Story: Māori rugby – whutupaoro

Page 7. Flaxroots rugby – club and provincial level

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Māori rugby and schools

Historically rugby has been strong within the Māori boys’ boarding schools. Of these, Te Aute College is the most famous for the sport, with other high schools such as St Stephen’s, Hato Petera and Hato Paora also steeped in rugby tradition. Six players on the New Zealand Natives' tour were Te Aute old boys, and at least 10 former students of Te Aute have become All Blacks. In 1904 a match between Te Aute College and the Combined Great Public Schools (Sydney’s private schools) was played on the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of 30,000 spectators. In 1925 Te Aute won the Moascar Cup (first played for in 1920), symbol of secondary-school rugby supremacy. Hato Paora and Te Aute have an annual challenge.

St Stephen’s, now closed, also had a proud record, having won the Moascar Cup and, like Te Aute, the national first XV championship. While only two St Stephen’s old boys represented New Zealand, one was the renowned Joe Warbrick, who organised the New Zealand Natives' tour in 1888–89 and is a member of the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.

In league with royalty

When Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the Māori queen, died in 2006 she had been the patron of Māori rugby league for 40 years. Players from Taniwharau and Tūrangawaewae, two local Māori rugby league clubs, carried her coffin from the banks of the Waikato River to her resting place on Taupiri mountain.

Māori rugby and rugby clubs

There have been Māori-based rugby clubs from an early date. Hauraki rugby club was formed in Kirikiri, near Thames, in 1883, and Whakarewarewa rugby club was set up in the late 19th century. While a number of exclusively Māori rugby clubs were formed, most Māori played in local club sides that catered to all ethnicities. In the 2000s Ngāti Porou East Coast was the only iwi-based union in the country.

Local Māori rugby league clubs developed later, as did the game of league itself. By the 1950s there were a number of Māori clubs in Auckland, as well as the Tūrangawaewae league club in Waikato, Te Ātiawa and Waitōtara clubs in Taranaki, Huimai club in Rotorua, Te Aroha club in Wellington and Kia Toa Rugby League club in Dunedin ‘comprising mostly Maoris from “the Kaik” [the Ngāi Tahu village at Ōtākou].’1

Māori trophies

Northern and Southern Māori teams competed for Te Mori rose bowl from 1923. In 1928 it became a four-team competition for both the bowl and the Prince of Wales Cup, between Te Waipounamu (Southern), Tai Hauāuru (Western), Tai Rāwhiti (Eastern) and Tai Tokerau (Northern).

Regional Maori trophies

Regional trophies include:

  • Horowhenua – Anzac Lewis Memorial Cup and Thomas Nolan Cup
  • Taranaki – Benton Shield, Parihaka Shield and Rima Whakarua Memorial Shield
  • Bay of Plenty – Hurinui Apanui Shield, Ratana Cup, Ngahoe Challenge Shield and Omeka Cup
  • North Auckland – Hone Heke Cup and Ratana Challenge Cup
  • Whanganui – Tuera Shield (since 1896 between Taranaki and Whanganui), Makirikiri Shield, Saville Shield and Bamber Cup
  • South Island – Arepa Cup, between provincial Māori teams (in the mid-1930s).

In 2011, as part of Māori inter-regional tournaments, teams were playing for the Prince of Wales Cup, the George Nepia Trophy, the Manny MacDonald Challenge Cup and the Jack Ruru Memorial Cup. The Dr Farah Palmer trophy was a new trophy to be presented to the top women's team in the competition.

  1. Te Ao Hou 8 (Winter 1954), p. 46, (last accessed 5 November 2012). Back
How to cite this page:

Malcolm Mulholland, 'Māori rugby – whutupaoro - Flaxroots rugby – club and provincial level', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 April 2024)

Story by Malcolm Mulholland, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Jan 2015