Maori Personalities in Sport
1953 has been a boom year for Rugby generally, and Maori players have made their contribution to the success of the season both in provincial matches and in the All Black trials.
Three Maoris or part-Maoris, Keith Davis (Auckland), Doug Hemi (Waikato) and Vince Bevan (Wellington) have been chosen to tour Great Britain, France and the U.S.A., and to them we extend very hearty congratulations and good wishes for a successful tour.
It is interesting to note that all three play for major unions—in fact, unions which have held the Ranfurly Shield in the last two years—but nevertheless the series of trials was most exhaustive, and selection scrupulously fair. As it was, several other Maoris must have gone very close to selection, notably Tommy Goldsmith, of Wanganui, and Brownie Cherrington, of Northland.
Goldsmith won a tremendous reputation throughout the trials for his resolute defence. He had the difficult task of marking Ron Jarden on several occasions, and many tributes have been paid to the manner in which he did so.
Cherrington, as usual, proved to be a tough proposition for whoever had to mark him, and when one remembers the success of Jim Sherratt in England with the Kiwis, one has the feeling that an aggressive winger like Cherrington could possibly have the same success on this tour.
No mention of Rugby for 1953 would be complete without reference to the East Coast Ranfurly Shield challenge at Wellington. With three exceptions the team was wholly Maori, and this was their first challenge for the Shield. Although they lost by a large margin they were by no means disgraced, and, in fact, their forwards more than held their own. In the backs they were outclassed by superior speed, experience and combination, but they should take consolation from the fact that so were Auckland and Taranaki. Also, Wellington have provided six backs for the All Blacks, and two of these could find places only as emergencies against East Coast.
One must also pay a tribute to the Taranaki Captain, Lance Hohaia, for his splendid contribution to Rugby in 1953. This big man led his province with great skill, and played some splendid football himself. When one considers that he is by no means in the first flush of youth, his performance is all the more meritorious.
Another pleasing feature of the season has been the encouragement given to Maori Rugby by the provincial Unions. Wellington, Wairarapa, Horowhenua and Wanganui all sponsored special Maori representative matches, and in these games a very high standard was set.
The Wellington-Wanganui Maori game was played as a curtain-raiser to the final Shield match, and a vast crowd of about 40,000 was treated to—and fully appreciated—a feast of thrilling football. Sol Heperi and Tommy Goldsmith, both Maori All Blacks, were the respective captains, but the players who really took the eye were Hugh Kawaru, Kara Puketapu
and Maihi. These youngsters will go a long way.
The Prince of Wales Cup challenge between Tai-Tokerau and Tairawhiti was played this year at Whakatane, on the same day that Wellington met Waikato for the Shield, and it says something for the attention paid to Maori Rugby that the chairman of the N.Z. Selection panel, Mr Tom Morrison, chose to see the Whakatane game in preference to the Shield match at Hamilton.
The game itself was played with the verve, dash and touch of unorthodoxy usually associated with Maori football, and we understand that Mr Morrison took away a favourable impression of the talent latent in our players. One experienced observer has said, however, that several promising players failed to show to advantage in some of the fundamentals of the game, without which no player can hope for high honours.
He said that several backs, for instance, marred splendid football—and also their chances of an All Black trial—because they could kick with only one foot. This applied particularly to J. Marks, of Tairawhiti, who in all other respects played magnificently.
Tairawhiti won the match, and for them J. Marks, A. Douglas, L. Raureti, W. Carrington, T. Murray and H. Potae played well. In the Tai-Tokerau team, Cherrington, Beasley, Ngawati and Ngakuru went well. Unfortunately, the ‘Master’, J. B. Smith, had an off day.
Those who were present say that the game was one of the best for years, and many tributes have been paid to the Ngatiawa people for the manner in which they handled the welcome and other social arrangements at Wairaka Pa.
In closing our notes on Rugby it is only fitting that we refer to the passing of an outstanding Rugby personality, Mr ‘Dolph’ Kitto, who was associated with Maori Rugby for many years. Dolph was a member of the Executive of the N.Z. Rugby Union for a long time, and took an active interest in the promotion of the game among our people. It is perhaps fitting that among the pall-bearers at his funeral there were two Maoris. Ben Parkinson, the president of the Wellington Referees' Association, and myself.
The annual golf tournament sponsored by the Maori Golf Association was held this year at Taumarunui. Play extended from Monday, August 31, to Friday, September 4, and representatives from most districts took part.
The general standard in the men's championship was not so high as it had been in past years, but this was probably because some of the best Maori golfers were not present. The tournament, however, was a most successful one, and if for nothing else it was notable for the eclipse of Tori Jones on his home course. He was beaten by the ultimate winner, K. August, in the semi-final, the score being 3 up and 2 to play. August went on to play steady golf, and won by the same margin from G. Tareha in the final.
Tori Jones and his late brother, Wally, had dominated the tournament since the War, and although this year's result came as a surprise to some people, it must be conceded that the tournament will gain in interest through the major honour going to another district.
In the women's final Mrs Ruiha Sage, of Hamilton, was successful this year after having been in the finals several times previously.
We understand that next season the tournament will be held at Hamilton.
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Maori women may have been slower than their pakeha sisters to take advantage of the independence and scope for initiative which followed the introduction of universal suffrage, but in recent years they have made up much of the leeway.
It is in the sporting world that this trend is most noticeable, and if one discounts Rugby football it would be fair to say that our women have been considerably more successful than the men.
One of the country's best all-round women athletes for 1953 was a young Maori girl from Auckland, Miss Janie Maxwell.
We are told that in the National Hockey Tournament this year she displayed outstanding ability. We are told also, from a most authoritative source that if the New Zealand team which is at present in England, had been chosen this year instead of at the end of last season, she would have had every chance of being included. Miss Maxwell played for North Island in the Inter-Island fixture at the end of the tournament.
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Her ability, however, does not end with hockey, as the following week saw her at Palmerston North with the Auckland Indoor Basketball representatives, who beat the favoured Wellington side to win the New Zealand title.
Janie was selected for the North Island team to play South Island, and also won a place in the New Zealand team which played the Rest. This was a very great honour for a young player, and we wish her every success for the future.
Incidentally, the Wellington team which won the North Island Tournament and was runner-up in the New Zealand Tournament, included two Maori girls. They were Rangi Wallace, an exceedingly mobile roving guard, and Mahi Potiki, who is now reaching the veteran stage, as she first represented Wellington in 1942. Another veteran at the tournament was Mrs Smith, of the winning Auckland team, who was chosen for the Rest against New Zealand, and who must be one of the few New Zealand women to have perfected the difficult hookshot.
In the swimming world, Maoris are looking for great things from the brilliant young back-stroke exponent, Moana Manley. She showed excellent promise last season, and we hope that this development will continue this season.
The 1953 Tennis Tournament was held at Rotorua during Easter week, but unfortunately it was abandoned at the semi-final stage owing to rain. The only event completed was the ladies' singles, which went to Miss M. Dewes, of Auckland.
We understand that the remaining events are to be completed on the first day of the 1954 Tournament, which has been set down for Easter, at Gisborne.
In the sporting field the staff of the Maori Affairs Department has not been idle. In Wellington the men, most of whom were Maoris, won the Public Service Rugby Tournament without having their line crossed. They beat the Post Office in an exciting final, 3 - 0, at Athletic Park.
In winning the Public Service Basketball Tournament for the second consecutive year the girls completed a notable double for the Department. Their team, also, was composed mainly of Maoris.