Maori Personalities in Sport
THE LATE DICK TAIAROA
On the 9th April one of Maoridom's most notable rugby players passed away at his home in Taumutu.
Although Mr Dick Taiaroa had hung up his boots long before most of our readers were born, his name has lingered long on the lips of the enthusiasts. With his very famous brother Jack, and his great team mate and close relative, the late Tom Ellison, Dick Taiaroa contributed some of the most gloried pages in our early football history.
At the time of his passing Dick Taiaroa was 87 years of age. He had seen rugby develop from its crude infancy in the ′80s to the highly polished, overspecialised game it is today. In the early days of that development he played no small part.
Dick Taiaroa was born at the ‘Kaik’ at Otakou Heads. His father, Hori Kerei Taiaroa, was a member of Parliament and later a Legislative Councillor.
The family, while Dick was still a boy, moved from Otakou to Taumutu in Canterbury, where later Dick Taiaroa was to become a successful farmer. From Taumutu he was sent to the Christchurch Boys' High School as one of its first pupils and it was there that his career as a footballer began. It was in Wellington, however, where he trained as a surveyor, that he first attracted notice. He played at different periods for two of the three clubs then in existence, Athletic and Wellington. His kinsman, Tom Ellison—thought by many to be the greatest footballer of all time—played for the third club, Poneke.
Tales, some apocryphal, surround the name of Taiaroa and one which concerns Jack may bear retelling here.
The Taiaroas played in the days when there was no international body for the drafting of rules and New Zealand, being so far from the centre of the game, knew little of the finer interpretations.
It seems that the five-yard rule for the lineout did not then exist, and provided the ball was thrown or bounced in from touch some-where near where it went out it was considered to be in play.
The New Zealanders playing against Stoddart's visiting English team knew nothing of this ruling, and early in one game, near their goal line, they were astonished to see an English player grab the ball, bounce it a foot or two in from touch, recover it and walk across in the corner for an unimpeded try. Taiaroa was most upset at what he looked upon as an underhand trick.
A little later in the game a similar opportunity presented itself to Taiaroa, and nothing loath he seized it and scored an identical and gleeful try. Legend has it that he was heard to say, ‘My word, that rule is a good one—it will do me—this is the best game I've ever played!’
Dick Taiaroa was a member of the famous native touring team which visited England in 1888. In fourteen months in Australia, New Zealand and Britain, this team played 107 matches and lost only 23 of them. Compare this with the so-called strenuous itinerary of the 1953 team, which played about 30 games.
In addition to playing for the native team, Dick Taiaroa represented Wellington in 1886 and 1887.
He also represented his race at two Coronations—those of Edward VII and George V. He served in the South African War with the Mounted Rifles.
In the 1949 King's Birthday honours he was awarded the O.B.E.
The passing of Dick Taiaroa removed from the rugby scene one of its most colourful characters; but though he is gone his name will remain long in the annals of the sport which he decorated so well.
WOMEN IN SPORT
The national hockey tournament, national basketball tournament, and national indoor basketball tournament have all been held recently, and in each sport Maori girls were prominent.
At Nelson the hockey was most exciting, and Janie Maxwell of Auckland won a place in the North Island team and was Captain of the ‘Rest’ in the match against the New Zealand side. She is a splendid athlete and it will not be long before she wins a Dominion blazer. If a touring side were being chosen this year she would seem to be assured of a place.
Another young player to do well—although her side was not very successful—was Janie Kenny of Wellington. Janie is still a student at the Wellington Technical College, and needs to make only slight progress to go a long way in the game. Like Miss Maxwell, she is a most accomplished indoor basketball player, although a little young and inexperienced to win a place in the very strong Wellington side.
The outdoor basketball tournament at Hastings did not attract so many Maoris, but I did hear that Harriett Tomlins was one of Wellington's most reliable and consistent players. Harriett is a real trier, and, perhaps because the tournament was played in her home town, she seemed to put something more than her best foot forward.
There is little doubt that indoor basketball is the most spectacular sport played by New Zealand women. The North Island tournament played at Hamilton and the national tournament in Wellington both saw some thrilling games, and in the two strongest sides Maoris were well represented.
Wellington have two Maoris, Rangi Wallace and Mahi Potiki, and Auckland have six. Rangi is about the fastest guard in New Zealand and Mahi, who is nearing the veteran class—having first appeared for Wellington in 1942—is a most experienced and resourceful player.
In the Auckland side Janie Maxwell and May Smith are two of the stars. May Smith is exceptional. She is no youngster—her daughter was in the Auckland second team—yet she was the most prolific scorer in the tournament. May is a master of the hook shot—a shot which is almost impossible to guard—and the ease with which she very casually flicks the ball through the hoop is a constant source of amazement, even to those who see her often.
Both May and Janie Maxwell won places in the North team for the inter-island match, and May particularly played an astute game. She shot some good goals, but more important still was her feeding play to the centres. North won easily, and I would suggest that had they played to the left-hand court—and May Smith—instead of to Dawn Ashton on the right, the score would have been larger.
Not only are our girls doing so well in sport, but also it is most gratifying to find that they are both popular and respected. These girls who play in the big games are well in the public eye, and one can be proud of them both on and off the court.
Our congratulations and good wishes to them all.
There is no doubt that the Maori All Blacks were the major sporting attraction for Maoris last winter, and it is only proper that Te Ao Hou should mention something of their performances.
All in all both phases of the tour—six games in New Zealand and eight in Fiji—were highly successful, and my hearty congratulations are extended to the players and management.
Fiji in a remarkably short time has built up
an impressive record in international rugby, and I would very much like to see them offered a tour of the British isles and France. If such a tour could be arranged, Fiji would do well to consider ‘borrowing’ a manager-cum-coach from New Zealand. The ideal man would be Charlie Saxton of Otago, who did so much to weld the 1945 Kiwis into a devastating attacking machine.
Although we Maoris are proud of our team which beat Fiji and beat all provincial sides but Auckland in its North Island tour, it is well not to allow enthusiasm to cloud our judgment.
Wet weather in Fiji suited the Maoris, and the only test played on dry ground was won by the home team.
There has been a suggestion that the Maoris should tour Britain in the next year or two. The last such tour was in 1926, in which only two tests were played—against Wales and France.
This tour today was little publicised. Few people realise that it was an unqualified success, even though the team included very few players of international reputation.
My friend Winston ‘Scotty’ McCarthy, in a recent broadcast, said that the 1924 Invincibles and the 1945 Kiwis were the only New Zealand teams to beat Cardiff on Cardiff Arms Park.
I would draw his attention to the fact that the 1926 Maori team did so to the tune of 18–6.
This side also beat Wales in a thrilling encounter.
The thing which pleased me above all else in the 1954 Maori tour was the way our team came from well behind at Auckland to almost beat the New Zealand XV. It is a most depressing thing to be down 18–0 in the first half, and the way our team fought back shows the changing face of Maori football.
I would not give too much credence to the querulous press report which suggested that the referee favoured the Maoris, although I suspect that the New Zealand pack may have let up a little.
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The distinction of being the only Maori member of a 113-strong contingent of the New Zealand Boys' Brigade which left New Zealand in June to attend the international camp of the Boys' Brigade, near London, in August, belonged to a 17-year-old Maori schoolboy, Warren Te Waka, of Palmerston North. Warren was chosen to lead and train the contingent's haka party.