Natives' Rugby Tour, 1888-89

Page 6 – Daily routines

A busy schedule

Between their first and last matches in Britain, the Natives played on average every 2.3 days. They played four times on consecutive days, and once three days in a row. Not surprisingly, injuries were frequent, and their effect was compounded by the fact that several of the party turned out to have little ability. Competent players who were no worse than slightly injured were forced to turn out in match after match; at one point only 11 men were fully fit. That they won two-thirds of their matches in these circumstances is remarkable.

Almost as onerous as the daily grind of playing was the nightly round of functions. As Thomas Eyton put it in his book on the tour (Rugby football past and present, Palmerston North, 1896), ‘One would need to have graduated in New Zealand as a Minister of the Government … to be proof against any ill effects from the numerous banquets offered us.’ The ‘speechifying became monotonous’; the singing was ‘good, bad and indifferent’; outbreaks of ‘riotous living’ had constantly to be guarded against.

Unlike many football teams, however, the Natives were actually welcomed back on repeat visits to hotels – though they left some because of the poor quality of the food. On non-playing days the team travelled to the next venue by train, or fitted in sightseeing and trips to factories, theatres, institutions like Trinity College and the Bank of England, and sports events. But as injury and fatigue took their toll, cards and billiards became increasingly preferred as ways of filling in time.