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Curated by the NZ On Screen team
14th August 2014



 NZ On Screen team

Curated by the NZ On Screen team


On the ball on the screen

This collection celebrates rugby in New Zealand as it's been seen onscreen: from classic bios and tour docos, to social history, dramas and protest. Rugby has long been a national morale marker, and as these clips attest, it has — in David Geary's prefacing words — long given Kiwis "something to talk about".


2014 Rugby Update

 Blood, Sweat and Touring

Winger John Kirwan narrates an insider’s guide to the All Blacks’ 1990 French tour: from singalongs to Michael Jones negotiating a haircut. Relics of the era include afternoon test matches and sneaky ciggies. Ric Salizzo later repeated the recipe of sports fandom and schoolboy pratfalls on Sports Cafe.

 All Blacks for Africa - A Black and White Issue

This 1992 doco follows the All Blacks on their first post-apartheid visit to South Africa, cueing reflections on politics and sport from players - including ex-All Black Ken Gray who refused to tour there in 1970 and protested in 1981. Future SA cricketer Herschelle Gibbs also features.

 The Lion and the Kiwi

This feature-length NFU doco follows the British Lions 1959 rugby tour to NZ. The series was won by the All Blacks 3-1, including the first test where Don Clarke famously kicked six penalties to beat the Lions. Off field, the Lions play tourist, and meet famed Rotorua guide Rangi.

 The Wyllie Bunch

The third Ric Salizzo All Blacks doco sees John Kirwan narrating the team's lead up to the 1991 World Cup in the UK - from the Bledisloe to facing bottle and orange missiles in Argentina, to touch on Bondi Beach. JK wonders why Alex Wyllie is nicknamed ‘Grizz’, and the Finn brothers update I See Red.

 This is Your Life - Grant Fox

All Black great Grant Fox is greeted by family and teammates on this 1994 This is Your Life. The first five-eighth proved a key cog in the 1987 Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks. Here “the smartest playmaker of his time” (Spiro Zavos) discusses discipline, and gets busted by coach John Hart.


The dark arts of the maul and scrum are shown in a new light in this short horror film. A failed try out for the local team spurs a young player (Ian Lesa) into greater efforts at training. Then he discovers some oval-shaped oddities in the changing room… Ex-All Black Dallas Seymour plays the coach.

The NZ On Screen Rugby collection 2011

 The Good, the Bad and the Rugby

This doco follows the then-world champ All Blacks on a 1989 tour of Wales and Ireland. With star winger John Kirwan as guide, “The All Black Film Unit” provides a behind-the-scenes players’ insight into an international tour in pre-professional, pre-media trained times — there’s even a plate of oranges.


The theatre of sport is given full-blown operatic treatment in this award-winning NFU curio. Footage from the French 1979 rugby tour of NZ is rendered in slow-motion and cut to a Tchaikovsky score. The dark mysteries of the ruck and soaring lineouts are transformed into a ballsy Swan Lake in the mud.

 The Making of an All Black

This Feltex Award finalist joins the All Blacks in 1969. Match-day superstitions and training routines are analysed: Colin Meads relays his fitness regime (up farm hills) and nutrition (meat), while punters and footballers' wives provide  further musing on all things footy.

 Legends of the All Blacks - The Legend Begins: The Battle with Britain

This Keith Quinn-presented series explores the history of our most famous sports team. These clips look at All Blacks’ battles with British teams. Quinn locates prop 'Jazz' Muller, revisits the infamous Keith Murdoch saga, goes to George Nepia’s marae; and players recall the rare shame of losing.

 This is Your Life - George Nepia

Bob Parker opens the big red book on the life of 81-year-old George Nepia. Arguably the greatest rugby fullback, Nepia was the star of the 1924 ‘Invincibles’. Fellow All Blacks Don Clark and Bob Scott, and journalist TP McLean share memories; and Nepia performs his hit single ‘Under a Māori Moon’.


This short follows Joe Warbrick, captain of the Natives rugby team, as he tries to rouse his battle-weary players — via a stirring changing shed haka — to head unto the breach once more, for a mid-winter test against England. The trailblazing 1888-89 tour left a black jersey and silver fern legacy.

 Through Scrummage, Three Quarters and All

This NFU newsreel is a wide-ranging look at ‘the national game’ in 1966. A potted history rakes from the ‘four stone bantam’ grades to a Wellington College 1st XV traditional, a Ranfurly Shield match, and to the apex: the All Blacks. Club players speak on why they play: “it’s a manly game”.

 The Game of Our Lives - Home and Away

This series explored NZ social history through rugby, from the first rugby club in 1870 to the 1995 World Cup. This episode looks at the roots of rugby in a settler society; rugby's unique connection with Māori; the 1905 Originals’ tour; and the relationship between footy and the battlefield.

 Old Scores

A death-bed confession from a touch judge leads to a repeat of a test match between the All Blacks and Wales played 25 years earlier, with the same players. Romance, mateships and rivalries are rekindled in this genial “what if” feature yarn, that celebrates and satirises two nations' rugby obsessions.


Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling documentary record of the mass civil disobedience that took place during the winter of 1981, in protest against the South African rugby tour and apartheid regime. Testament to the courage of the makers and marchers, Patu! is a landmark in NZ film history.

 All Blacks Invincibles Tour

This silent gem shows two legendary All Black teams in action. The film opens with a roll-call of the returning ‘Invincibles’, who — starring George Nepia — were unbeaten on their northern tour of 1924/5. It features Invincibles’ match highlights, and includes rare footage of the 1905 ‘Originals’.

 Talk Talk - Season Three, Episode Seven

In this interview with then All Blacks coach Graham Henry — filmed prior to World Cup 2011 glory — Finlay Macdonald talks with Henry about his background in education and how it has influenced his coaching career. Henry also muses on great expectations and loyalty. Dave Dobbyn is musical guest.

 Savage Play

This mini-series is based on the front-running tour by the NZ Natives team which played 107 games in Australasia and Great Britain in 1888-89. At its heart is a cross-cultural love story between star player Pony and Charlotte, the granddaughter of an English Earl (Ian Richardson of House of Cards fame).

 Try Revolution

The original point of difference of this Leanne Pooley-directed film is that it shows how events in New Zealand during the 1981 Springbok Tour (see Patu!) played out in South Africa; how it energised blacks, and shamed whites as never before, stimulating long overdue democratic change

 Extraordinary Kiwis - Dan Carter

Clarke Gayford spends a day with the ABs' star first five-eighth. A thoroughly modern rugby player, Carter talks about his undie ads and is seen being made up for a photo shoot. The flipside is an unwavering commitment to his craft and a training and fitness regime that leaves Gayford gasping.

 Skin and Bone

Two decades after Foreskin's Lament became a Kiwi cause célèbre, Greg McGee brought his classic play to TV. The story is updated to reflect rugby (and society's) evolution; here budding pro-player Seymour (Outrageous Fortune’s Antony Starr) returns home to play a last game for his rural club side.

 6.30PM News - Grahame Thorne's Perm

With stints as an All Black, Springbok triallist, sports presenter, MP, and sometime celebrity chef, Graham Thorne has experienced his share of fame. But perhaps his hottest 15 minutes came after he dared to present the sports news one day in 1983, with a just-stepped-put-of-the-salon ... perm.

 Ngati Porou East Coast 2001 - True Colours

“1-2-3, Ngāti!” This is a behind the scenes look at the Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby team’s 2001 campaign. Beginning with a Ruatoria marae live-in, the film follows the team’s unlikely efforts to win NPC 2nd Division. The classic underdog story captures grassroots rugby’s strong community ties.

 bro'Town - Get Rucked

This footy-themed episode of the hit animated series starts with God praising George Nepia, before heading down to Morningside for the annual old boys vs St Sylvester 1st XV clash. Tana Umaga, Joe Rokocoko and the Warriors have cameos; and AB legend Michael Jones is the Savages' inspirational coach.

 This is Your Life - Colin Meads

This edition of This is Your Life is hosted by Bob Parker and honours New Zealand’s “Rugby Player of the Century.” ‘Pinetree’ remains modest throughout. Guests include fellow All Black legends, and Irish referee Kevin Kelleher, who controversially ordered Meads off the field in Scotland in 1967.

 Weekly Review No. 263 - Rugby in New Zealand

This excerpt from a post-war NFU newsreel begins at Eden Park for a match between Auckland and the ‘Kiwis’ (the army’s NZEF team), then goes on a jaunty ride through all-things rugby in NZ: from 1st XV (Wellington College), club and provincial (Ranfurly Shield in the Southland rain) clashes.

 All Blacks Profiles

These TV3 short profiles of then-current All Blacks were made pre-Rugby World Cup 2007. Each involves a candid interview with the player in a formative setting for them. The interviewer is James Gemmell, and interviewees included Carl Hayman, Jerry Collins, Anton Oliver and Mils Muliaina.


In Scarfies, five Dunedin students find themselves in a free squat, and a dark place, after taking a criminal captive. This excerpt sees them face torn allegiances: sort out the drug dealer in the basement or watch a (Keith Quinn-commentated) footy match at Carisbrook and see Otago try to win the NPC.

 Choice Night

Fifteen-year-old James is a schoolboy rugby player who tries to have it all one night on Courtenay Place in this short film festival success. Newcomer Aaron McGregor captures the intensity of being taken by the night, as booze, hormones (and his rugby mates) derail romantic intentions.

 Survey: Take Three Passions

Tony Williams recognised that passion makes for compelling human interest and came up with the idea of a “pub battle” where three people would be brought together to debate their obsessions: choirmaster Maxwell Fernie, astronomer Peter (The Night Sky) Read, and rugby journalist Terry ‘TP’ McLean.

 Gladiator: the Norm Hewitt story

This documentary is the story of former All Black hooker Norm Hewitt's battle with alcoholism and his journey to redemption. Directed by Michael Bennet, the doco takes Hewitt to meet legendary youth worker Mama Teri on the streets of South Auckland, and chronicles Hewitt's life change.

 Don't Go

In the vein of 'Do They Know It’s Christmas', and ‘We are the World’, this single rallied NZ musicians to a cause: opposing the proposed 1985 All Black tour of South Africa. Don McGlashan, Chris Knox and Rick Bryant are the front row for this Alison Maclean-directed Stuart Dryburgh-shot video.

 Lew Pryme - Welcome to my World

Lew Pryme’s life was a ride that took in everything from rock and roll stardom to rugby officialdom, before it was cut short by AIDS in 1990. This moving doco follows Pryme's journey from the small Taranaki town of Waitara. He later became the first executive director of Auckland Rugby Union.

 The Garlick Thrust

Young Geoff Garlick reckons he's developed a game-winning move — the 'Garlick Thrust' — for his schoolboy rugby team, but his dysfunctional family is more interested in the Springbok match. Exploring the national loss of innocence in the winter of ’81, the teleplay was written by playwright Bruce Mason.

 Extraordinary Kiwis - Colin Meads

Jim Greenhough profiles ‘Pinetree’ and spends a day with the 71-year-old AB legend on the King Country farm he has worked all his adult life. Meads drenches sheep and muses on rugby as it was, its modern incarnation and the way new farming methods have changed rural rugby, once the game’s backbone.

 First Test (France vs New Zealand)

Peppered by colourful commentary this newsreel shows highlights of the first test. Fans queue outside Eden Park, playing cards or reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. Don “the mighty boot” Clarke kicks off and the ABs score, but Pierre “Monsieur Drop” Albaladejo pots two field goals for a French lead ...

 British Isles vs New Zealand (second test, 1966)

Highlights from the second test of the 1966 Lions tour feature in this NFU newsreel. On a muddy ground, with the capital’s wind playing its part, the Lions are more competitive than in the first test — but the All Blacks run out deserved winners with tries to Tremain, Steel and a rampant Colin Meads.

 British Isles vs New Zealand (fourth test, 1966)

This 1966 NFU newsreel shows highlights of the final test, filmed in the days before live telecast of home matches. Coached by Fred ‘The Needle’ Allen, a great AB line-up (the Meads bros, Tremain, Nathan, Gray, Lochore) defeated the Lions 4-0. The Eden Park match features some classical rucking.

 TP McLean Interview

In this (until-now unscreened) interview, Keith Quinn talks to TP 'Terry' McLean (“the best rugby writer we have ever produced”). The late author and NZ Herald sports editor reminisces widely, and opines on All Blacks from Nepia to Meads, and his all-time favourite All Black Captain.

 The Whistle Blowers

This is a doco about three high profile sports officiators: Billy Bowden, the showman umpire of international cricket; Southlander Paddy O'Brien, who left the police to become one of the world's top rugby referees; and pin-up Steve Walsh who began refereeing when a neck injury curtailed contact sports.

 Attitude Special: The Journey of the Wheelblacks

This Attitude special follows the Wheelblacks wheel-chair rugby team over four years, from their gold medal win at Athens Paralympics in 2004 to their preparations for the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Four Wheelblacks were on the production team at the time, and player Curtis Palmer is host.

"A dose of soap as regular as Shortland Street".

Playwright and rugby fan David Geary introduces the collection, and muses on rugby and us. Read more >

"Listen! ... it's a goal!"

Broadcaster Keith Quinn provides a history of rugby commentary in New Zealand, from radio to the Rugby Channel. Read more >

"Lomu ... oh ... oh!"

Collection selector Quinn reflects on his long career, and recalls 'that' moment at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Watch >


Many thanks to David Geary and Keith Quinn for their excellent introductory pieces, and to the various rights holders who’ve made this collection possible.