Robin was in rugby heaven when we visited the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North yesterday.
As any knowledgeable rugby fan knows, Charles John Monro was the founder of rugby in New Zealand. As a 19 year old, he returned home to Nelson after three years at Christ’s College, Finchley, North London. He encouraged the Nelson Football Club to adopt the football rules of Rugby School. Following the first historic game played against Nelson College in May 1870, Monro organised a game in Wellington in September 1870. This became the forerunner of inter-provincial rugby and the game spread to all parts of the country. The New Zealand Rugby Football Union was formed in 1892.
Each cabinet is a time capsule, starting with early settlement in the 1800s and progressing on decade by decade. The Ranfurly Shield was gifted by Lord Ranfurly in 1902 and is New Zealand’s most prized provincial trophy. Affectionately known as “the log of wood” the Ranfurly Shield games are keenly contested. Many years ago (a couple of years before Robin came into my life) I got the chance to hold and touch the shield when it was brought to my workplace. Ian Upston was the Wellington Representative selector and coach at the time and in 1981 his team won the National Provincial Championship and the Ranfurly Shield. I was one of the office staff and although never particularly sporty, realised that this was quite a significant item that not many people would have got the chance to hold. Guess that must be one of my claims to fame.
What’s this, a white rugby jersey! This came about in 1930 when the visiting British Isles team arrived with dark blue jerseys. Because the colours of the two teams were so similar, the NZRFU reluctantly produced an alternate white jersey for the All Blacks. The British had three golden lions on their team crest which led to the name “Lions” being giver later to all British touring teams.
Each cabinet was packed full of memorabilia, caps and boots, jerseys and badges, flags and books – there was so much to see. Even a copper plated boot worn by Springbok Aaron Geffin.
Those spunky All Blacks can sell merchandise. For more than a decade, we have seen All Black Dan Carter in his undies, he has been the face and body of Jockey. One news item in 2004 reported how a 16-metre billboard of Carter in his underwear was stopping traffic in Christchurch. One woman working in a café across the road claimed women drivers were so distracted that they didn't notice the traffic lights turning green: 'Daniel Carter's pretty hot. It's good to look at it every so often, something entertaining, females love it. Most men don't.' And here he is, looking just as good as ever. And I can remember Carlos Spencer appearing in a Tim Tam chocolate biscuit ad. To the delight of the wife her flabby husband morphs into this muscle bound All Black! Captain Ritchie McCaw is currently on our TV screens with a couple of ads too.
Dan Carter advertising Jockey underwear
In the middle of the museum was a large work out area set up with training machines where visitors can measure their fitness and strength and see if they have what it takes. Training and techniques have changed considerably since Robin was a schoolboy rugby player.
Robin really enjoyed his visit to the iconic Rugby Museum, which moved to the Te Manawa complex in 2011. This was a huge job starting with planning of the exhibitions and storylines, manufacturing the display cases, fitting out of the gallery, and mounting the items. There were 40,000 items to be packed, and training to be undertaken for volunteers and staff. There will be a few more items now, as Robin donated 11 VHS tapes of rugby tests, which were gratefully received.