October 3 1888

“Natives” open tour against Surrey

The Native team arrived in England on September 27 1888 after playing nine matches in New Zealand and two in Melbourne. They probably made history in Egypt, playing a scratch game of rugby while the ship was waiting at Suez, very likely the first rugby played in that country. They also suffered an injury in Egypt, forward Teo Rene hurting his foot while bathing in the canal, serious enough to cause him to miss the first 11 games in England.

 Their first match was against Surrey at Richmond before a large crowd of both spectator and officials.


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The team were met by Mr F.W. Burnard of the Rugby Football Union and a Mr Olivey of Surrey, and taken to the Greyhound Hotel, Richmond, to prepare for the opening match of the tour against Surrey on 3 October……….. In all, fifty-two matches were originally arranged in England, Ireland and Wales. Owing to friction between the English and Scottish unions, only one match was arranged in Scotland — at Hawick on 22 November. Subsequent invitations to play Edinburgh University and other Scottish clubs had to be declined due to lack of space in the itinerary.

Although without Tabby Wynyard, and Joe Warbrick, who was still injured, the Native team for the Surrey match was a strong one. On taking the field, they became both the first team from New Zealand to perform a haka and the first to play in a black uniform. The illustrated London News described them thus:
“They are dressed in black knickerbockers and jerseys, which in the case of the Maons. with their dusky hue of face and hands, gives them a rather sombre aspect”.  The jersey bore a badge incorporating goal posts, a ball, a fern leaf and the motto “Play up New Zealand”.

In front of a crowd variously estimated at 5,000 and 50,000 the Native team completed an efficient, if unspectacular, victory. Goldsmith scored the first try in Britain, which proved to be his only one of the tour, Ellison added a second and McCausland kicked a conversion. Throughout the game the team remained on amicable terms with the referee, Mr George Rowland Hill, secretary of the Rugby Football Union.

The Times was quick to remind its readers that Surrey was only a scratch team, and the result did not necessarily mean that the Native team would beat strong clubs or international sides. But it added that they were opponents worthy of respect, and had played well considering they had only been in Britain for a week. Moreover, the London public had quickly warmed to the visitors.

The first appearance of the New Zealanders created no little excitement in the football world and Richmond was invaded by upwards of 50000 [sic] visitors, all anxious to witness the debut of the antipodeans. The leading lights of the Rugby Union fully atoned for their absence from Fenchurch St to welcome the Maoris on their arrival by attending the first match in large numbers. The enclosure was thronged by eminent footballers, while nearly all of the members of the Australian cricket team put in an appearance.


Tom Ellison, one of the "Natives" try scorers.

From “Forerunners of the All Blacks” by Greg Ryan. Published 1993 by Canterbury University Press p. 45-46.