New Zealand Women's Hockey Association

1908 – 1988

New Zealand Women's Hockey Association

1908 – 1988

Theme: Sport and recreation

Known as:

  • New Zealand Ladies' Hockey Association
    1908 – 1934
  • New Zealand Women's Hockey Association
    1934 – 1988

This essay written by Dayle Jackson was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993.

The first recorded game of hockey in New Zealand was played by a group of women in 1897 in Nelson. By the end of the century, most girls attending primary school played informal games of hockey among themselves. Their sticks were home-made, cut from hedges, fruit trees or willows, and their ball was often a pine cone. However, hockey did not become an organised sport at primary level because it was considered too dangerous. Nelson College for Girls introduced hockey as a winter sport in 1899, and secondary schools in other areas took it up. Ex-pupils formed clubs, for example the Syrens Ladies' Hockey Club (Wellington), and arranged friendly invitation games.

By the early 1900s, ten Ladies' Hockey Associations had been formed to manage the sport, in Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Wanganui, Taranaki, Wairarapa, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago. The New Zealand Ladies' Hockey Association (NZLHA) was established in 1908, with Dr Arnold Izard as first president and Miss W. Mellsop as secretary. Apart from a short spell in Christchurch, 1908–1909, national headquarters was in Wellington. A management committee was not appointed until 1910, when the association uniform was decided: black costume with white leaf monogram, black and white hat, black and white diagonally striped tie and belt. Skirts had to be at least six inches clear of the ground, and hat pins were strictly forbidden.

Women's hockey, 1910

Alexander Turnbull Library, Frederick Nelson Jones Collection, 1/2-C-00377-F.

Taranaki and Whanganui teams compete in a women's hockey game in Nelson in 1910. Cumbersome garments, especially long skirts and hats, severely hampered the development of female athleticism.

Games often meant a full day's outing, with teams travelling up to twenty miles in 1910; that year a team of exuberant Wellington girls singing hymns loudly on a train provoked a fellow passenger to write to the local paper expressing concern at their unladylike behaviour. Socialising after matches or tournaments was an important aspect of club membership, though chaperones were required.

The first Dominion tournament, in 1908, was played at Days Bay in Wellington; the following year, ten teams competed at Napier. Held each year, except for 1915–18 and 1941–44, these tournaments were still very popular in 1993, but by then the crowd of 10,000 which attended the 1912 final proved hard to beat.

Nelson's victory in the 1911 New Zealand Championship inspired Sam Kirkpatrick of the firm of Kirkpatrick and Stevens to become a hockey fan, experimenting with hockey strokes in his factory with a jam tin and stick. In 1924 he donated the 'K' cup for the top Nelson team. When Nelson hosted the 1924 tournament, this valuable cup was given to the NZLHA as a national trophy. Renamed the Premier Trophy in 1986, it was still being keenly competed for in 1993.

The 1914 tour by an All-England team not only marked the beginning of international hockey competition here, but was also the first international encounter for any New Zealand women's sport. England won thirteen of the fifteen matches during its two-month tour, dubbed by the press 'the English invasion', but the exciting, well-attended test series ended in a draw.

In 1934 the New Zealand Women's Hockey Umpires' Association was formed. The New Zealand Women's Hockey Association (NZWHA), as it was called then, continued to grow, and by 1958 had 32 affiliated associations, with a much increased administrative load. Its essential role was to achieve consensus, or at least majority agreement, among the different viewpoints.

Among the many women who gave hockey long and devoted service, life member Pearl Dawson, BEM, made an outstanding contribution. Leading an Auckland sub-committee in 1939, she set about finding grounds to cater for the growing number of players. With Ellen Melville's help, the Auckland association took over a park in Mt Eden in 1939, renaming it Melville Park, the first sports ground in New Zealand to be set aside for the exclusive use of women. Many other associations gained their own playing fields, but could not obtain council permission to build pavilions until the 1950s.

New Zealand played in every international tournament after attending the Empire Tournament in South Africa in 1930, and also toured England, Australia and Europe. The first international tournament to be hosted in New Zealand was held in Auckland in 1971, under the auspices of the International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations (formed in 1927). It was then the largest such event to be held by any sport in this country, involving twenty teams from around the world. Between 1966 and 1972, the provincial associations raised $74,000 to stage it.

In 1980 the NZWHA Council was formed, providing a streamlined management and administrative structure which could take a professional approach to promoting hockey, and encourage women to participate at whatever level suited them. The introduction of artificial surfaces at the 1976 Olympics (where the New Zealand men's team won the gold medal, raising the sport's profile here) [1] had shown that hockey was adapting to the more commercial world of modern sport. The first such surface here was laid in Wellington in 1984. In the 1980s the provincial men's and women's associations amalgamated, enabling them to work together to obtain these surfaces and make hockey available for all ages throughout the year. By 1992, there were nineteen artificial surfaces throughout New Zealand, and 28 combined provincial associations.

Duplication of administration by the men's and women's national associations led to a thorough review, initiated by the men, in 1986. A committee of three women and three men concluded that the need to obtain expert assistance with marketing, promotion, media relations and management meant that amalgamation was crucial for the future of the sport, and this took place in 1988, with the formation of the New Zealand Hockey Federation.

Women's hockey continued to grow and flourish within the new organisation. A New Zealand women's team qualified for the 1990 World Cup, competed for by the top twelve countries, and the 1992 Olympic Games, involving the top eight. By 1992, 24,000 girls and women, aged 7 to 55, were playing or officiating in regular year-round local competitions and national tournaments.

Dayle Jackson


[1] The first recorded games of hockey played by men in New Zealand were in Kaiapoi in 1900. The New Zealand Hockey Association was formed in 1902 to manage the men's sport.

Unpublished sources

New Zealand Women's Hockey Association minutes, 1908–1988, ATL

Otago Women's Hockey Association minutes, 1906–1978, McNab Collection, Dunedin Public Library

Tinney, Daisy, diary, photos and notes, 1908–1915, in possession of Dayle Jackson, Wellington

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