The New Zealand Free Lance printed a J.C. Blomfield cartoon in which a plucky kiwi morphed into a moa as the All Blacks defeated Great Britain 9–3 in the first rugby test between Motherland and colony. This may have been the first use of a kiwi to symbolise the nation in a cartoon.
In 1905 Trevor Lloyd repeated this trope by depicting a kiwi unable to swallow Wales after the All Blacks’ controversial loss in Cardiff. When the ‘Originals’ won, they were shown as a moa.
Also in 1905, the Westminster Gazette broadened the imagery by depicting a kiwi and a kangaroo going off to a colonial conference. By 1908 the kiwi was the dominant symbol for New Zealand in cartoons, especially sporting ones, having replaced images of moa, fern leaves, a small boy and a lion cub.
The New Zealand representative rugby league team was dubbed the Kiwis by a journalist in 1921 and has officially had this name since 1938. The 1945–46 2NZEF rugby team was also known as the Kiwis.