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As home to the man credited with introducing rugby to New Zealand it is fitting that Palmerston North in the Manawatu is also home to The New Zealand Rugby Museum.
The museum, which is about to re-open in new premises in the city’s Te Manawa cultural centre (August 2011), has some 40,000 rugby relics in its safe keeping.
Among these are the ‘Rare XV’ including the personal mementos of Charles Monro, the man who on May 14, 1870 rallied the lads from Nelson College and Nelson Town to play in what is regarded as the first rugby match played on New Zealand turf.
Seventeen years later Monro moved to Palmerston North where his family home is now a hostel on the Massey University campus.
Other intriguing rarities include:
A gold fern from 1882, the first fern emblem to adorn a touring New Zealand rugby jersey
The oldest All Black jersey, a 1905 ‘Originals’ almost skin tight, collarless jersey made from fine wool with a quilted, waxed linen yoke to repel the water
The referee’s whistle from the 1905 ‘Originals’ tour of Britain which went on to be used in the games played by the 1924-25 ‘Invincibles’ All Blacks and the rugby final at the 1924 Olympics
A 1904 Great Britain touring jersey from a game at Wellington’s Athletic Park which attracted almost half of the entire population of the city at the time
The museum’s new premises (it has been operating since 1969) have allowed the treasures to be presented in an interesting and very accessible way.
There is also room for the more energetic to kick, tackle, sprint, jump and push in the interactive ‘Have a Go’ section.
Not surprisingly the museum is right up there in our “Top 5” picks for visitors which are:
The New Zealand Rugby Museum
Te Manawa – get a feel for the art, heritage and science of the area at this regional cultural centre
Manawatu Gorge – located between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges the gorge provides the road link between the Manawatu and Hawkes Bay regions. Its walking tracks are also a great way for you to enjoy the native bush, views and wildlife
Cycling – if cycling is your thing there are numerous bush tracks and cycling events to pique your interest
Gardens and parks – admire the glorious displays in a mixture of Palmerston North’s public and private gardens
Air New Zealand flies between Palmerston North and Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch connecting with 23 other destinations on the domestic network. For information and to book flights to Palmerston North visit www.airnewzealand.com