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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Prominent Players of the Past

Prominent Players of the Past

The first Rugby club in Poverty Bay was formed at Ormond in April, 1876, by members of the Armed Constabulary. It was followed by the Gisborne Football Club in July, 1878. Those were the days when a maulin-goal provided a gladiatorial struggle which always greatly pleased the onlookers. A Napier F.C. team (led by W. L. Rees) met Poverty Bay on 26/7/1878 on Captain Read's paddock at Te Hapara. Poverty Bay was represented by J. White, H. te Kani Pere, F. Arthur, C. E. Major, P. H. Bourke, Epiha Parau, J. Regan, E. F. Ward, G. R. Wyllie, G. F. Henderson (captain), G. L. Meredith (author of Adventures in Maoriland in the 'Seventies), H. Humphries, W. S. H. Haig, G. J. Winter and Wi Mackey. Napier won by 4 points (two tries) to nil. In a return match at Farndon on 3/9/1878, W. S. Hart, D. Ferguson and W. B. Mill replaced Ward, Haig and Mackey. Napier again won by 4 points to nil. In 1879 J. W. Nolan was captain, and associated with him were: R. Image, W. B. Mill, H. te Kani Pere, C. E. Major, A. Paine, F. Skeet, J. Sievking, J. White, C. Dunlop, F. Morgan, E. Parau, H. Humphries, T. Halbert and F. Greer. Napier won by 2 points to nil.

In 1886 the Gisborne Football Club decided to adhere strictly to the English Rugby Union rules. The Union Club (formed on 31/3/1886) page 436 also agreed to do so. Captain Tucker allowed both clubs to use a paddock belonging to the Riparata Estate. It became known as “Tucker's Paddock,” and, for a number of years, it was the principal Rugby field in Gisborne. When Poverty Bay met Wairoa for the first time (28/8/1886) the Poverty Bay team was: Full-back, E. F. Sage; half-backs, G. Staite, J. H. Bull (captain) and Higgins; quarter-backs, Symons and Morgan; forwards—Colebourne, Pavitt, Arundel (2), Boland, A. W. Rees, Bourke, Riki and Dunlop. Poverty Bay won, 17–0.

The Poverty Bay Rugby Union (formed on 30 August, 1890) adopted the Auckland Rugby Union rules. By then the Union Club had been replaced by Turanganui Club (formed in 1889). Waimata also had a good team. The first team known as Takitimu was composed chiefly of Muriwai natives. As its forwards were reputed to delight in kicking in the scrums, their opponents usually insisted that they should play without boots! Other country teams also sprang up. In 1892 a lease of Tucker's Paddock was obtained for five years. Affiliation with the N.Z.R.U. followed.

Prominent players in the 1890's included: J. B. Poynter, Rua, M., E. R. and J. R. Murphy, J. Fisher, R. D. B. Robinson, F. Bayly, J. A. Eaton, Ryburn, J. J. Martin, Tutere, Richardson, L. Sherriff, F. Loomb, G. F. Crawford, E. Forrest, Goodall, E. Langford, A. W. and Teddy Rees, Reg. Caulton and E. Rodgers. Caulton had played for Wellington in 1889 against the Native team which had toured Britain, and for Auckland in 1890 and 1891. Joe Martin was a member of the “rep.” team which Auckland sent on tour in 1895. In 1901 the district system (sponsored by W. B. Miller) was adopted, but, after a trial, the club system was reverted to. By 1909 there were clubs as follows: Alhambra, Kaiti-City, Y.M.C.A., West End, United, Gisborne, Red Stars, Muriwai (previously Takitimu, which had united with Huia), Te Karaka, Te Kura and Mangatu.


Lieutenant Autiri Pitara Kaipara was, for some years, Poverty Bay's star inside back. He and Wi Friday made a pair whose trickiness was always a treat to watch. His brilliant play against Auckland in 1909 led the New Zealand Herald critic to remark: “Kaipara delighted the crowd with his bumping, reminding them of Davie Gage.” Whilst he was in Australia with Parata's Maori team in 1910 the Sydney Bulletin described him as being “as sharp as a needle and as slippery as an cel.” In 1913 an Auckland critic referred to him as “The Wizard.” When war broke out in 1914 he at once volunteered. Invalided home from Gallipoli, he spent a few months with his parents at Rotorua, and then rejoined the 1st Maoris, who were then in France, and was posted to “D” Company of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion. During the wiring of the posts in front of La Basseville on 3 August, 1917, he was killed by a piece of shell whilst assisting to carry Te Tuhi (his wounded batman) into a sap.

Major William Nicol Carson, M.C., became a Poverty Bay junior “rep.” in 1933. During the 1936 season he represented Auckland on seven occasions. The Rugby Almanack of New Zealand selected him as one of the five most promising players for that year. In 1938 he gained North Island honours, and went with the All Blacks to Australia. He was selected for the final trial in connection with the tour of South Africa that had to be postponed in 1939.

In Rugby Recollections (1948) W. J. Townsend, a veteran Welsh critic, says: “If J. R. Sherratt [of Poverty Bay, who toured Britain with the Kiwi team in 1945–46] had been played with the 1905 side behind F. Roberts, and alongside Wallace and Deans, I think he would have proved the greatest wing New Zealand ever brought over to England.”

P. Henderson, a Gisbornite, was playing for Wanganui when he was selected for the All Black team which toured South Africa in 1949.

R. A. White was the first resident Poverty Bay player to achieve All Black rank. He played in both tests against Australia in 1949.