19th-century sports coverage
Newspapers were published in New Zealand from 1840, and by the 1850s all the main centres had their own papers. From the beginning race meetings and cricket games were reported, and coverage increased in the 1860s as more organised sports clubs were set up. The spread of the railway network in the 1870s and 1880s led to more inter-provincial games of rugby and cricket, and there were often long, but anonymous, reports. Journalists were expected to report on everything, including sport – it was said of a newspaper reporter in 1877, ‘Music he must be well up in, as well as in the drama, oil paintings, cricket, football, boating, athletic sports, pigeon flying, ratcatching, and horse-racing.’1
A moral sport
Cricket was reported in moral as much as sporting terms. The Southern Cross began a report on an Auckland match in 1861, ‘We are glad to observe a growing tendency in favour of this truly manly and healthful recreation. Than cricket there is perhaps no amusement so well calculated to become generally useful to the well-being of a community: the exercise is not confined to any set or series of muscular movements, but brings into play all the varied powers of the body … rendering important aid to the mental faculties.’2
Overseas sport such as English county or Australian cricket was often included, with excerpts culled from foreign newspapers, normally months after the games described. In 1888–89 coverage of the Native team’s international rugby tour was very spasmodic, and depended on the whims of British correspondents or excerpts from English papers. After the tour a book was written to record the team’s feats.
The opening of international telegraph communication allowed faster transmission of results. As interest mounted new techniques were required. Beginning with the 1905 All Black tour, cables were sent to newspaper offices in the main centres. Interested New Zealanders would gather to see the results written up on boards outside the offices. Children were often sent to cycle in from the outer suburbs of a town to see the scores or results published. Then they would ride homewards telling petrol-pump attendants or shop owners (for a few coins) what had happened. Full reports of the matches were drawn from several British writers who accompanied the team and regularly filed stories back to New Zealand papers. Once again tour books, one by team manager George Dixon and another a collection of newspaper reports from the Daily Mail, filled out the picture.
Flying the flag
For the All Blacks–Wales match in 1905 the Post Office agreed that once the telegraphed result had arrived, a New Zealand ensign flag would be flown if the All Blacks had won, a Union Jack if Wales had done so, and a white flag with a red centre in the event of a draw.
The arrival of the telephone allowed a further advance. In 1921 in Christchurch a reporter, Tom Fleming, made a breakthrough call from Lancaster Park to his office with his story on the South Africa–Canterbury fixture.
The first New Zealand reporter to travel 'on tour' with the All Blacks was the Wellingtonian Arthur Carman. He took time off work and followed the 1924–25 'Invincibles' team, reporting back to the New Zealand Sportsman for £1 a match ($93 in 2012 terms). However, for the 1928 All Black tour of South Africa, fans at home had to rely on fairly brief Press Association reports in all newspapers, and there was widespread criticism of the lack of detail. Three years later ‘Budge’ Hintz accompanied the New Zealand cricket tour to England.