Balls, Bullets & Boots


OPEN at PAPAKURA MUSEUM, Auckland, 2 June - 30 July 2017

In popular memory, rugby players during the Great War were heroes, athletes turned soldiers, making noble sacrifices for the ‘greater game’ of war as they traded the cheers of spectators for the roar of artillery fire. This new exhibition explores the impact that the harsh reality of war had on colonial sportsmen (and their loved ones) as they were transplanted from the rugby fields of home overseas to fight for the ‘mother country’...


  • A unique commemorative exhibition that explores the legacy of war through sporting eyes.
  • Two years in the making, it’s been produced by the NZ Rugby Museum (NZRM) based in Palmerston North.
  • Open at Papakura Museum 2 June - 30 July 2017, Ashburton Museum September - November 2017, Expressions Whirinaki, Upper Hutt April-June 2018, Te Awamutu Museum June-August 2018.
  • Attracted 12,000 visitors in it's first viewing at Te Manawa, Palmerston North.
  • Has been exhibited at Linton Army Camp, Te Manawa, National Army Museum, Rotorua Museum and, Nelson Provincial Museum.
  • Derived from an e-book of the same name, authored by rugby historian Clive Akers (published alongside the exhibition)


  • Tells the life stories of XV WW1-era NZ rugby players and a woman coach
  • Aims to illustrate the range of wartime experiences New Zealanders had, with their love of rugby the common denominator in their selection for our ‘exhibition XVI’.


  • Brought to you by the New Zealand Rugby museum - the World’s leading rugby heritage destination!
  • Based on extensive archival research conducted by rugby historian Clive Akers with assistance from military historian Peter Cooke and museum interpreter Bettina Anderson.
  • Funded and supported by a solid team of NZ sporting, funding and military organisations (currently 17 in total).

Click here for exhibition website.