37 Tom El­li­son [1883] CAPS 0

NZ Rugby World - - Green Tea Party -

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.

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