Newspaper Article 2019 – Napier one and only club for nine years

From the MTG

Napier one and only club for nine years

Gail Pope

The game of rugby reportedly began in Hawke’s Bay on June 26 1875, with a match played at Clive Square between “the Banks” and the Napier Football Club (formed on June 11, 1875).

We are unsure who “the Banks” were but one possibility is that they were a team made up of employees from various banks.

Enthusiastic spectators including women suitably attired against the cold, surrounded  the edges of the roughly formed rugby ground cheering players on.

To provide a sense of occasion, the Napier ladies offered a handsome smoking cap to the player who got the first touchdown.

The last rugby match of the 1875 season, held on Saturday September 11, caused a great deal of hilarity.

The Hawke’s Bay Herald reported: “Both sides were playing hard when a member of the Napier Football Club, whilst endeavouring to run through, had his nether garments taken from him, and thus ended, amidst much laughter, the last and perhaps best game of the season”.

The Napier Football Club was the first and only rugby club in Hawke’s Bay for nine years.

To gain experience and provide a sense of challenge, the players competed annually against Turanganui-a-Kiwa, Poverty Bay. In 1844 three new rugby clubs were established – Napier Union, Hastings and Petane. The four clubs together formed the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union.

In the same year, politician John Sheehan presented the Sheehan  Cup to be contested annually amongst local clubs.

Sheehan was convinced that by competing for a trophy, rugby would be kept free from the influence of bookmakers. Instead, players and the public would appreciate and support rugby for the love of the game.

Amongst the sporting memorabilia in the MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust collection are two items belonging to the Napier Football Club.

A navy blue banner has the initials NFC stitched in gold thread in the centre, while embroidered around the fringed edge are the years the club won the local Hawke’s Bay competition: 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1892 and 1894.

The second object is a photograph taken by Napier photographer, Percy Sorrell. The image shows a relaxed group of dashing and handsome Napier Football Club rugby players wearing their club colours – blue and white striped rugby shirts and matching socks and blue knickerbockers.

Printed on the mount is, “Napier Football Club Representatives in Senior Cup Matches, 1886.”

During the 1886 season, Napier Football Club seniors attended six major cup games, two held as far afield as Mohaka and Wairoa. Local newspaper reporters were quick to praise specific attributes of players. John Jamieson, a Scotsman, tall, powerful and fast, was a lineout specialist who “worked hard in the scrum and dribbled brilliantly in the loose”.

The dashing and brilliant forward, W Robson was “clever on the lineout and able to fend strongly and follow-up fast”.

The Captain, H F Gibbons was one of the most “unselfish half-backs playing” with the ability “ to feed his three quarters with great judgement and dexterity and could punt and dribble well”.

Photo captions –

Back row: John Jamieson; J Ike Cato; Francis Logan, umpire; A. Kennedy; Ravenhill; J W Begg and George Walker.
Middle Row: R H Trotter; W Robson; Stanton; W J F Anderson; F Kennedy; H F Gibbons, Captain; C Harrap and George White.
Seated on the ground are Roskruge, C D Kennedy and Hedley.

Gail Pope is curator, social history.

Original digital file


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Business / Organisation

Napier Football Club

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

12 October 2019

Creator / Author

  • Gail Pope


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • W J F Anderson
  • J W Begg
  • J Ike Cato
  • H F Gibbons
  • C Harrap
  • John Jamieson
  • A Kennedy
  • C D Kennedy
  • F Kennedy
  • Francis Logan
  • Gail Pope
  • W Robson
  • John Sheehan
  • Percy Sorrell
  • R H Trotter
  • George Walker
  • George White
  • Hedley, Ravenhill, Roskruge, Stanton

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