Story: Māori rugby – whutupaoro

Wirihana Puna

Wirihana Puna

This photograph of Lieutenant Wirihana Puna of Aramoho, Whanganui, was taken around the 1860s. Puna was a lieutenant under the command of Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui (Major Kemp) during the New Zealand wars. In 1869, at the battle of Te Pōrere, Puna captured Te Kooti's war flag. It is likely that he was the first recorded Māori to play rugby. History records a 'Wirihana', the sole non-Pākehā player, playing for Wanganui Country against Wanganui Town in a 20-a-side game at Aramoho in 1872.

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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Reference: O.039083

Permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Malcolm Mulholland, 'Māori rugby – whutupaoro - Origins of Māori rugby union', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 May 2022)

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