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Collection

Rugby

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection celebrates rugby in New Zealand as it has been seen onscreen: from classic bios and tour docos, to social history, dramas and protest. In the accompanying backgrounders, broadcaster Keith Quinn looks at the on air history of rugby in NZ; and playwright David Geary asks if rugby is a religion, and argues it is a good test of character.

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My Old Man's an All Black - performed by Howard Morrison & Billy T James

Television, 1990 (Excerpts)

'My Old Man’s an All Black' was a big hit for the Howard Morrison Quartet in 1960. The song subverted 'My Old Man's a Dustman' to mock an apartheid South African decree banning Māori players from the touring All Blacks. In this 1990 performance, Morrison and Billy T James (months after heart surgery) update the song’s lyrics for a more recent controversy: the dropping of popular All Black captain Wayne 'Buck' Shelford. Howard ribs rugby’s supposed amateurism, and Billy T explains why Buck isn’t packing down in the scrum. The final haka includes an unexpected guest...

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SportsCafe - Grand Final

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

This long-running chat show gathered a loyal following for its recipe of sports fandom mixed with playful pratfalls. Regulars in the circus wrangled by producer Ric Salizzo included larrikin ex-All Black Marc Ellis, straight girl Lana Coc-Kroft, 'That Guy' Leigh Hart, and Graeme Hill. This 23 November 2005 final features plenty of sporting guest stars and ‘best of’ moments: from World Nude Day to a litany of laddish moments from Ellis. Rumours of presenter intoxication would only have been stirred by the mayhem of the closing set destruction, accompanied by band The Exponents.

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All Blacks for Africa - A Black and White Issue

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

This 1992 TV One documentary follows the All Blacks on their first post-apartheid visit to South Africa. The footy tour tomfoolery of producer Ric Salizzo’s earlier All Blacks docos is subbed off for reflections on politics and sport from players — including ex-All Black Ken Gray, who refused to tour the republic in 1970 and joined protesters in 1981. Not all goes to script for a “new South Africa”: the Afrikaans anthem is played before the Ellis Park test, and the All Blacks win. Future South Africa cricket star Herschelle Gibbs is a young coloured player mentored by the ABs.

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Blood, Sweat and Touring

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

The follow up to 1989 tour doco The Good, the Bad and the Rugby sees winger John Kirwan narrate an insider’s guide to the All Blacks’ 1990 tour to France: from Michael Jones negotiating a haircut (“how do you say ‘square top’ in French?”) to 19-year-old Simon Mannix leading a ‘Ten Guitars’ singalong. Footy relics of the era include afternoon test matches, four point tries, placed kick-offs, sneaky ciggies and Steinlager. Producer Ric Salizzo later repeated the Pasta Productions’ recipe — sports fandom mixed with schoolboy pratfalls — in the successful Sports Cafe series.

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The Wyllie Bunch

Television, 1991 (Full Length)

The third of Pasta Productions’ popular All Blacks documentaries sees winger John Kirwan provide running commentary on the team’s path to the 1991 World Cup in England: from Argentina to Sydney and Auckland to contest the Bledisloe; from facing bottle and orange missiles in Tucumán to touch on Bondi Beach. JK muses on why coach Alex Wyllie is nicknamed ‘Grizz’, Neil and Tim Finn provide musical accompaniment (“I see black”), and Canterbury Uglies are the training uniform du jour. Meanwhile on-field signs are ominous for the reigning world champs.  

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In a Different League

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

Presented by John Kirwan, this film looks at the 1990 decision of Kirwan's young All Black teammate Matthew Ridge to ‘defect’ from rugby, to play professional league for the Manly Sea Eagles. Ridge had been the uncapped understudy to 1989 World Player of the Year John Gallagher. Ironically Gallagher converted to league shortly after Ridge, news that Ridge receives while preparing for his league debut. Ridge went on to captain the Kiwis. His code shift began a trend that transformed union and league in NZ; union turned pro in 1995. Ric (Sports Cafe) Salizzo directs.

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The Good, the Bad and the Rugby

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

This documentary follows the then world champion All Blacks on a 1989 tour of Wales and Ireland. With star winger John Kirwan as guide, 'The All Black Film Unit' gives a players’ insight into an international tour in pre-professional, pre-media trained times — there’s even a plate of oranges. Match, training, and travel footage is complemented by relaxed encounters with players (Zinzan Brooke mounting a shetland pony has entered rugby folklore). Producer Ric Salizzo repeated the recipe — sports fandom mixed with schoolboy pratfalls — in the successful Sports Cafe series.

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This is Your Life - Grant Fox

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

All Black great Grant Fox is given the big red book in this award-winning episode of This is Your Life. The first five-eighth’s record points tally and marshalling of stars like John Kirwan made the playmaker a key cog in the 1987 Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks and champion Auckland teams. His distinctive goal-kicking ritual became as reassuring as a metronome for fans. The diminutive Auckland Grammar old boy meets family and teammates, discusses discipline and his single All Blacks try, and gets busted by coach John Hart. Fox would become an All Blacks selector.

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You Make the Whole World Smile

The Red Nose Band featuring Hammond Gamble, Music Video, 1992

The video for this Red Nose Day chart-topper makes the most of a powerhouse combination: celebrities and cute babies. Although lead singer Hammond Gamble gets his share of screen time, the result is largely devoted to close-ups of perhaps the biggest pile-up of famous Kiwis to cram into a single music video. The faces include appearances early on by Simone Kessell, Ilona Rodgers, and Aussie actor Mark Raffety  plus The Wizard, sports legends Grant Fox, John Kirwan and Jeremy Coney, newsreaders Judy Bailey and Anita McNaught, and singers Tina Cross and Suzanne Lynch.