Māori Rugby History

Maori Rugby History

Māori rugby has a wonderful heritage – back to Tom Ellison, arguably the greatest thinker in the history of New Zealand rugby.

Thomas_EllisonA member of the 1888 Native Team which toured New Zealand, Australia and Britain, Ellison also introduced the haka to rugby, came up with the prototype of the All Blacks jersey, was a key thinker behind the whole style of New Zealand rugby, and developed the 2-3-2 scrum.

In 1934 the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Board of Control was formed to administer Māori Rugby League ( under the auspices of the NZRFL). From this Board the New Zealand Māori Rugby League was established. Later, the name Aotearoa Māori Rugby League was adopted. In 1992 the body was registered as an Incorporated Society. The Incorporated Society provides the masthead for provincial, waka, and tribal rugby league organisations, duly constituted as affiliate bodies of the Aotearoa Māori Rugby League.

Haka Origin

According to Māori ethos, Tama-nui-to-ra, the Sun God, had two wives, Hine-raumati, the Summer maid, and Hine takurua, the Winter maid. The child born to him and Hine-raumati was Tane-rore, who is credited with the origin of the dance. Tane-rore is the trembling of the air as seen on the hot days of summer, and represented by the quivering of the hands in the dance.

Haka is the generic name for all Māori dance. Today, haka is defined as that part of the Māori dance repertoire where the men are to the fore with the women lending vocal support in the rear. Most haka seen today are haka taparahi, haka without weapons. More than any aspect of Māori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the passion, vigour and identity of the race.

Haka is not merely a past time of the Māori but was also a custom of high social importance in the welcoming and entertainment of visitors. Tribal reputation rose and fell on their ability to perform the haka (Hamana Mahuika). Haka reflected the concerns and issues of the time, of defiance and protest, of factual occurrences and events at any given time.

The haka adds a unique component, derived from the indigenous Māori of New Zealand, and which aligns with the wider Polynesian cultures of the Pacific.

Many sports teams and individuals travelling from New Zealand overseas tend to have the haka “Ka mate” as part of their programme. The sports team that has given the haka the greatest exposure overseas has been the All Blacks, who perform it before their matches. It has become a distinctive feature of the New Zealand All Blacks.

First Rugby Game

The first game of rugby played in New Zealand took place before the New Zealand Rugby Football Union was formed.

Credit for the introduction of rugby to New Zealand goes to Charles John Monro, son of Sir David Monro, Speaker in the House of Representatives from 1860 to 1870. Charles Monro, who was born at Waimea East, was sent to Christ’s College, Finchley in England to complete his education and while there he learned the rugby game. On his return to Nelson he suggested that the local football club try out the rugby rules.

The game must have appealed to the club members for they decided to adopt it. A visit to Wellington by Monro later in 1870 resulted in a game being arranged between Nelson and Wellington. This match was played at Petone on 12 September and was won by Nelson by two goals to one.

In 1871 the game became organised in Wellington and it had spread to Wanganui by the following year. Auckland adopted rugby in 1873 while Hamilton followed suit in 1874. By 1875 the game had become established all over the colony and a team representing Auckland clubs undertook a two-week southern tour. Matches were played (and lost) against teams from Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson and Taranaki.

(Source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Rugby , 1981)

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“My time at the New Zealand Sports Academy was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Playing rugby in New Zealand had always been a goal of mine and upon searching for ways to so this, I stumbled across the Academy and it met all of my expectations. Although I was only there for four weeks, I was able to improve my skills and fitness drastically due to the high level coaching from Darrel and the tough training regimen. Monday to Thursday at the Academy would consist of some tough weights sessions alongside skill, fitness and speed sessions, all of which enabled me to see a huge improvement in all of these areas over the 4 weeks. I was lucky enough to play a couple of games for Rotorua U21s as set up by the Academy. I even got to captain my last game which was an incredible experience. Being an international student I received position specific coaching sessions from Darrel while the domestic students attended class. This was invaluable as we covered many aspects including tackle technique, break down work, foot work and line out throws. Darrel also introduced me to the Maori style of running rugby, which emphasises the importance of handling and footwork (even if you\\\'re a front rower), this has taken my game to the next level and I noticed a hige improvement in my attacking game upon my return to England. In addition to the rugby, the Academy also ensures you experience the Maori culture and the various other attractions of Rotorua. During my time here I was lucky enough to watch a Chiefs game, go white water rafting and experience the \\\'Te Puia Geothermal Gite and Maori Village\\\' all of which were amazing experiences. The Academy was the highlight of my trip to New Zealand and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience rugby in New Zealand.”

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