Robin Doyle, Mr. Craig Wickes, Mr. Ian Colquhoun

Thanks again Digg

Regards Craig Wickes (Wickesy)"  

Craig Wickes, PNBHS 1976 - 1980

"When thinking back on my time at Boys' High, Digger is the first thing that comes to mind. He was, and in many ways continues to be a big influence on my life. It was Digger who spotted me running around a hockey field and asked if I would like to try out for his athletics squad, introducing me to a sport that gave me so much. Over the years that followed he proceeded to guide & coach me towards multiple national championship victories, national records and international representation. Those learnings I received from him, centred around humility, goal setting, hard work and perseverance continue to serve me well in my career today.

Digger was always a perfectionist, and he never really let you know if you'd done something well, let alone extraordinary. In 1999 I was fortunate enough to win the National Secondary Schools 400m, breaking the national record in the process. After the race, I returned to the grandstand to where Digger was camped out. Feeling pleased with myself and expecting some praise, Digger looked at me with his usual sly smile and commented "that went alright ay, so how are you feeling for the relay?". I knew he was proud of that effort, but he was never going to show it, and that smile was good enough for me.

Digger always knew the effort that his athletes put in at training, and without ever asking for thanks he reciprocated that effort with his own dedication. One year the school was putting together its Gridiron team and tryouts were announced. I eagerly rocked up hoping to make the team, however before I could even run on the field Digger appeared from College House and told me to go home, shouting that he “wasn't going to let me get poleaxed by some meat head in a helmet after all the hard work we'd put in”. Later that year, on the starting line of the national championship final I thought back on that incident and said to myself "if I have to give up things for this sport, I'm gonna give it my all, even if I run myself into the ground'. I went on to win that race, my first-ever national title and qualified for the World Junior Championships. Not only had Digger provided the tools to win but also the motivation!

I have many fond memories from our training sessions, trips around the country and competitions - too many to fit into such a short piece of writing. I’m glad to see him slowly slipping into retirement though and I hope that he understands the positive impact he has had on the lives of his athletes and students. If you ever take a look at the photos of the many national championship-winning teams and athletes that hang on the walls throughout the school, regardless of the sport, there’s a consistent element across all of them. He’s not necessarily standing in the photo, but his name is always there, and it always will be.

Thanks Digger!"

Sam Higgie, PNBHS 1995 - 1999

Mr. Robin Doyle — Image by: PNBHS

"Robin Doyle ran the morning fitness and speed sessions for the 1st XV between 2004 and 2009. He was totally committed to this role and his insight with speed training and modification of his training techniques kept the players motivated and working hard. Robin inspired the young men and during this period many excelled under his tutelage and guidance. Many players continued on to become professional players and speak very highly of ‘Diggers’ involvement and the influence he had on their training and development."

Rhys Archibald PNBHS staff member 1996 - 2009, former PNBHS 1st XV Coach

"In the mid 70’s Twilight Cricket took off in Palmerston North, PNBHS had a staff team including Ted Meuli and Alec Astle – Robin was a reasonably sharp bowler-we always had a drink after the game in the Fitzherbert (not the student bar) when we returned to College House we had to find our own dinner, Robin called me over one night to check on his cooking-he had poached eggs and saveloys in the same pot!!!

· Robin’s corduroy trousers were always worn till they looked like moleskins

· Robin always finished his duty night by coming to the Hostel Manager's House looking for the newspaper-he would never knock but sing out you hoo-we often sat in the dark, apparently, this tradition has continued.

· Robin bought his Honda in 1985 - he is disappointed that he can no longer get parts for the car, they don’t make them anymore.

· Robin had special affiliations with a large number of CH students, Ben Funnell being right up there in that regard, he was in Christchurch for his wedding.  Former PNBHS teacher, College House Master and 1st XV coach Rhys Archibald has also been a close contact, Robin always took the side of the “hard cases” like the Hansen brothers.

· Robin’s language when coaching was special - "put ice on the egg" (kick the ball high).

· Robin and Ian Colquhoun had a special relationship, they enjoyed coaching together."

Stephen Kissick, PNBHS staff member 1974 - 2007, College House Manager 1984 - 1988.

"There are many stories to be told about Robin.

One saying that I will always remember when trying to cover up some mischief would be Digger replying, "don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining!" - maybe not appropriate for the Palmerstonian but may make for some better reading.

Robin has a great deal of practical knowledge. He may not have the skillset of technology that a NEW AGE teacher has but makes up for this shortfall in been approachable and willing to teach students effectively to become better athletes and people. I will be forever grateful for Digger's friendship and the positive effect he had on my rugby career from amateur to professional."

Ben Funnell, PNBHS 2004 - 2008

"Congratulations Mr. Doyle (although I've only ever called you Sir or Dig's) on an amazing career at PNBHS. You have had such a major impact on so many of us, that you will forever go down as one of the true legends of School. You plucked me out of 3rd form during Athletics day and told me that if I tried hard enough, that I could win the 100m junior boys. I didn't even think I would make the final. After winning the event (like you said I could), we never looked back. I immediately became a "Digger's boy" and trained under your guidance and mentorship for the rest of my days at school. You always backed my ability and gave me the confidence to train harder than I ever thought possible. We went through a lot together, but my highlight would have to be my last race for Palmy Boys' and as a "Digger's boy". To bring home the national 4 x 100m title in 1996 for you and the school, was a day I will never forget. I hope you look back on that day in Wanganui with a classic wry "Dig's" smile and say eeerrr not bad ; ). All the best in your retirement. 


To be honest it's hard to put into a few short words. He meant so much to me and my life as a young man, and he definitely helped me in becoming the person I am today."

Nigel Weekes (Weekesy), PNBHS 1992 - 1996

Mr. Robin Doyle — Image by: PNBHS

“As has been the case for many boys over the years, my first meeting with Mr. Doyle was soon after finishing my leg for Phoenix club in a relay at the annual school athletics championship in the mid 2000's. Before long, I started training under him and quickly became aware of his knowledge, passion and commitment towards athletics. He has a keen eye for talent and has a reputation of spotting raw ability and developing it to perform at the highest level. I have often heard Mr. Doyle say that "nothing comes before training", which sums up his 'no excuses' approach.”

Shaun McFarlane, PNBHS 2004 - 2008, current PNBHS Physical Education teacher


"Where to start….I could go on and on about stories Mr. Doyle used to tell the boys and I when training. He loves a good yarn and in athletics training and competing there is a lot of downtime, so there was more than enough time to tell them. Maybe I might be part of those yarns these days.

One of my first encounters with Mr. Doyle was in early 1998 when I had him for 3rd form PE. Coincidence or luck? I remember talking to him around athletics and said I was running in Whanganui that weekend.

During that weekend Mr. Doyle spoke with my old man around running and he said I was more than welcome to go and train with them after school. That week my room teacher Mr. Durie came up to me and said, “I hear you are going to train with Mr Doyle?, All I will say is don’t piss him around”. I was like, “yeah all good”.

I guess the rest is history.

  • 11 PNBHS School records
  • Manawatu Records
  • North Island Records
  • 5 Secondary School championships (4 x 200m and 1 x 4x100m)
  • 4 x U18 National championships and 2 x U20 National championships
  • Oceania Championships for New Zealand
  • Youth Olympics
  • U18 World Champs
  • 2 x U20 World Champs
  • Along with Multiple competitions in Australia.

Achievements aside, most of the time Mr. Doyle and I would talk about school and how it was going. He was aware of my learning struggles and was more worried about that, than how I was running and what the stopwatch said.

When I hit 6th form, Year 12. I was repeating 5th form English as well as 6th form classes. Mr. Doyle’s interest in my schooling went up a level. Every day we spoke about School. During that year he heard about my Geo exam result, which to be fair was poor - 38%. He asked what I had been doing and who I was sitting with. Funny enough I was sitting and chatting with Ross Taylor in class. When I told him this he said, “it might be an idea to sit next to someone else”. Turns out he was right. Come the end of the year I got 58%. Sorry Ross.

Throughout my final years at school Mr. Doyle would arrange for other teachers to give up their lunchtimes to tutor me on whatever subject I needed help with. These are the lengths he went to to ensure I succeeded in both running and in the classroom.

This is the greatest quality of Mr. Doyle. Yes, he may have been my athletics coach, but it didn’t stop there.

Though his persistence around my schooling I was able to achieve

  • 5th form school Cert
  • 6th form Cert
  • University entrance in 7th form
  • Then a University Degree in Bachelor of Exercise and training

For this I am forever thankful.

The final thing that I would say about Mr. Doyle is that he gave you the confidence to believe in yourself and the belief that nothing is unachievable. To bet on yourself and to give everything a good go. I feel very fortunate to have had Mr. Doyle as a coach and teacher and I don’t think I would be where I am if it wasn’t for him.

So thank you Mr. Doyle.

HT"

Hayden Townsend, PNBHS 1998 - 2002

Palmerstonian Farewell Article for Mr. Robin Doyle

"The conclusion of the 2020 school year marks the end of a very long association with Palmerston North Boys’ High School and College House for Mr. Robin Doyle. Mr. Doyle, or ‘Digger’ as he is known to several generations of young men, parents and grandparents, has served Palmy Boys since February 1st, 1973 when he was appointed to a permanent teaching position. During that year Mr. Doyle was appointed to the position of House Master at College House. He has continued to work in both of these roles, uninterrupted, since those appointments, an incredible example of the passion he has for teaching, coaching and the welfare of young men. Mr. Doyle has become very much an icon of both Palmerston North Boys’ High School and College House, as recognisable to hundreds of young men and Old Boys as the buildings of the school themselves.

Mr. Doyle is an extremely knowledgeable teacher of Physical Education whose interest lies in the development of young men’s practical skills, general aerobic fitness, general ‘game sense’ and decision making in game situations. While he has long been involved in the coaching of elite level athletes, he is also passionate about ensuring all young men have the opportunity to build a skill set and fitness base so that they can be involved in sporting activities at all levels. He is a strong believer in the importance of life-long physical activity for general health and wellbeing.

Mr. Robin Doyle — Image by: PNBHS

Mr. Doyle is an avid reader of coaching and sports-related material and is often able to apply the latest research or sports theory to a particular situation. In more recent years he has taught Year 10 classes that have included many of our talented athletes to help ensure they had a good fitness and skill base for the various sporting codes they are involved with. Following the introduction of the Sports Development programme he has focused his expertise on young men involved in individual sports and has worked to develop sport-specific training programmes.

Mr. Doyle has been the PNBHS Athletics selector and coach for many years and has accompanied the team to countless Manawatū Inter Secondary Schools, North Island Secondary Schools and New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics championships. His presence at the finish line of the PNBHS Athletics Championships, School Road Race, School Cross Country and Junior Road Race, stopwatch in hand, will be sorely missed.

Old Boy, Mr. Martin Genet was one of Mr. Doyle’s ‘originals’ – his first squad of sprinters in 1973 and recalls: “Digger had a heart of gold, he was very dedicated and would go that extra mile for anyone but he would try and hide that side of his personality with razor-sharp wit and comments that would make you laugh while at the same time they were cutting you to the core, bringing you back to earth and back to reality about not getting too ‘big-headed’ (keeping you focused so that you would train harder and perform to your best).”

Old Boy Nigel Weekes was another sprinter whom Mr. Doyle was to have a significant influence on: “You have had such a major impact on so many of us, that you will forever go down as one of the true legends of School. You plucked me out of 3rd form during Athletics day, and told me that if I tried hard enough, that I could win the 100m junior boys. I didn't even think I would make the final. After winning the event (like you said I could), we never looked back.”

Old Boy Mr. Sam Higgie, a former member of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics team and national titleholder recalled: “When thinking back on my time at Boys' High, Digger is the first thing that comes to mind. He was, and in many ways continues to be, a big influence on my life. It was Digger who spotted me running around a hockey field and asked if I would like to try out for his athletics squad, introducing me to a sport that gave me so much. Over the years that followed he proceeded to guide and coach me towards multiple national championship victories, national records and international representation. Those learnings I received from him, centred around humility, goal setting, hard work and perseverance continue to serve me well in my career today.”

Mr. Shaun McFarlane, Old Boy and current PNBHS Physical Education teacher – formerly one of Mr. Doyle’s sprint protégés – shared some of his memories: “As has been the case for many boys over the years, my first meeting with Mr. Doyle was soon after finishing my leg for Phoenix club in a relay at the annual school athletics championship in the mid-2000s. Before long, I started training under him and quickly became aware of his knowledge, passion and commitment towards athletics. He has a keen eye for talent and has a reputation of spotting raw ability and developing it to perform at the highest level. I have often heard Mr. Doyle say that "nothing comes before training", which sums up his 'no excuses' approach.”

Mr. Robin Doyle — Image by: PNBHS

Mr. Doyle has had a long association with PNBHS ‘first teams’, in particular the 1st XV. He worked alongside renowned 1st XV coach Mr. Ian Colquhoun for many years where he had roles focused on the development of individual skills and team fitness and coached many future representative players. In more recent years he was involved with the introduction of morning trainings for our top sports teams to ensure that our young men were in top physical condition. He has also been involved with speed and conditioning work with the 1st XI Hockey, 1st XI Football and 1st XI Cricket teams.

Old Boy and former All Black Mr. Craig Wickes: “On a personal level I would not have found the love of running, the level of athletic success or being able to make the rugby teams I played for without your involvement. For that I can’t thank you enough. Both mum and dad appreciated all the additional effort you put in and the times you came around home for a chat.”

Former PNBHS 1st XV coach Mr. Rhys Archibald commented: “Robin Doyle ran the morning fitness and speed sessions for the 1st XV between 2004 and 2009. He was totally committed to this role and his insight with speed training and modification of his training techniques kept the players motivated and working hard. Robin inspired the young men and during this period many excelled under his tutelage and guidance. Many players continued on to become professional players and speak very highly of ‘Digger’s’ involvement and the influence he had on their training and development.”

For the last 35 years, Mr. Doyle has organised the PNBHS Indoor Cricket league which has provided a fun and competitive environment for some of our cricketers to hone their skills over the winter season. On a wet Friday afternoon, he will often check on the wellbeing of the coaches of outdoor winter sports, noting that he will be warm and dry at indoor cricket.

College House has been both a home and a place of work for Mr. Doyle since 1973. He is passionate about the benefits of boarding for young men and has an affinity for the ‘boys from the backblocks’ in particular. Former College House manager Mr. Steven Kissick noted the positive relationships that Mr. Doyle formed with many of the ‘hard case’ young men, such as the Hansen brothers from Whanganui, and he frequently regales the hostel staff with stories from their time in the hostel.

Current College House manager, Mr. Matt Davidson, comments: “Robin "Digger" Doyle became a College House Master in 1973 when College House was under the management of Mr. Ian Coquhoun. Mr. Doyle has dedicated a lifetime to College House and the countless young men that have resided within its gates. Mr. Doyle's dry sense of humour and myriad of sayings (fondly known as "Diggerisms") have been a mainstay of College House life over the past five decades.

College House Staff 2020 — Image by: PNBHS

As a keen sportsman, Mr. Doyle has given hours of his time to get the best out of young athletes, both within school and College House. As an accomplished athletics coach, Mr. Doyle has ensured the readiness of Murray Club members on many an athletics day with sound advice, training and the traditional motivational speech before Athletics Day.

Running events is another of Mr. Doyle's passions. Many Murray Club runners have benefited from the advice given by Mr. Doyle, particularly in the Road Race and Cross Country Shand Shield events. Many College House Old Boys' and staff remember their time in College House with Mr. Doyle fondly. His quick wit and no-nonsense attitude are unique and contributed to Mr. Doyle being a well-respected Master.

Mr. Doyle continues to reside at College House and still gives up his time to supervise prep and help with Shand Shield events. I am sure he will look back on his teaching career fondly as will the hosts of young men that have been taught or resided with him at College House.”

Mr. Doyle’s direct involvement with Palmerston North Boys’ High School reached a very fitting conclusion in December 2020 at the New Zealand Secondary School Athletics Championships. For the first time, the school won both the junior boys 4 x 100m relay and the senior boys 4 x 100m relay. This was a fantastic achievement for both the young men involved in these teams and for Mr. Doyle.

Mr. Doyle has provided significant service to both Palmerston North Boys’ High School and College House. We sincerely thank him for his commitment to our young men over the last 47 years and wish him all the best for his well-deserved retirement."