Puti Tipene Watene

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Puti Tipene Watene
Steve Watene.jpg
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Eastern Maori
In office
Preceded by Tiaki Omana
Succeeded by Paraone Reweti
Personal details
Born 18 August 1910
Kirikiri, Thames, New Zealand
Died 14 June 1967(1967-06-14) (aged 56)
Parliament Buildings, Wellington, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Phyllis Watene
Children 12
Playing information
Weight 90 kg (14 st 2 lb)
Position Fullback, Wing, Stand-off, Loose forward
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1929–35 City Rovers
1936–?? Manukau
Total 0 0 0 0 0
Years Team Pld T G FG P
19?? Auckland
1930–37 New Zealand 6 0 10 0 20
Source: [1]

Puti Tipene (Steve) Watene (18 August 1910 – 14 June 1967), of Ngāti Maru and Te Arawa, was a New Zealand rugby league player and politician. He was the first Māori to captain the New Zealand league side and he is the only person to both represent the New Zealand Kiwis and become a Member of Parliament.[2]

Early years[edit]

A strong member of the Mormon faith, Watene was born in Thames in 1910. He attended Thames High School, Opotiki District High School and then the Māori Agriculture College in the Hawkes Bay before he moved to Auckland where he worked as a labourer and a clerk.[2]

Rugby league[edit]

In Auckland Watene joined the City rugby league club in the Auckland Rugby League competition and represented and captained Auckland, before joining the Manukau club as a foundation member in 1936. He was the club's captain and played a major role in attracting many other Māori players to the club. As a result, Manukau quickly became a force in the Auckland competition, winning both the Fox Memorial and Roope Rooster in their debut year.[2] He also played for the New Zealand Māori rugby league team, leading them to a famous victory over Australia in 1937.

Watene was first selected for the New Zealand Kiwis while only 19 in 1930 and played for them until 1937. He also captained the New Zealand national rugby league team in 1936 and 1937, becoming the first Māori to do so.[2]

After retiring he remained involved in rugby league, coaching and selecting representative sides and working as an administrator. In 2008 he was named a New Zealand Rugby League Legend of League.[3]

Local politics[edit]

Watene was politically active and during the 1951 waterfront dispute he toured the districts on behalf of the New Zealand Waterside Workers’ Union, urging Māori not to work as strike breakers.[2]

In 1953 he was elected to the Mount Wellington Borough Council. He served until 1956, after which Mt Wellington named a street, Watene Road, after him.[2]

He moved to Petone in 1956, working as a hostel manager and industrial welfare officer, and between 1962 and 1965 he served on the Petone Borough Council.

Watene also served on the New Zealand Māori Council.

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1963–1966 34th Eastern Maori Labour
1966–1967 35th Eastern Maori Labour

A member of the New Zealand Labour Party, Watene had served on the national executive for six years before being elected as the Member of Parliament for Eastern Maori in November 1963, following the retirement of Ratana MP Tiaki Omana.[4] As a Mormon, Watene's election broke the Ratana stranglehold on the Māori seats.[2]

He was re-elected in 1966, but on 14 June 1967[4] suffered a heart attack and died in Parliament Buildings during a Maori Affairs Committee meeting.


  1. ^ rugbyleagueproject.org
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Coffey and Wood The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League ISBN 1-86971-090-8
  3. ^ Steve Watene, nzrl.co.nz, Accessed 16 August 2009
  4. ^ a b Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840–1984 (4 ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 244. OCLC 154283103. 
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Tiaki Omana
Member of Parliament for Eastern Maori
Succeeded by
Paraone Reweti