New Zealand Rugby Records - new books
Ever since 1935 the annual Rugby Almanack of New Zealand has become the go to reference book for records of New Zealand rugby. Within its pages can be found details of matches played by provincial unions and other bodies such as Maori, University and Services teams as well as touring teams coming to New Zealand and New Zealand teams venturing overseas. It includes details of the players who took part, the scorers, match venues and officials.
However the history of rugby matches in New Zealand started well before the Almanack was first produced. The New Zealand Rugby Football Union was founded in 1892 and prior to that the first provincial unions were founded in 1879. And before the unions, clubs had gradually been formed around the regions, initially in the cities but some also in smaller centres. And many matches were played in these first years when the clubs in a district would band together to play the combined clubs of another district. The first generally recognised inter-district contest in New Zealand took place in 1870 when the Nelson Football Club challenged a Wellington team to play a match and the resultant game took place in Petone, the Nelson team taking the honours.
This leaves over sixty years of matches played in New Zealand where no records have been produced in the same complete way as the Rugby Almanack does. So what New Zealand Rugby Records sets out to do is to start to fill some of that gap, working forward from the earliest year, 1870, documenting these matches and players in a style similar to the Rugby Almanack.
The research for the books has certainly not been entirely from scratch. One of the original Rugby Almanack editors, Arthur Swan, compiled tables of match and player details similar to those that appear within the Almanacks. Also Clive Akers compiled the impressive volume, the New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015, containing fuller details of player names and the matches they played. Using those references as a starting point, many of the newspapers of the times are available online through the Papers Past website to provide a primary source of information for reports of matches and the players who took part. From there a fuller picture of who the players actually are comes from looking at online sources such as genealogical websites, which have electoral rolls, and historical births, deaths and marriages.
Of course, it is not always easy to identify a player as many newspaper reports include just a surname, or they may include an initial which turns out to be the initial of a nickname. And two different newspapers may not agree when it comes to naming the scorers in a match. But a lot of the time it is possible to work through such issues and come to a conclusion.
As many team photos as possible have also been included. These have come from many sources including the Rugby Museum, rugby union storerooms, some sourced from provincial museums and also a few from private collections.
The end result at this point is three books of New Zealand Rugby Records covering the years prior to the formation of the New Zealand union. The first is from 1870 to 1879, ending with the first provincial unions being formed; from 1880 to 1886, which includes the first New South Wales tours to New Zealand and the first New Zealand tour to Australia; and lastly from 1887 to 1891, which includes the first British team to tour New Zealand and Australia and the momentous New Zealand Native Team tour to the other side of the world.
So this is a beginning but there are still many years to go to get through to 1935.
Mike Parkinson - Editor