Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Māori cricket in New Zealand: Further Notes
In an earlier blog post, I talked about Māori participation in cricket being a mystery to cricket historians. It remains part known; also the number of Māori First Class players.
Historian and university teacher Greg Ryan’s The Making of New Zealand Cricket 1832-1914 (2004) provides a brief historical piece on 19th century Māori cricket and names some early First Class Māori players, however, Ryan does note: ‘At present we know far too little about early Maori sporting interactions with Europeans.’ I’ve not found much else about Māori cricket in specific searches of the National Library of New Zealand catalogue but there may be more in Papers Past newspaper searches.
Adam Parore remains the best-known Māori cricketer, and the first to score a century at Test level for
. Although I know Te Aute College, Hawke’s Bay, has had a cricket first XI dating back to the 19th century and Sir Paul Reeves, the former Governor-General of New Zealand, played for the Wellington College First XI in the late 1940s. In local literature, Michael O’Leary (of Te Arawa descent) has written of Parore’s feat in poetry and also used Te Rauparaha as the unlikely cricket hero in his novel Out of It (1987, 2012). In New Zealand Cook Islands literature, Lino Nelisi has written children’s cricket fiction in Cook Islands Māori and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, a well-known New Zealand/Cook Islands Māori poet, has a cricket poem about his brother Stuart Campbell, a cricketer, in A Tingling Catch (2010). O’Leary further emailed me a reference to the first game played between Māori and Pākehā in F.W.G. Dickeson’s Ngapuhi Land: A Survey in Picture and Story of the Historic Mid Northland (1948):
Near the bay’s northern end is the site of [William] Colenso’s first printing press, set up in 1835. On the second beach, Horotutu [Paihia], was played the first cricket match between Maori and Pakeha.
Ryan, however, considers there could’ve been earlier involvement before this match and notes further 19th century references to Māori players in the area and possible participation by them. Aside from what Ryan has discovered, there are surely more players and teams (school or club) yet to be traced and found.
I once filled in for my friend’s dad’s Levin Club against Waikanae when I was a teenager. I made two not out with a swirling skier over mid off from the last ball of the final over and facing just two balls. It raised the 250 on the scoreboard and being a one-day game, brought the club extra points my friend told me afterwards. The Waikanae bowler was Māori who asked me walking back to the pavilion if I was Māori too. My surname is pronounced ‘Piri’ like Piri Weepu, one of my favourite rugby players. It was not the first time I'd been asked by Māori. I told him, however, I was not Māori but Scots-French descent.
Recently, I started doing a search of the magazine Te Ao Hou (The
New World), published by the Maori Affairs Department, which the National Library of New Zealand has now digitized. In issue 39, June 1962, Kara Puketapu discusses in his article ‘Maoris and Summer Sports’ the keen participation by Māori in winter sports like rugby and rugby league, and gives his reasons for the lesser participation in summer sports like cricket:
Perhaps the reason for this is that for most summer sports, a player must adopt an individualistic approach and spend hours of practice by himself. Myself, I think I would find this uninteresting, and I am sure many other Maoris would too. To spend an evening or Sunday morning hitting a tennis ball against a volley-board or bowling a cricket ball at a stick or fence, or sprinting down a track against imaginary opponents does not seem to appeal to the Maori. The actual game might be enticing but the individual practice demanded for competitive play seems to kill any keenness.
The fact that there are Maoris playing summer sports and that they are not reaching the top-line consistently, if at all, is I think due to some of these reasons. One other point that can be added is that in most summer sports, unlike winter sports, bodily contact between players is absent.
I am confident that we can excel in every sport, including summer ones; but so far, apart from the fact that most of us live in the country and have not had the opportunity to participate regularly, we have not yet developed the inclination.
Similarly, Paul Potiki, in No. 3, Summer 1953, discusses the issue of cricket:
Not many Maoris have shown interest or ability at cricket, but since the war the number playing has noticeably increased. My knowledge is confined mainly to
, but I can recall only Jimmy Ell as a first class cricketer. It is of note also that Jimmy still holds the Wellington record for highest score. Last year the Auckland Plunket Shield team included a highly promising Maori colt in Doug Hemi, and it is most significant that there are at least two Maori girls playing representative women's cricket. Wellington
However, a closer key word search on ‘cricket’ brings up many examples of Māori involvement and participation in the game. Mr Rangiataahua Royal, O.B.E., M.C. and bar, who ‘was selected for the 1922 All Black team in New Zealand, but was unable to play because of an injury’ later organized ‘the first Māori team to play in first class matches’, and was ‘a Rotorua and South Auckland representative (No. 52 (September 1965) p. 63).’ (I’m yet to find a record of the team that Royal organised. Was it rugby or cricket?)
Jock Taua, in No. 27, Summer 1959, notes a rare Māori cricket team competing in an
Cricket was played at the Domain, where it was interesting to see one of the few Maori teams to ever compete in a cricket competition.
Lieut.-Colonel Poananga, an officer who served in
Malaya in 1959-1961, has ‘a fine sporting record, including the heavyweight boxing championship, 2nd N.Z.E.F. ( ) in 1946. He also captained the 2nd N.Z.E.F. ( Japan ) cricket team during the same period. (No. 53 (December 1965), p. 29).’ Japan
An obituary for Miss Te Kiato Riwai, a Senior Welfare Officer and a recipient of an MBE for her services to her people, in No. 61 (December 1967), states that she was a cricketer in her younger days:
Kia was a keen sportswoman and during her younger days played basketball for the Otautahi Maori Club and cricket for Mai Moa.
An article on Mamae Wikiriwhi, in No. 76 (June 1975), p. 23, one of
’s first students at New Zealand , states that ‘Mamae’s interests are in indoor basketball, netball, cricket and tennis. She has represented United World College in junior tennis.’ North Shore
Elsewhere, an article on Whatarangi Winiata, a Rotary Foundation Fellow and Ngarimu V.C. Post-Graduate Scholar, states that he ‘held a Horowhenua College Cap in cricket. (No. 31 (June 1960), p. 58.’ Mr S. W. Maioha, O.B.E.’s obituary (No. 43 (June 1963), p. 63), notes that he was ‘a former Northland representative at rugby, cricket and tennis’.
A further full length article in the 1950s by Paul Potiki on ‘Maoris and Sport’ in the early 1950s, however, gives us the best evidence that their participation in cricket was wider still, and names First Class and representative players. Although Jimmy Ell’s record score of 291 must’ve been in club cricket when he was leading club run scorer in the 1938/39 season for
. He never produced the same form at First Class level and only managed nine 50s in his First Class innings with a high score of 89 not out. His sister Agnes Ell represented Wellington women at Test level in 1934/35. New Zealand
From Maoris and Sport
Why do so few Maoris play cricket? I play, myself, and have often been asked this question. Quite frankly I have never been able to find a complete or satisfying answer, because on the face of it so many Maoris have all the physical attributes which help to make the good cricketer.
A good eye, innate sense of balance and timing, a flair for ball-games, and an almost uncanny gift of ‘style’ seem to be the lot of most Maoris. These characteristics, together with team spirit, patience and self-discipline, are the main requirements of the good cricketer.
I do not like to think that it is because of the last two that the Maori has little interest in the game, but it must be said that his natural tendency is often towards the spectacular. He prefers the sudden blaze of action with slim chance of success to the more cautious digging-in tactics, which leave honours even and delay a decision to another day. These tactics to-day are all too common in big cricket, but sometimes, for the team’s sake, cricket demands this cautious, self-effacing technique. Our friends from
who toured Fiji this summer, play a completely uninhibited game with great success, and I believe the Maoris would also. New Zealand
Most Maoris who do play, and even those who have reached the top grades, have a most cavalier approach. Although they may not win the regard of the purist, they delight the spectator.
Few people in
would deny that Jimmy Ell was, in his day, the most fluent and attractive stroke producer in the country. Wellington
Jimmy made his share of ‘ducks’, but he also got his share of centuries, including the
record score of 291. I understand that John Smith, of Kaikohe, is a competent cricketer as well as a fine rugby player, as was his brother Peter, the news of whose death saddened us in January last. Wellington
Most of our people live in rural districts, where the good pitch is unknown. Most who do play in the country have to depend on coir matting over uneven turf, or over concrete, often with a rough outfield.
With more of our youth now attending Pakeha district high schools and city colleges, however, the number of Maoris playing cricket is increasing. A few are breaking into representative cricket, and among these are the Sciascia brothers from Levin, Hemi, from
Waikato and , and Taiaroa in this season’s Otago Brabin Shield team. I would like to hear of any others. Auckland
(From Te Ao Hou (The New World), No. 7, Summer 1954, p. 50)
Of these names breaking in to representative cricket: Hemi from
Waikato must be the All Black Ron Hemi who played for in the early 1950s. The Sciascia brothers and Taiaroa didn’t make it to First Class level. Auckland
Greg Ryan’s The Making of
Cricket 1832-1914, Joseph Romanos' 100 Māori Sports Heroes and the online New Zealand Cricket Archive lists a few more Māori cricketers who did. Ryan notes that six Māori cricketers ‘who were all very much a part of urban European society’ played at First Class level between the early 1880s and 1920: John Taiaroa (Hawke’s Bay, 1890s), Tabby Wynyard (Wellington, Auckland, 1882/83-1907/08), Wiri Baker (Wellington, New Zealand), George Baker (Wellington), Thomas Grace (Wellington), and fast bowler Wharukiti Uru (Canterbury, 1890s). More recently, Brandon Hiini (Canterbury and Northern Districts), Dave Houpapa (Auckland), Michael Taiaroa (Central Districts), Tane Topia (Auckland), Tipene Friday (Wellington), Daryl Tuffey (Auckland, Northern Districts and New Zealand), Heath Davis (Wellington, Auckland and New Zealand), Kieran Noema-Barnett (Central Districts), Shane Bond (Canterbury, New Zealand), Jesse Ryder (Central Districts, Wellington, New Zealand), Ronald Karaitiana (Wellington), Jeremy Kuru (Central Districts), Adam Parore (Auckland and New Zealand) and Anaru Kitchen (Auckland) have contributed to or played a few matches in New Zealand First Class cricket but only Parore, Bond, Ryder, Davis and Tuffey have gone on to achieve at international Test level. Of the women players listed: Yvonne Kainuku (New Zealand Women), Rebecca Rolls (New Zealand Women), Suzie Bates (New Zealand Women), Lea-Marie Tahuhu (New Zealand Women) and Kelly Rangi (Central Districts Women) played at international or domestic level. There are probably more players who are part-Māori, and those I've listed here are a guess. New Zealand
These examples found in Te Ao Hou, 100 Māori Sports Heroes, Ryan’s early history of New Zealand cricket and the New Zealand Cricket Archive suggest that the history of Māori participation in cricket could be a valuable story worth tracing in the future, particularly with the advent of the National Library of New Zealand’s Papers Past digital newspaper archive.
Article © Mark Pirie, 2012
(Sources: Ngapuhi Land: A Survey in Picture and Story of the Historic Mid Northland (F W G Dickeson, Kaikohe, 1948); 100 Summers: The History of Wellington Cricket by D. O. Neely (Moa Publishers, Wellington, 1975); 100 Maori Sports Heroes by Joseph Romanos (Trio Books, Wellington, 2012); The Making of New Zealand Cricket 1832-1914 by Greg Ryan (Frank Cass, London, 2004); New Zealand Cricket’s online Archive; email from Michael O’Leary; and Te Ao Hou (The New World) 1952-76 (Wellington, Maori Affairs Dept.) online archive at the National Library of New Zealand's digital collections)