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No. 1 (Winter 1952)
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SPORT among the Maori people

Ka kawea tatou e te rehia (‘We are allured by the arts of pleasure.’) Such a term was not uncommon in Maori speech when the Pakeha first came to New Zealand, and began to study and record the Maori, his attainments and his industry, in the arts of war and peace.

Raukatauri and Raukatamea, mythical personages belonging to the traditional dawn of Maori legend were, according to Elsdon Best, widely considered to be the founders of all amusements and arts of pleasure, but some tribes had other personages to whom they attributed the origin of amusements.

Thus among the Tuhoe tribe Takatakaputea and Marere-o-tonga are said to be the authors of nga mahi a te rehia, the arts of pleasure. Ngati Porou allude to all amusements as Nga Mahi a Ruhanui (the arts of Ruhanui).

The period in which the arts of pleasure were mostly indulged in was just after the crops were gathered and stored and Ropata Wahawaha when he addressed assembled members of Ngati Porou at the opening of a new house at Waiapu in 1872, remarked: ‘In former times when Whanui rose, the crops were gathered and stored after which the arts of Ruhanui were practiced.’*

In pre-Pakeha days, the Maori people indulged in amusements and pastimes, many of which are very much akin to those indulged in the Pakeha world:


MauiCats Cradle
RuruJackstones (Knucklebones)
Tumi (Tarere)Swinging (on trees)
HakaPosture dancing accompanied by chants
PoiAs above
Whakahoro TaratahiKite flying
PotakaSpinning tops
PotetekeAcrobatics—standing on head somersaults
TaupiupiuFootrace in couples
Mu TerereA game resembling draughts
MoariGiant strides
Whawhai mekemekeBoxing
Takaro OmaomaRunning
Takaro TupekeJumping
Para WhawhaiSchool of Arms
Kau WhakataetaeSwimming
MoariWaterside swing
Waka HoehoeCanoe racing
Pou totiStilt walking

*The heliacal rising of Whanui, the star Vega, was the sign generally accepted as denoting the time for the lifting of the main crop of kumara. The first person of a village community to observe this star in the early morn, at once roused the Pa with the old and well-known cry— ‘Ko Whanui … E Ko Whanui’, and so the community set to gathering the crops after which came ‘nga mahi a Ruanui’. These details are taken from Elsdon Best, Games and Pastimes of the Maori.

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The advent of Europeans and of their customs had a startling and permanent effect on Maori life, one effect of this contact being the abandonment of many old Maori ways of life, which included indulgence in sports and pastimes.

From 1840 to the turn of the present century, Maori interest in sport was confined to participation among themselves in some of the old games and in some of those sports of the Pakeha that appealed to them, football, football, running, tug-o-war, and chopping.

Since 1900 there has been an increased interest of Maoris in all kinds of sports and during the last five years it can clearly be seen that not only are Maoris participating in sport in close competition with Pakehas to a greater extent, but the inter-tribal, inter-canoe and inter-district competitions are increasing to such a proportion that they have become a dominant feature of Maori life to-day.

Te Ao Hou has attempted to draw up a list of the sports competitions at present being held among the Maori people. This list is not complete, as it takes a great deal of work to make a full investigation. Any group omitted would do Te Ao Hou a service if it submitted the particulars for publication in a later issue.

In reciting these competitions, one must appreciate that for every one participant at least three other Maoris are actively interested either in getting that participant to what game is concerned or in accompanying him (or her).


Tauranga Basketball Association Championship: Seven Maori teams.

Opopoti Rose Bowl Competition: Ten teams from Tauranga to Te Puke.

Holland Memorial Cup in memory of Sir Maui Pomare: Played for annually between Te Atiawa and Ngarauru tribes. (Te Atiawa and Raukura teams also play in the local competition.)

Corporal G. W. Pokau Challenge Cup: South Taranaki Maori teams.

Shirley Dawn Prescott Memorial Cup: Competed for between teams in the Whitianga and Whangamata district under the auspices of the Kawakawa Basketball Association.

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Phil Howell of Matata, now a dairy farmer with 90 cows, breaking in 200 acres of new land, used to be Captain of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Team and represented New Zealand football in Australia. He was also Maori New Zealand Singles Champion in tennis.

Barney Warbrick Memorial Trophy: Played for between tribal teams of Waikato, Auckland and Hauraki.

Waiehu Memorial Challenge Cup: Competed for by tribal teams of Te Kuiti, Lower Waikato and Tauranga.

Wirapeti Himona Cup: Between Tribal teams of Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Hamua tribes, Horowhenua and Wairarapa.

Pitama Cup and Hutika Crofts Trophy: Between teams from Otago, North Otago, South Canterbury and Canterbury.

In Rotorua Maori teams play in the local competitions, but there are no purely Maori competitions.

It is noteworthy to record that the first New Zealand Women's Basketball team to tour Australia was captained by a Maori, Margaret Matangi of New Plymouth.


At Wairoa there are many Maoris playing in the Wairoa Indoor Basketball Association teams, and in sixteen teams in competition about forty players are Maoris or approximately one-third of the teams could be Maori if they played together.

At Dannevirke a Maori team plays in the competition with Maoris in other teams, and in Wellington many Maoris are in Indoor Basketball teams.


Hockey is played in many districts between Maori Club, Tribal and district teams. In Rotorua and on the East Coast, many Maori teams, both men and women, are taking part in local weekly competitions and annual tournaments.

In Rotorua men's teams are fielded by Reporoa, Matata and Ngapuna, and women's teams by Matata, Taiporutu, Ngapuna, Reporoa and Whaka.

In Wellington, Toa, a Maori Women's Club, has played in the local hockey competitions for over twenty-five years.

In the Bay of Plenty the Tawhiorangi Shield and Ruatoki Cup is competed for by teams of the Whanau-a-Apanui, Whakatohea, Tuhoe and Tuwharetoa.

A dominion-wide Maori Hockey Organisation is now established, the last tournament being held in Hastings where many teams competed. The trophies contested for at this tournament were the Lady Arihia Ngata Memorial Gold Cup for Maori Women's Hockey, the Taranaki Te Ua Memorial Shield for men's teams and the Stringer Shield for women's hockey.

In May, 1952, a large Maori hockey tournament is being held at Masterton.


Competitive swimming has been indulged in by Maoris. Richard (Dick) Pelham, a well known Maori All Black from Arawa who is now living in Wellington, was one of the first Maoris to win a New Zealand National Title, being 440 yards New Zealand Freestyle Champion in 1925. W. Whareaitu, another Arawa, was 150 yards Backstroke National Title holder in 1934. He was the first Maori to attend the Empire Games, having travelled to Great Britain in 1934 as member of the New Zealand Swimming Team.

Arawa have two Maori swimming clubs, Ohinemutu and Whakarewarewa.

Miss Moana Manly (Arawa) is New Zealand backstroke 100 yards and 220 yards ladies Junior Champion and was runner-up for the Senior Championship.

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In 1929 George Harrison, of Taranaki, won the New Zealand Beltman's Championship. In 1937 when an Australian surf team was competing, R. Pelham became New Zealand Open Surf Champion. In the subsequent year it was he who was sent to Australia as the second Maori to attend the Empire Games, as Vice-Captain of the New Zealand Surf Team.


Maori participation in Golf was first brought in the limelight when Kurupo Tareha a Ngatikahungunu, of Napier, won the New Zealand Amateur Golf Championship in 1903.

Since then Maori Golf has progressed to such an extent that Maoris are to be found in nearly all golf clubs in New Zealand, and the New Zealand Maori Golf Association's Annual Maori Tournament has become an institution.

The present holders of the New Zealand Maori Championship are Mrs Zane Grey of Otaki and Mrs Lilian Adsett of Wairoa.

Among the trophies competed for at the annual tournament are the Perry Cup (Men's Champion), B. B. Wood Cup (Ladies' Champion), Tutepuaki Shield (Mixed Foursome) and the Eria Memorial Cup for Veterans.

On the 5th August, 1936, at Gisborne, the first Maori Golf Club was formed, and although this club, the Turanganui Golf Club, is now affiliated to the New Zealand Golf Association, a great number of the 90 members are Maoris who are holders of most of the club trophies.

The 1952 Tournament will be played at the Arikikapakapa links at Rotorua.


Table Tennis is indulged in by Maoris to a great extent to-day, and Maori Table Tennis Clubs exist in many districts. In Rotorua, clubs are found at Horohoro and Ohinemutu; in Taranaki there is the Raukura Club at Waitara and the Waioturi Club at Patea, and in the Hutt Valley, Te Ropu Club has won a number of the Grade Championships each season.

Wanganui Maori Ladies team holds the McKenning Cup after competition with Wanganui (South Taranaki Maori teams). Ngati Poneke Maori Table Tennis Club is prominent in Wellington competitions.


The New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Championship Tournament has, like the New Zealand Maori Golf Championship, become an institution.

The formation of Maori tennis as an organised game can be traced back many years.

In 1911 the Marumaru Cup as a teams' tennis trophy was competed for the first time and tournaments were held annually between teams from Taranaki, Hawke's Bay and Wanganui.

Easter of the year 1926 saw the New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association formed at Rotorua on a constitution drawn up by Sir A. T. Ngata.

With a recess of some years, the Maori Association has conducted annual tournaments in various districts, the principal trophies being the Marumaru Cup, the Morehu Turoa Cup with many other trophies donated by supporters.

Maori Tennis Clubs flourish in many districts with many district tournaments being held in addition to the usual local championships.

In North Auckland, Maori Tennis Clubs participate in the Kaikohe and North Auckland Tennis Championships and the Nga-

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puhi Memorial Cup, the Peneha Maori Cup, and the Tiamana Cup tournaments create interest each year.

In Wanganui, where it is said that organised Maori tennis commenced, the Ruihi Tairapenga Cup is played for.

Te Puke and Tauranga run an annual tournament between twelve teams.

In the Wairoa District, ten Maori Tennis Clubs have been active for many years and comprise the bulk of the players in the interclub championships as only four other clubs, Pakeha, comprise the remainder.

Rotorua, Whakatane, East Coast and Opotiki conduct an inter tribal tournament for the Herewini Memorial Shield.

The Arawa Tennis Association was first founded about 1925–26 with clubs at Whaka, Ohinemutu, Owhata and Matata.

There are now 21 clubs affiliated with the Ransfield Memorial Cup, Hinemoa Rose Bowl, Rotary Cup and Horohoro Challenge Cup.

Championships are at present held by Mr W. Keys, Taumaranui (men's), and Miss D. Morrison of Rotorua (women's).

Junior Maori Tennis was inaugurated by the Maori Lawn Tennis Association last year. A Sir Apirana Memorial Fund was created, into which all sub-Associations, it is hoped, wil pay £25 to obtain a total £500. As a start four entries were arranged for the Junior Trials in Wellington last year. The New Zealand Lawn Tennis Association was generous enough to sponsor two of these.


Of all the Pakeha sports indulged in by Maoris, Rugby Football is one that has created more interest among Maoris than any other.

One of the first teams to travel overseas from New Zealand was a Maori Rugby team in 1888–89. This team created a wonderful impression in Great Britain as did another Maori team which toured France and Great Britain in 1926–27.

Many Maori teams have visited Australia, and have always been popular. The tour in 1950 was a record one in many ways for all touring teams from New Zealand, Maori and Pakeha.

Maoris have been key members of most All Black touring teams except to South Africa.

Tribal games up to district annual matches are played with teams and supporters travelling in some instances on a round trip up to 1,000 miles to attend games.

Some of the Rugby trophies competed for by Maori teams are enumerated hereunder, the principal ones being the Te Mori Rose Bowl played for since 1923, the Prince of Wales Cup since 1927, and associated with it since 1946, the Jack Ruru Memorial Cup.

Horowhenua: Anzac Lewis Memorial Cup and Thomas Nolan Cup.

Taranaki: The Benton Shield, Parihaka Shield and Rima Whakarua Memorial Shield.

Bay of Plenty: Hurinui Apanui Shield, Ratana Cup, Ngahoe Challenge Shield and Omeka Cup.

North Auckland: Hone Heke Cup and Ratana Challenge Cup.

Wanganui: Tuera Shield (since 1896 between Taranaki and Wanganui), Makirikiri Shield, Saville Shield and Bamber Cup.

South Island: Arepa Cup, between Provincial Maori Teams (1938).


Rugby League is played by a great number of Maoris with Auckland City supporting a number of Maori teams and Maori players in the local League competitions. Waikato with Turangawaewae League Club, Taranaki with a Te Atiawa Club, and a Waitotara Club, Rotorua with Huimai, and Wellington, Te Aroha.

A New Zealand Maori Representative League team is chosen each time a visiting side tours New Zealand.


In 1950 a very successful athletics tournament was held at Ngaruawahia, including running and field events. Useful help was obtained from Ardmore Training College. Another smaller tournament took place in 1951. This is an important new departure in Maori sport. It is hoped it will be possible to establish this tournament permanently, and increase the interest of Maori Youth in athletics.


The Arapawa Maori Rowing Club, Picton, has been active for many years and still continues to put crews into the annual regattas in Picton, Wellington and Nelson.