Hallowed ground - New Zealand's first rugby fields

Rugby’s origins in NZ are startlingly simple. One game in Nelson, one Cook Strait crossing by a rugby pioneer, another game in Petone the rest is history!

It kicked off in the south

It all started one Saturday in May at Nelson’s Botanic Gardens. How delightful! Englishman Charles Monro had organised a game of rugby between a Nelson College side and the Nelson Football Club.

In front of a crowd of about 200 this new version of football played out. Monro – son of the then Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament Sir David Monro - knew he was on to a winner.  Soon after the Nelson game he sailed to Wellington to find some opposition for his team.

Across Cook Strait

Arriving in Petone Monro picked a team of local men, taught them the rules, and coached them to play against Nelson Football Club.

The first game in the North Island was also the first inter-island game ever played, in Petone on 12 September 1870. Eight months later the Wellington Rugby Football Club formed, playing annually against the Armed Constabulary and that seminal Nelson team. Wanganui was next and from there the game spread like gorse.

And then the world

In 1905 rugby really put New Zealand on the map when the first All Blacks wowed crowds and won all their games in Europe.

History and hype aside, rugby is a game that’s still played and loved by thousands of Kiwis at heartland clubs throughout the country. Whether it’s watching your local team or pulling on your own club jersey, there is nothing quite like a good game of footy on your home turf.

Just for laughs check out this re-enactment of the first New Zealand rugby game, Nelson 2011.

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