April 27 1893
BLACK, WITH A SILVER FERN.
At the first Annual Meeting of the NZRFU in 1893 the Union decided on the Union’s colours, black with a silver fern, and it turned out to be a great choice.
The black colours, along with the huge success achieved by New Zealand rugby over many years, the “All Blacks” nickname and the distinctive pre-match haka, came together to give the New Zealand a team with a special quality enjoyed by no other country.
“THE 1893 SEASON
The first Annual Meeting of the Union was held on April 27, the official minutes reading: –
“Present: Messrs. G. F. Campbell (in the chair), J. M. King, and T. R. Ellison, Wellington; R. Oliphant, Manawatu; L. Coupland, Auckland; E. Batchelor and J. Card, West Coast; E. D. Hoben, Marlborough; T. Morrison, Hawke’s Bay; G. Bullock and
I. Hyams, Wanganui; G. F. Bayly, Taranaki; F. R. Simpson, Nelson; and H. J. McLean, South Canterbury.
“The West Coast Rugby Union (14 clubs) was admitted, on the motion of the Wellington Union, seconded by Mr. L. Coupland on
behalf of Auckland.
The Committee’s report was read as follows: —‘Your Committee have to congratulate the footballers of the Colony upon the firm establishment under the test of practical experience, of a Central Union to attend to all extra-parochial matters appertaining to football, and which, with the loyal support accorded it by its constituted District Unions, cannot fail to promote the purity while at the same time securing the progress of Rugby football in New Zealand. The Union was formed at a Conference held on 16th April, 1892, and has thus been just one year in existence. It has received the cordial support of the Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Wairarapa, Wanganui, Taranaki, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson, and South Canterbury Unions, the foresight of whose Officers led them to afford every assistance towards its formation and good government.
“It was resolved that the New Zealand Representative colours should be Black Jersey with Silver Fernleaf, Black Cap with Silver Monogram, White Knickerbockers and Black Stockings, on the motion of Mr. Ellison, seconded by Mr. King.”
From “The History of New Zealand Rugby Football Vol. 1 1870-1945” by A C Swan. First published 1948 by A H & A W Reed. Pp. 124-127.
Tom Ellison, who moved the motion re the colours, was a leading player who later in 1893 captained the first official New Zealand team on its tour of Australia. A Wellington solicitor, he had been one of the stars of the long 1888-89 “Natives” tour.
The “Natives” played in black with a white fern, and that is very likely why Ellison opted for that combination. Which leads to the next question:
Why, when the 1884 New Zealand team had played in blue with a gold fern, did the “Natives” play in black with a white fern?
There have been various theories advanced, including:
- The “Natives” were touring the British Isles, where the four unions played in white (England), blue (Scotland), green (Ireland) and red (Wales). Choosing black avoided a colour clash.
- The “Natives” wanted a jersey colour that contrasted best with the silver fern.
- Black was a pragmatic laundry choice for a team about to embark on a long tour, with an itinerary and accommodation not yet finalized.
Whatever the reason(s), Ellison’s motion proved an excellent one, even if the white knickerbockers only lasted a few years.