Billy Stead

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Billy Stead
Headshot of Billy Stead with All Blacks' cap on
Full name John William Stead
Date of birth (1877-09-18)18 September 1877
Place of birth Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand
Date of death 21 July 1958(1958-07-21) (aged 80)
Place of death Bluff, Southland, New Zealand
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight 64 kg (141 lb)
School Southland Boys' High
Notable relative(s) Norman Stead
Occupation(s) Bootmaker
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position First five-eighths
New Zealand No. 105
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
1896–1908 Invercargill Star
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1896–1908 Southland 52
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
All Blacks
Māori All Blacks
Coaching career
Years Club / team
All Blacks
Māori All Blacks
Rugby union career

Billy Stead, born John William Stead, (18 September 1877 – 21 July 1958) was a rugby union player born in Invercargill who played for New Zealand, the All Blacks, on their 1905–06 tour. Stead also played provincially for Southland, and later coached various teams, including Southland and the New Zealand Māori. A bootmaker by trade, he also co-authored The Complete Rugby Footballer with Dave Gallaher, and was a columnist for the Southland Times, and New Zealand Truth.

Playing career[edit]

Stead first played representative rugby for Southland in 1896. He was only 18 at the time, and continued to play for the province until 1908; raking up 52 matches in total for the side.[1] After representing the South Island in 1903, he was selected for the All Blacks that year.[1][a] Although he did tour with the team to Australia, he did not play in a Test match until the following year.[1] In his first Test against Great Britain in 1904, Stead captained the side.[2] He was again selected for the All Blacks the following year for their northern hemisphere tour.[3] Although he did not participate in the preliminary tour of Australia due to work commitments, Stead did play against Canterbury and then Wellington for the All Blacks.[1][4]

Dave Gallaher was named as the tour captain, with Stead as vice-captain.[2] On the voyage to Britain, both players resigned as captain and vice-captain respectively.[5] They had both been appointed by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), but believed that the players should have a say in the choice of captain.[5] Although the teams' manager refused to accept the resignations, the team still took a vote; going 17 to 12 in favour of endorsing the NZRFU's selections[6] The tour was highly successful for Stead as he established himself as one of New Zealand's greatest ever first-five eighths.[7]

Stead participated in 29 of the Originals' matches, and although he only scored 11 tries for the team, his ability to set up tries for other players was vital.[1] Jimmy Hunter, who scored 44 tries on tour, said to him at the Originals' 50 year reunion, "Without you I was nothing".[1] Stead was considered a master tactician, and him missing the teams' Wales Test was considered a major factor in their only loss.[1][8]

Before the squad departed Britain for North America, Stead and Gallaher were approached by a publisher to author a book on rugby tactics and play.[3] They were paid £50 each and completed the book in less than two weeks.[3] The book, The Complete Rugby Footballer was mainly authored by Stead, a bootmaker, with Gallaher contributing most of the diagrams.[3] The book is regarded as one of the most influential in rugby literature.[9]

After the Originals' tour, Stead's next All Blacks' match was not until 1908 when he captained them twice against the Anglo-Welsh.[1]

Following the 1908 season, Stead went into semi-retirement, but was persuaded to play for the New Zealand Māori.[10] The Māori team was formed after a proposal by Ned Parata to the NZRFU, and a tour to New South Wales was organised for 1910.[11] Stead was named vice-captain for the tour, and played in the first ever Māori match, against the Rotorua sub union on 21 May 1910.[12] The side then played a match against Auckland, which they lost, before departing for Australia.[13] He played in 13 of the sides matches on tour,[1] including their 13–8 win against Queensland, which was the first Māori victory over significant opposition.[14] The tour generated a modest profit which was donated to a girl's school,[15] and provided the foundation for the continued existence of the side.[16][17]

In retirement[edit]

After his retirement, Stead continued to be involved in rugby as an administrator and coach. In 1921 he coached the All Blacks in two of their Tests against South Africa.[1] Stead also coached the New Zealand Māori, as well as writing for the Southland Times and New Zealand Truth.


  1. ^ The All Blacks were not known as such until 1905.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Knight, Lindsay. "Billy Stead". New Zealand Rugby Museum. Archived from the original on 26 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Ryan 2005, p. 196.
  3. ^ a b c d "The 1905/06 'Originals'". New Zealand Rugby Museum. Archived from the original on 26 March 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Tobin 2005, p. 24.
  5. ^ a b Ryan 2005, p. 63.
  6. ^ Ryan 2005, p. 64.
  7. ^ "Who gets a 10 out of 10 at first five-eighths?". 10 November 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Hewitt, Chris (3 November 2005). "The All Blacks: 100 years of attitude". Archived from the original on 26 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "David Gallaher". Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Mulholland 2009, pp. 16–17.
  11. ^ Mulholland 2009, pp. 18–19.
  12. ^ Mulholland 2009, pp. 23–24.
  13. ^ Mulholland 2009, p. 26.
  14. ^ Mulholland 2009, p. 27.
  15. ^ Mulholland 2009, p. 23.
  16. ^ Mulholland 2009, p. 34.
  17. ^ "Māori rugby timeline". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 20 December 2012. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 


  • Elliott, Matt (2012). Dave Gallaher—The Original All Black Captain (paperback). London: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-1-86950-968-2. 
  • McLean, Terry (1987). New Zealand Rugby Legends. Auckland, New Zealand: MOA Publications. ISBN 0-908570-15-5. 
  • Mulholland, Malcolm (2009). Beneath the Māori Moon—An Illustrated History of Māori Rugby. Huia Publishers. ISBN 978-1-86969-305-3. 
  • Ryan, Greg (2005). The Contest for Rugby Supremacy—Accounting for the 1905 All Blacks. Canterbury University Press. ISBN 1-877257-36-2. 
  • Tobin, Christopher (2005). The Original All Blacks 1905–06. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett. ISBN 1-86958-995-5.