May 21 1910
New Zealand Maori rugby takes a big step forward.
Maori players have been reported as playing rugby at least since 1872 but it was not until 1910 that the first official New Zealand Maori team took the field, on this date, against the Rotorua Sub-Union, winning 25 – 5. It was the first of 19 matches that season, and the start of a proud and very successful history.
Prior to 1910 a New Zealand Natives team had made a very long tour and successful to Britain in 1888-89 and a Rotorua Maori side had beaten the 1904 British team in an unofficial match. Early in 1910 noted Maori rugby administrator Ned Parata (later to be the first Maori made a life member of the NZRFU) suggested a New Zealand Maori team. He was supported by the NZRFU Chairman George Dixon, concerned about the loss of Maori players to rugby league. The New South Wales Rugby Union was approached regarding a New Zealand Maori tour and were happy to act as hosts.
A side was assembled, captained by Alex Takarangi of Wanganui, the first New Zealander to play 100 first class games. Other notables in the side were 1905 “Original” All Blacks Billy Stead and Bill Cuningham plus 1913 All Black to USA and Canada George Sellars. The latter was one of the 13 All Blacks to die in World War I, killed in action at Messines while carrying a wounded mate.
The Maori side played three matches in New Zealand before heading to Australia where they had eight wins, drew with New Eangland at Armidale and Northern Branch at Newcastle but were twice beaten by New South Wales. Among their wins were two against another touring side, American Universities. One of the University matches was played as a curtain raiser to the first test between Australia and New Zealand. The Maori side trailed 0 – 11 at halftime but came back to win 14 – 11. Then it was back to New Zealand for a further five matches.
In all that first Maori side played 19 matches for 12 wins, 3 draws and four losses. Points for 315, against 160. Highlights were the defeat of Queensland and beating Auckland in the return match, the last of the tour.