George Nepia and Brian Killeen

George Nepia and Brian Killeen

Rugby players George Nepia (left) and Brian Killeen at half-time during a rugby match in 1933 (possibly the inter-island fixture).

Nepia is still regarded as one of the all-time great All Blacks. On the 1924–25 tour of Britain, France and Canada the All Blacks won all 32 matches and were dubbed the ‘Invincibles’. Remarkably, the fullback in every one of those games was 19-year-old George Nepia. Hailing from the rural east coast of the North Island, Nepia was one of the stars of the great Hawke’s Bay side of the 1920s.

Following his triumphant 1924–25 tour and with age still on his side, Nepia had only a limited involvement with All Black sides in subsequent years. As a Māori he was denied a tour of South Africa in 1928 due to that country’s racial policies.

Second five-eighth or wing three-quarter Brian ‘Shorty’ Killeen played first-class rugby for 11 seasons and in that time represented four unions: Wellington, Auckland, Taranaki and Golden Bay-Motueka. He played his only All Black test in 1936 against Australia at Athletic Park after a strong performance in that season’s inter-island match.

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