I, George Nepia,
In many places the first edition of this book was sold out as soon as the copies appeared, and many thousands of lovers of Rugby football will be forced to wait until the second edition is printed. This must surely indicate that, though George Nepia belongs to an era somewhat detached from those of Bob Scott and Don Clarke, the mighty deeds of the man, and his remarkable achievements on the playing fields of Rugby, remain as vivid today as they were thirty or forty years ago.
The book was written jointly by George and Terry McLean. The latter needs no introduction to those who follow the game, for his writings are legion. Of his part in producing the book, Terry says that the book is George Nepia's, with Terry assisting here and there.
The choice of the title, a most unusual one, was Terry's. While walking along Lambton Quay one evening, he noticed in a bookstall the title of a book on Roman times entitled ‘I, Claudius’. Why not ‘I, George Nepia’? For even as was Claudius on the fields of battle, so was George on the playing fields of Rugby.
Pursuit of Perfection
Early in the book we see George as a boy unaware of the brilliant talents within him. We see him struggling with inner forces trying to unleash themselves upon the physical world. He is carried along the tide of despair and fear. In his frailty, he is fighting against these strong forces, and in the end he is almost an emotional wreck. Then, on the fringe of adulthood, he learns to control and harness these forces to such an extent that they become his friends rather than his enemies. From now on the reader thrills to the apparent ease with which success comes to George.
He perfected his kicking, tackling and fielding techniques. He became the master of the spiral kick and became the only man to utilise it with devastating effect. He learnt to kick with either foot with perfection and to increase his kicking distances.
He played at five-eights for the Hawkes Bay team in 1923 and 1924, perhaps a little above average. Observant Maori students of Rugby saw the makings of a grand fullback in George. They tried to persuade Norman McKenzie to place him in that position, without success. The story of George's selection as a fullback for the North Island Maoris against the South Island Maoris for the Te Mori Rose Bowl in 1924, and of his elevation to the honoured position as custodian for the 1924 ‘Invincibles’, reads like a romance.
Bitterness over South Africa Decision
George became very bitter over the decision not to send any member of the Maori race to South Africa as a member of the All Black teams. He devotes much space to the development of his argument against this policy of the New Zealand Rugby Union. He and Jimmy Mill were omitted from the 1928 team which visited South Africa. No Maori team was selected to play against the visiting South African team in 1937. The great J. B. Smith was left out of the team which made the trip to South Africa in 1949—a bitter blow, says George. Then came the controversy of recent times when the country was split into two camps over the non-inclusion of Maoris in the last team to visit South Africa.
George, the perfectionist in everything he does, becomes delightfully the ordinary human being when he talks enthusiastically about life as a family man at Rangitukia on the East Coast. Huinga, his wife, guide and counsellor, is by his side. There is humour among the scrub-enclosed football fields of the Coast, and here George found peace and happiness in the lush pastures of the Waiapu Valley.
The book is copiously illustrated. For a book of its size and quality, the price is amazingly low. I strongly recommend it to all as a book, by a Maori, about a Maori and his success in a Pakeha world.
Twenty-two girls from Hukarere Maori Girls' School paid a weekend visit to Wellington recently. They were the guests of Chilton St James Girls' College, at Lower Hutt.
The girls also visited Parliament Buildings, where they met the Minister of Maori Affairs, Mr Hanan, and Sir Eruera Tirikatene, member for Southern Maori.
It is planned to make the visit an annual one, with each college alternatively visiting the other.