Albert Asher

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Albert Asher
Personal information
Full name Arapeta Paurini Wharepapa
Nickname Opai (after 1898 Great Northern Steeplechase winning horse Opae), India rubber man
Born (1879-12-03)3 December 1879
Tauranga, New Zealand
Died 8 January 1965(1965-01-08) (aged 85)
Auckland, New Zealand
Playing information
Height 167 cm (5 ft 6 in)
Weight 74 kg (11 st 9 lb)
Rugby union
Position Wing
Club
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1903 City
Representative
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1898–1907 Auckland 21
North Island
1903 New Zealand 11 17 0 0 51
Rugby league
Position Wing, Centre
Club
Years Team Pld T G FG P
City Rovers
Representative
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1908–1909 New Zealand Māori
1910 Australasia 2
1908–1910 Auckland
1910–1913 New Zealand 1 0 0 0 0
Source: rugbyleagueproject.org

Arapeta Paurini Wharepapa, or Albert Asher as he was more commonly known, (born 3 December 1879 in Tauranga – died 8 January 1965 in Auckland) was a New Zealand dual-code international rugby union and professional rugby league footballer of the 1890s, 1900s, '10s and '20s. At representative level Asher played rugby union for New Zealand, North Island, and Auckland playing on the Wing and played rugby league at representative level for Australasia, New Zealand, Auckland and the New Zealand Māori rugby league team. One of his brothers, Ernie, was also a rugby league international while another, John, became a Ngati Pukenga and Ngati Pikiao leader.

Rugby union career[edit]

Asher was only 11 years old when he played his first senior representative game of rugby union, playing for Tauranga against Rotorua. Eighteen months later he played against Auckland, becoming the youngest senior representative on record.[1] Asher moved to Auckland, joining the City club and he made his Auckland debut in 1898. He won a cap for New Zealand against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground on 15 August 1903, scoring a try.[2] While Asher only played in one Test match he played in 11 games for the All Blacks and scored 53 points.

In 1904, while working with the fire brigade, he had suffered a leg injury that kept him from meeting the 1904 British team that were touring New Zealand and he subsequently missed touring Great Britain with the Original All Blacks.[1] After two years out of the game Asher again represented Auckland in 1907, before changing codes.[3]

Rugby league career[edit]

Asher declined the offer to tour with the 1907–1908 New Zealand professional rugby team due to a broken ankle.[4] In May 1908 he led the first New Zealand Māori rugby league team on a tour of New South Wales and Queensland, where they are credited with financially saving the New South Wales Rugby League. At the time it was reported in New Zealand that they were accidental converts to rugby league, expecting to meet rugby union teams in Sydney, but this has since proved to be a cover story. The team twice defeated New South Wales and also defeated Australia in one "test".[5]

On their return Asher represented Auckland in their second match ever, against Wellington.[6]

In 1909 Asher was invited to tour Australia with the 1909 New Zealand side but again declined, opting to remain in Auckland and organise the 1909 New Zealand Māori tour of Australia which was set for later in the year. During the year Asher again represented Auckland and played for the new City Rovers club which had been formed to compete in the new Auckland Rugby League.[6]

In 1910 Asher played for City in the first official week of the Auckland Rugby League competition. On 25 June Asher was sent off by referee Jack Stanaway, the brother of Alex. The rest of the City side walked off in support of Asher. Asher became the first player to face the ARL judiciary, who cautioned him.[6] Asher then traveled to Sydney, where he was part of the Australasian side that played two matches against the 1910 Great Britain team. Asher, who was known for leaping over players – leading to his nickname Opai, clashed with another known leaper, Billy Batten. Asher came into contact with Batten's knee in a mid air collision and was carried from the ground, requiring stitches before he returned.[7]

Asher was to play against the Lions three more times once they reached New Zealand in July. Asher lined up against them for New Zealand Māori, Auckland and New Zealand. This was Asher's only cap for New Zealand.[8] He finished the season by being part of the City side that won the inaugural competition, being awarded the Myers Cup.

Asher again played for New Zealand on their 1913 tour of Australia, however no test matches were played.[9]

Asher continued to play for City until after the First World War.[10]

Later years[edit]

After retirement Asher became the custodian of Carlaw Park between 1921 and 1943, the home of the Auckland Rugby League.[1][3] He is buried in Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland.

Legacy[edit]

Asher was inducted into the New Zealand Rugby League's Legends of League in 2008.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Maori Personalities in Sport Te Ao Hou
  2. ^ "Statistics at espnscrum.com". espnscrum.com. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Albert Asher allblacks.com
  4. ^ Coffey, John; Wood, Bernie. The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League. HLNZ Sport Hardback. ISBN 1-86971-090-8. 
  5. ^ John Coffey, Bernie Wood (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908–2008. Huia Publishers. ISBN 978-1-86969-331-2. 
  6. ^ a b c Coffey, John and Bernie Wood Auckland, 100 years of rugby league, 1909–2009, 2009. ISBN 978-1-86969-366-4.
  7. ^ The Leap Of Faith: Hurdling Tacklers 1908.com
  8. ^ "Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  9. ^ ASHER, Arapeta Paurini (Opai) 1910, 1913 – Kiwi #43 nzleague.co.nz
  10. ^ Mr Albert (Opai) Asher Te Ao Hou