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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



According to the record book, water polo has been played in New Zealand since 1892, 23 years after the game evolved in England. Christchurch was the host city to the first championship meeting which was held in that year. At first the sport was confined to the main cities but, as the smaller centres built pools, so the game spread. Today, towns like Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Wanganui, Napier, and Hastings have teams, while Lower Hutt has emerged as a centre strong enough to hold its own with any of the main cities. Until 1909 water polo was played only on an interclub basis. Since then provincial teams have held frequent competitions, with Canterbury dominant till the early thirties and Otago strongest from then till the late forties. The South Island's prominence then declined and national supremacy moved north, fluctuating between Auckland, Wellington, and the Waikato.

Water polo is administered by the New Zealand Water Polo Board under the rules of the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association. Though the sport has been played since before 1900, it did not have its own administration until 1951. Before this it was administered by the secretary of the association. The Board's chairman, secretary, and three members are elected each year by delegates from the various local water polo boards which control their own competitions and send teams to the national championships. The championships decide which province will hold the national trophy, and they alternate between those main centres which have adequate facilities. As well, an interclub championship is held for the Ryan Cup.

Water polo has been played in trying conditions, more so in its earlier days than in more recent times. A game at Wellington in 1911 is still remembered. It was played in water of 56° and lasted 50 minutes, causing the collapse of several players and the admission to hospital of a goalkeeper. In New Zealand, water polo is a man's game. For a short while, and following the example of some overseas countries, women's water polo was tried on a modest scale. But the attempt was soon abandoned.

Of all the exponents of the sport in New Zealand, Lord Freyberg, was probably the best known. A very keen player about 1910, he was active in training an Auckland team.

In 1960, after many years of sometimes heartbreaking effort, New Zealand water polo finally took part in Olympic competition when it met Australia at Melbourne in an elimination game, losing 7-1.

Other international matches played are as follows:

  • 1950 Empire Games at Auckland:

  • New Zealand 4, Australia 1

  • Australia 13, New Zealand 2

  • Australia 5, New Zealand 2

  • 1951 Canterbury Centennial Games:

  • Canterbury 10, New South Wales 5

  • Australia 7, Canterbury 4

  • Australia 6, Canterbury 4

  • Australia 6, New Zealand Universities 1

(Club Competition until 1909)
1892 Christchurch Club 1932 Canterbury Centre
1893 Christchurch Club 1933 Auckland and Canterbury
1894 Christchurch Club
1895 Christchurch Club 1934 Canterbury Centre
1897 Christchurch Club 1935 Auckland Centre
1902 Wanganui 1936 Otago Centre
1904 Northern Club 1937 No competition
1905 Wanganui Club 1938 Otago Centre
1906 Wanganui Club 1939 Otago Centre
1908 Swifts Club (Wellington) 1940 Otago Centre
1941–45 No competition – war
1909 Canterbury Centre 1946 Otago Centre
1910 Canterbury Centre 1947 Otago Centre
1911 Canterbury Centre 1948 Otago Centre
1912 Canterbury Centre 1949 Auckland Centre
1913 Canterbury Centre 1950 Canterbury Centre
1914 Canterbury Centre 1951 Canterbury Centre
1915 Hawke's Bay Centre 1952 Canterbury Centre
1916–19 No competition – war 1953 Canterbury Centre
1920 Canterbury Centre 1954 Wellington Centre
1921 Canterbury Centre 1955 Wellington Centre
1922 Canterbury Centre 1956 Wellington Centre
1923 Canterbury Centre 1957 Wellington Centre
1924 Canterbury Centre 1958 Waikato Centre
1925 Canterbury Centre 1959 Waikato Centre
1926 Canterbury Centre 1960 Auckland Centre
1927 Canterbury Centre 1961 Auckland Centre
1928 Canterbury Centre 1962 Auckland Centre
1929 Wellington Centre 1963 Wellington Centre
1930 Canterbury Centre 1964 Auckland Centre
1931 Canterbury Centre 1965 Waikato Centre


McLintock, Alexander Hare