|Full name||Joseph Astbury Warbrick|
|Date of birth||1 January 1862|
|Place of birth||Matata, New Zealand|
|Date of death||30 August 1903 (aged 41)|
|Place of death||Waimangu, New Zealand|
|School||St Stephen's College|
|Rugby union career|
|New Zealand No.||17|
|Years||Club / team|
|Years||Club / team||Caps||(points)|
|1877, 1882–83, 1886, 1894
|Years||Club / team||Caps||(points)|
New Zealand Natives
Joe Warbrick (1 January 1862 – 30 August 1903), born Joseph Astbury Warbrick, was a Māori rugby union player who represented New Zealand on their 1884 tour to Australia, and later captained and selected the 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team that embarked on a 107-match tour of New Zealand, Australia and the British Isles.
He was born in Rotorua, and played club rugby for Ponsonby while boarding at St Stephen's Native School. In 1877 he was selected to play fullback for Auckland as a 15-year-old, making him the youngest person to play first-class rugby in New Zealand. He played for Auckland against the first ever overseas team to tour the country – New South Wales – in 1882. In 1884 he was picked for the first ever New Zealand representative team, and appeared in seven of the side's eight matches on their tour of New South Wales.
In 1888 Warbrick conceived of, selected, and captained the privately funded New Zealand Native team. The squad, which included four of Warbrick's brothers, was originally envisaged to contain only Māori players, but eventually included several New Zealand-born, and foreign-born, Europeans. Although the team played 107 matches, including 74 in the British Isles, due to injury Warbrick played only 21 matches. The tour was the first from the Southern Hemisphere to visit Britain, and remains the longest in rugby's history. In 2008 Warbrick and the Natives were inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.
Warbrick virtually retired from rugby after returning from the tour, and went on to work as a farmer and tourist guide in the Bay of Plenty. He was killed by an eruption of the Waimangu Geyser in 1903.
- 1 Background and early career
- 2 1884 New Zealand team
- 3 Later provincial career
- 4 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team
- 5 Retirement from playing and later life
- 6 Impact and legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Sources
Background and early career
Joseph Warbrick was born in Rotorua, New Zealand on 1 January 1862. His father, Abraham Warbrick, was English-born, while his mother, Nga Karauna Paerau, was Māori and the daughter of a Ngāti Rangitihi chief. Joe Warbrick was the third child, and was one of at least five brothers – the others were Alfred, Arthur, Fredrick, and William. All five of the brothers went on to tour together as part of the 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team. With his family still based in the Bay of Plenty, Joe Warbrick was sent to board at St Stephen's Native School in Bombay, and it was there that he started playing rugby union. In 1877 he played for Ponsonby in Auckland – even though Bombay was quite far south of the club. Despite being only 15-years-old, Warbrick displayed such talent for Ponsonby that he was selected for Auckland Provincial Clubs (now Auckland) that same season, and played at fullback for them against Otago. This made him the youngest person to have played first-class rugby in New Zealand – a record that still stands.
By 1878 Warbrick had left both St Stephen's and Ponsonby and was working as a public servant. This employment meant that he moved throughout the North Island for the remainder of his rugby career. By 1879 he was living in Wellington, and represented the province three times that season. He again played three matches for Wellington in 1880, including one against his old province of Auckland. The 1880 match was the first ever visit by Wellington to Auckland, and was won by the visitors 4–0. Warbrick was renowned for his drop-kicking, and his goal in the match was the only score; it was claimed by many Aucklanders that his performance was the difference between the two sides.
Warbrick was back in Auckland in 1882, this time playing for the North Shore club. He represented the province in 1882, and played both matches between Auckland and the touring New South Wales (NSW) team. The NSW side was the first overseas rugby team to tour New Zealand, and played seven matches in the country. The visitors lost their two matches against Auckland, the first 7–0, and the second 18–4.[a] Warwick toured with Auckland the following season, playing away matches against Wellington, Canterbury and Otago.
1884 New Zealand team
In 1884 a team of New Zealand players, organised by the Canterbury player and administrator William Millton, and Dunedin businessman Samuel Sleigh, was selected to tour New South Wales. This is now regarded as the first official representative New Zealand side. Warbrick was included in a squad of players that were selected from throughout the country; this was all performed without the oversight of a national body – several provincial Rugby Unions did exist, but the New Zealand Rugby Football Union was not formed until 1892. The squad's 19 players were expected to assemble in Wellington before disembarking for Sydney on 21 May, however Warbrick missed his ship from Auckland and so travelled to Sydney alone. Millton was elected captain, and Sleigh managed the team. The side won all eight of their matches on tour, including the three games against New South Wales. Warbrick appeared in seven matches and scored three drop goals; one of the goals was reportedly kicked from well inside his own half. He played at both fullback and three-quarter, and was noted for his good ball handling and speed, as well as his ability to drop kick.
Later provincial career
After returning from tour, Warbrick moved to Napier, and in 1885 represented Hawke's Bay provincially, including captaining them against Poverty Bay. By 1886 he was back playing for Auckland, and that year captained them in their win against Wellington, and also against New South Wales – who were again touring the country. He returned to Hawke's Bay for the 1887 season, and played for them against Wellington, Poverty Bay, and Canterbury. Warbrick had returned to Wellington by the 1888 season when he again played for the province.
The very first British Isles side toured New Zealand in 1888. The side was privately organised and toured the country playing provincial sides in April and May of that year. Warbrick was in the Wellington team that faced the tourists on 13 May. The match was very ill tempered, with each side accusing the other of rough play, and eventually finished a 3–3 draw.
1888–89 New Zealand Native football team
In early 1888 Warbrick announced plans to assemble a Māori side to face the visiting British during their tour. He later revealed a plan to take a team of Māori or part-Māori to tour the British Isles. His ambition was for "Māori football" to be as famous as Australian cricket, whose national side had already developed a strong rivalry with the English. It is not known exactly when Warbrick had conceived of the idea for this tour, but it was well before the arrival of the British Isles team in April 1888. The touring British did help demonstrate the feasibility of Warbrick's proposal, which was daunting – no New Zealand side had ever toured the Northern Hemisphere. Hearing of Warbrick's plans, civil servant Thomas Eyton contacted him to offer help managing the tour, which Warbrick accepted. By May 1888, James Scott, a publican, had joined the partnership. The three men decided that Warbrick would be the team's captain, coach and selector, Scott its manager, and Eyton its promoter. Although Warbrick had chiefly sporting reasons for conducting the tour, for Eyton and Scott profit was the major motivation.
A New Zealand Māori side had never been selected – the first official side did not play until 1910 – but Warbrick's experience in provincial rugby ensured he was well qualified to select the team. He travelled the country trying to find players who were both talented and willing to spend a year on tour. The make-up of the team changed significantly between March 1888 and when the team departed New Zealand in August. Warbrick encountered challenges assembling the side; there was opposition from some players in including part-Māori in the squad which prompted several early recruits to withdraw. Initially twenty players were selected for the side – which was named the New Zealand Māori team. Some of these players had strong family and playing links to Warbrick (such as his four brothers). Warbrick was eventually compelled to add five Pākehā (European non-Māori) players to the squad which resulted in the side being renamed the New Zealand Native football team.[b] Warbrick may have wanted a team of exclusively Māori or part-Māori players, but according to historian Greg Ryan, including the Pākehā players was "necessary to strengthen the Native team and create a more effective combination". A further player, Pie Wynyard, was added to the side after they arrived in Britain in November 1888.[c]
Domestic tour and British Isles
The side's first match was against Hawke's Bay on 23 June 1888, and included Joe Warbrick in the backs. The match was won 5–0, and was followed by a second match a week later in which Joe Warbrick contributed ten points in an 11–0 victory. The next match was against a strong Auckland side, who defeated the Natives 9–0. The heavy defeat was costly for the Native team, with Joe Warbrick breaking several bones in his foot. It was his last game until November that year, and prompted the addition of Patrick Keogh – one of the five Pākehā in the side – to the squad before its departure from New Zealand.
The team departed New Zealand on 1 August 1888, and sailed to England via Melbourne. After their six-week voyage from Australia, the Native team arrived in England on 27 September 1888. Their first match was against Surrey, on 3 October, but Joe Warbrick was still injured and so did not play. The side continued to play regularly – they averaged one game every 2.3 days while in Britain – but Joe Warbrick did not appear until 7 November when the team faced Tynemouth. The match was won 7–1, but Warbrick – who played at fullback – exasperated his foot injury. He did manage to play six matches between mid-December and early January before he was again injured. He appeared against Stockport, a match drawn 3–3, on 12 January, but his form was still poor.
Warbrick only played twice more in the following month, and was not fit enough to be selected for the team that faced England on 16 February. The match resulted in a controversial 7–0 loss for the Natives, and included two controversial English tries awarded by referee George Rowland Hill – who was also Secretary of the English Rugby Football Union (RFU). The loss and aftermath soured the relationship between Warbrick's team and the RFU – who accused the Natives of poor sportsmanship after they protested at the awarding of the controversial tries.
By the time the team departed for Australia in late March they had played 74 matches in Britain, but due to injury Warbrick only appeared in 14; in contrast David Gage featured in 68 matches, and eight other members played more than 50. Joe Warbrick was not the only player to experience injury, the taxing schedule of matches took a toll, and he had frequently struggled to find a full complement of 15 fit players. On top of playing relatively few matches in Britain, Warbrick scored only once there – a conversion against Devon.
The high injury toll and congested schedule contributed to complaints about Joe Warbrick's behaviour. His comments to the English press – who directed much of their focus towards him – were viewed negatively by some members of the squad; he was accused of neglecting to acknowledge the contributions of players such as Thomas Ellison, Gage, Keogh, and Edward McCausland, but extol the efforts of himself and his brothers.
Warbrick said of his time in the British Isles: "My impression of England and its people during the tour was a very favourable one, more especially does this apply to private individuals. I found them everywhere very kind and attentive and apparently anxious to make one's visit as pleasant as possible". The term "private individuals" may have been used to exclude from praise both the RFU and London press. Following the tour he also criticised the impartiality of the English referees, and believed that the English administrators displayed a double standard in their treatment of the Natives – the RFU had continued to select Andrew Stoddart for the England team, despite him touring with the unsanctioned 1888 British team.
Australia and return to New Zealand
Warbrick sailed to Australia for a leg of their tour described by historian Greg Ryan as "little more than a testimony to the motives of Scott and Eyton as speculators." Their time in Australia started in Victoria, where the side mostly played Victorian Rules Football against Melbourne clubs. These matches were played for financial rather than sporting reasons, and the team had little success at Victorian Rules. While the side only played a single rugby match in Victoria, they played rugby almost exclusively in New South Wales and Queensland. Warbrick made very few appearances in Australia – two in total – but continued as team captain. The Natives had not lost a rugby match in Australia when they played their second match against Queensland. The first match was won 22–0, and the second – held on 20 July – was expected to be another comfortable victory for the Natives. However at half-time the scores were level, and with the exception of Billy Warbrick, the Natives had played poorly. There were rumours that four of the Natives had been paid by local bookmakers to throw the match. When Joe Warbrick spoke to the team at half-time, he threatened to expose the accused players; this was enough to prompt an improvement in the Natives' play, and the side recovered to win 11–7.
The team returned to New Zealand in August 1889, but the Queensland controversy still hung over the side. The Northern Rugby Union (later renamed the Queensland Rugby Union) did not take any action over the accusations, but the Otago Rugby Union (ORU) decided to conduct an inquiry. The matter was not resolved until after the team arrived in Dunedin when the ORU announced there was no evidence "justifying the accusations", and dismissed taking any further action. The team continued to travel north, and played fixtures throughout the country. Joe Warbrick had played an early match in Gore – against Mataura District XVI – where he again suffered injury. The team's final match was against Auckland on 24 August. The fixture was lost 7–2, but by this point several Native's players had departed the team, including Keogh, Ellison and Gage. Despite the gruelling schedule and high number of injuries, the loss to Auckland ended a remarkable streak that had started with their victory over Widnes on 9 March; the Natives had not lost a rugby game in 31 matches – the side had won 30, and drawn one match over that time. The Natives played a total of 107 rugby matches, including 74 in the British Isles, and the tour remains the longest tour in rugby history.
Retirement from playing and later life
Warbrick retired from rugby at the conclusion of the Native's tour. He moved to the Bay of Plenty to farm, and occasionally turned out for the Tauranga representative team. Aside from that he did make a one-match first-class comeback five years later, when he played for Auckland against Taranaki in 1894. Following this match, an Auckland paper wrote:
Considering that Joe won his cap in 1877, it must be very pleasing to him to be able to record 1894 on it. As I said before, Joe's career as a footballer is, I believe, unparalleled in the colonies. It is certainly a feat Joe may well feel proud of, that after battling the storms for a period of 17 years, he has again been called to render assistance to his province ...
Warbrick later worked as a tourist guide in the Rotorua area – where his brother Alfred was the Chief Government Guide. It was on 30 August 1903, while working with his brother in the geothermal region of the area that Joe Warbrick was killed. The Waimangu Geyser – then the largest geyser in the world – unexpectedly erupted with Joe and several tourists in the vicinity; four of them including Joe were killed instantly before being swept towards Lake Rotomahana.
Impact and legacy
As the captain and instigator of the 1888–89 Natives – the first New Zealand team to tour the British Isles – Warbrick had a lasting impact on the development of rugby in his homeland. When the Natives returned from tour they introduced a style of rugby as good as any had ever seen in the country. According to Ryan, "their brand of sensational running style and combined forward play had never been seen in New Zealand." The speculative nature of the tour also prompted the majority of New Zealand's provincial unions to form a national body; the New Zealand Rugby Football Union was formed in 1892. As well, many of the Native's went on to play provincial rugby, and Ellison and Gage eventually captained New Zealand.
In 2008 Warbrick was inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Māori Sports Awards Hall of Fame. A short film, Warbrick, that focuses on Joe Warbrick preparing an injury-depleted Native's squad for a match has also been created. The film was released in 2009, and was played for New Zealand's national team – the All Blacks – that year during their preparations for a match against Australia.
- NSW won four and lost three of their seven matches in New Zealand; their other loss was to Otago.
- Despite the name, at least two members of the squad were not born in New Zealand: Edward McCausland was born in Australia, and Patrick Keogh in England.
- Pie Wynyard was in Britain on business at the time.
- Mulholland 2009, p. 5.
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- Ryan 1993, pp. 126–127.
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