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The Warbrick brothers, rugby players


The Warbrick brothers in the early 1890s. They featured prominently in The New Zealand Natives’ Rugby Tour of 1888/89. All five brothers hailed from the small Bay of Plenty settlement of Matatā.

As a boarder at St Stephen's School for Native Boys in South Auckland, Joe Warbrick acquired not only a good education but developed into a rugby player of enormous talent. Playing in bare feet, he could kick drop goals from half-way. In 1877, as a 15 year old, he turned out for Ponsonby in the Auckland club competition and soon caught the eye of the Auckland selectors. He was selected for the province the same year and remains the youngest player in New Zealand to play first-class rugby. He later played for Wellington and Hawke's Bay.

Warbrick was selected for the first New Zealand representative team to leave these shores in 1884 and was the captain and one of the organisers of the 1888-89 New Zealand Natives team. In the autumn of 1888 Warbrick scoured New Zealand for talented Māori rugby players willing to commit themselves to more than a year of travel. He selected four of his own brothers.

Joseph Warbrick later became a tour guide in the geyser fields of Rotorua. In August 1903 the Waimangu geyser exploded unexpectedly, killing Warbrick and a party of three tourists.

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The Warbrick brothers, rugby players, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated