A History of Rugby in Victoria

researched & written by Ron Grainger

THE MAORIS IN MELBOURNE 1910

Billy Stead

Billy Stead

The NZ Maoris played two games in Melbourne at the end of their 1910 Australian tour. For these successors to the New Zealand Natives this was their first officially sanctioned tour and it was organised, managed and underwritten by the renowned rugby administrator Wiremu Teihoka “Ned” Parata, OBE, who went on to manage future tours into the mid ‘twenties.

Wearing the black jerseys with silver fern emblem, as adopted by the New Zealand All Blacks (as was the Haka) the Maoris had played nine matches against opponents including Queensland, American Universities and various NSW teams before arriving in Victoria. While their visit had not been widely promoted in the local Press their record (five wins, two draws and two losses) must have been sufficient to draw the reasonably good crowd of some 5,000 to the first match, held unusually at the St Kilda Cricket ground, on Saturday 2 July, the local VFL team that day playing away at University.

By half time supporters of the home side, drawn from the four Dewar Shield teams, Melbourne, South Melbourne, East Melbourne and University, were congratulating themselves on the fact that the Victorians were only one point down, 5-6. But they failed to reckon on the staying power of the visitors who then proceeded to flatten the hosts and to win 32-5. Later, at the Palais Café, Ned Parata responding to his team’s reception, said that he ‘…welcomed any game played for the game’s sake … in the spirit of pure amateurism…’

There are scant reports of the second match, held at the same venue on Tuesday 5 July, in which a team described as ‘…representing Victoria and the Navy’ was soundly beaten 50 – 11.

Each team included a player of exceptional talent. The Victorian player, Albert Freear, is featured in the Capsule Victoria’s Rugby Rebel, while for this inaugural NZ Maori venture Parata had persuaded Billy (John William) Stead to come out of retirement as first five-eighth and vice-captain.

Stead, born in Invercargill on 18 September 1877, had played representative rugby for Southland in 1896 when he was only 18. He went on to captain the All Blacks in 1904 and was vice captain of the first official New Zealand All Blacks team on their tour of Britain and France in 1905-06 before which, together with team captain Dave Gallagher, he had written the influential book The Complete Rugby Footballer. He was again All Blacks captain in 1908 and was to play in all the 1910 Maori tour matches, being captain when they played Victoria.

Research & content Ron Grainger

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This entry was posted on October 6, 2014 by in History, RUGBY in VICTORIA.