Ruck It! How Otago Shaped Rugby History

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

What do Sir Peter Buck, Chris Laidlaw, Vic Cavanagh and Greg McGee have in common? Yes – rubgy for one but you’ll have to visit the Hocken Library find out the full answer!

In collaboration with Hidden Dunedin, and the University’s Design Studies Department the Hocken has put on a display that examines the contributions made by Otago people to the development of rugby by showcasing a sample of this rich history. Drawn from the Hocken’s own collections, the show features rugby memorabilia, early rugby publications, official team photographs and personal scrapbooks. A version of the display will also be installed from 17 September in The Link next to the Central Library of the University.

Highlights of the display at the Hocken include:
Tom Ellison’s The Art of Rugby Football (1902). Ellison is known as one of the game’s great innovators and was introduced to rugby by his Taiaroa cousins at Otakou around 1881. He was a prominent member of the New Zealand Native Football Team, which toured Great Britain and Australia in 1888 and captained the 1893 New Zealand team on their tour of Australia. It was his suggestion that the New Zealand team should adopt Native team uniform of the black jerseys with a silver ferns. The 2-3-2 scrum formation that he developed for his Poneke club team in Wellington became the dominant style of All Black play until the 1930s.
Billy Stead had an enduring influence on Maori and All Black rugby. Stead was a member of the first official New Zealand tour of Britain and France in 1905-06. He was the team’s vice-captain and chief tactician. He wrote regular columns for the Southland Times and at the end of the tour, combined with captain David Gallaher to write one of the earliest rugby classics, The Complete Rugby Footballer. He played 32 games for the All Blacks, 12 as captain, he was part of the first Maori team and was later a referee, coach and manager. On display are a photo of the team, victory telegrams, and a copy of his book.
Ned Parata, from Puketeraki, Karitane, is widely regarded as the father of Maori rugby. The parallel development of Māori rugby was one of the defining characteristics of New Zealand rugby. Wiremu Teihoka (Ned) Parata organised the first Māori team in 1910 and persuaded Billy Stead to come out of retirement to play for it. Parata, who underwrote the cost of touring from the profits of his motor car business, continued to organise Māori rugby for the next 20 years, climaxing in the 40-match tour of Europe and Canada over the summer of 1926-27. An visual display features a selection of images from his scrapbook; it contains photographs, letters and newspaper clippings relating to the tour.
J W Stewart’s album features the celebrated Maori rugby tour of France, Britain and Canada led by Ned Parata and contains photographs, newspaper clippings and ephemera relating to the New Zealand Maori rugby tour of Great Britain, France and Canada, 1926-1927. It also has photographs of Palmerston, North Otago and South Island Maori teams. J. Stewart appears in many of these photographs and has been attributed as the creator of the album.

Still wondering the answer to the question at the start of this post? A hint is that the display contains a selection of team photos from the Otago University Rugby Football teams over the years.

To hear Dunedin sports historian Ron Palenski on Otago and the ruck listen to this interview with Jim Moira.

To see some of the display content and hear yours truely on my favourite items watch this clip from Channel 9.

The exhibition team comprised Dr. Noel Waite, Senior Lecturer; Michael Findlay, Professional Practice Fellow; Ryan Gallagher and Jon Thom, students, all of the Department of Applied Sciences and Sharon Dell, Hocken Librarian, working with Mark Sharma, Studio 3, Dunedin and Ron Palenski, external advisor, NZ Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin.