37 Tom Ellison  CAPS 0
The solitary year of Tom Ellison’s contribution to All Blacks rugby doesn’t fairly represent his influence.
His misfortune was to play much of his rugby before the creation of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union in 1892.
His play on the 1888-89 tour by the Native team of Britain and Ireland was outstanding, appearing in 86 of the 108 games.
But there was study to be done in a busy life and after returning he went on to become the first Maori to be admitted to the New Zealand bar, in 1891. A year later it was his suggestion that the national team of New Zealand should be dressed in black with the silver fern on the left breast. He was named captain of the first o cial representative team that toured Australia in 1893, and it was in 1904 that he made perhaps his most telling contribution to the game when publishing his The Art of Rugby Football, a book which o ered not only invaluable comments on his playing career and observations of the game associated with that, but also o ered tidbits of advice at a time when rugby was taking hold in New Zealand.
After his playing career was over, Ellison was an early advocate for better payments to players touring overseas and he didn’t believe the strict allowances o ered to players were intended to apply to long tours overseas.
But those administering the game in Britain were still getting over the breakaway which resulted in the creation of rugby league and they were in no mood to adopt Ellison’s idea, nor would they be until the game went professional in 1995.
He was also involved in the development of back play, New Zealand teams not being exposed to the practical application of the laws until the visit by R.L. Seddon’s team of 1887, especially in the creation of the fiveeighths system.
PAVING THE WAY Tom Ellison has to be recognised for the role he played.