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New Zealand Barbarians

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy


In 1935 one of the touring All Blacks, Hugh McLean, spent an evening with one of the Barbarians founders, Emile de Lissa. He took on the Barbarian belief that rugby has a special spirit that must be encouraged in young and old rugby folk.

Following the tour he and Ron Bush became interested in forming a New Zealand Barbarian Rugby Club that adopted the philosophies of the foundation Barbarians Club in England.

Two years later, in 1937, McLean was approached to field an invitation side to play a benefit match for the Thames Valley sub-unions, who were suffering financially. McLean and his great friend Ron Bush assembled a team of old stars and promising youngsters for the game. The match was highly successful, the Thames sub-union bank account was replenished, the players enjoyed each other's wish to play free-flowing rugby, and the idea of invitation teams picked for special matches blossomed.

Mclean and Bush planned further matches, and were delighted when the foundation club in England gave them permission to use the Barbarians name. The timing was perfect, and what became the New Zealand Barbarian Rugby Football Club fielded an invitation side against Auckland. In their bright scarlet jerseys, with a bouncing lamb on the left breast, the first real NZ Barbarians side defeated Auckland 43-16 on Eden Park, with brilliant rugby which re-lit the flames that the Springboks had doused the year before.


Following the Second World War, the Barbarians calling on the heroes of the fabled 2nd NZEF 'Kiwis' team and played benefit matches and exhibitions which spread the gospel of adventurous rugby in Auckland and in many parts of the North Island. As a non-profit organisation the club aimed to use any money gained to nurture or improve the game.

The Barbarians stepped up to international level when they fielded a mixture of 1956 Springboks and All Blacks against the Coronation Shield districts XV, a game hastily arranged at Eden Park mid-week while the Springboks were awaiting their journey home.

During the 60's and afterwards the Auckland Rugby Union formed an injured players insurance scheme and the Barbarians were central figures in many sparkling fund-raising Sunday matches against Maori and Auckland teams.

During the 70's Barbarians teams toured within New Zealand and Australia and in 1987 took a very successful team to England, containing many of the players who were to win the first Rugby World Cup later that year.

In the meantime the Barbarians found their first permanent home in the early 1970's with the purchase of a clubhouse on Cricket Avenue. This eventually became crammed with priceless rugby memorabilia and was a fitting headquarters in which to welcome the famous and fervent right folk from all over the city, the country and the world.

The property at 17 Cricket Ave was required for the redevelopment of Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and Patron Bob Sorenson opened the magnificent new facility on Level 6 of the ASB Stand at Eden Park on 24th June 2010.

As well as playing in major benefit games, the Barbarians developed a programme of educational midweek matches against college 1 st XVs in the wider Auckland area. But as professionalism changed the face of rugby, so have the Barbarians had to adapt to these changes.

While access to players for College games is now more difficult because of Professional Player Contracts, insurance restrictions and sometimes coaches instructions, the Barbarians have had to look at other sources for players to ensure one of the very important and always enjoyable activities of the Baa Baas continues each year.

Since 1989 the Barbarians have maintained contact with primary schools in the Auckland region through an annual fun day. This has become a significant event in the Barbarian season and has grown in size and quality to the extent that some 40 teams and more than 650 boys and girls participate each year.


With support for the primary schools' fun day still growing, and with college games still an important part of the Barbarians calendar, the Barbarians have entered into a contract to support secondary schools rugby. So, in a joint effort with Novotel Hotels & Williments, the club now sponsors the secondary schools Top Four 1st XV tournament, which also caters for co-ed schools, and the schools' regional tournaments.

In 2003 the Barbarians had the distinction of being invited to play against England at Twickenham, the home-coming game for England, after they won the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

"The club is robust and enthusiastic about the future and determined to maintain its prominent contribution to the development of the game of rugby." - D.J. Cameron

In 2009 the club extended its support to a growing development in rugby - the 85kg competitions which are seen as an important part of 'grassroots' rugby.

This grade is finding strong favour among a number of unions, and this led to the Barbarians, who term the grade "Middleweight", to annually select a Middleweight team for a game against Australian counterparts.

Sadly, the headquarters at 17 Cricket Avenue is no longer, having made way for the redevelopment of Eden Park for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Tour of new Clubroom at Eden Park
(Courtesy of NZ Barbarians)

So the changing rugby tide has taken the Barbarians into a variety of new directions over the years.

As a non-profit organisation the club aims to use any money gained to nurture or improve the game and in recent years has become a major sponsor of Primary School, Secondary School and Middleweight (i.e. weight restricted) rugby at both the Auckland and national level.

In 2010 the N. Z. Barbarian Team played N.Z. Maori in the first of their Centennial games in Whangarei.

The Barbarian '' Brand '' is Globally Respected and Highly Recognisable in the Rugby playing World.

Past Presidents

President Served
A (Arthur) Tilly 1937-47
L S (Laurie) Drake 1948
Brigadier J G C Wales 1949-52
L S (Laurie Drake) 1953
H F (Hugh) McLean 1954-57
M M N (Merv) Corner 1958-59
A J (Andy) McBeath 1960-62
R G (Ron) Bush 1964-66
J G S (Jim) Bracewell 1967-68
R G (Bob) Sorenson 1969-70
J (Jack) Bourke 1971-73
A (Allen) Rogers 1974-75
W J (Wilson) Whineray 1976-77
D G (Doug) Hamilton 1978-79
G (Graham) Wilkinson 1980-81
R H (Bob) Graham 1982-83
M C (Murray) Reid 1984-85
K E (Kevin) Barry 1986-87
K L (Kevin) Skinner 1988-89
P M (Peter) Fogarty 1990-91
M (Murray) Menzies 1992-93
P H (Peter) Murdoch 1994-95
J H (John) Sibun 1995-97
D W (Don) McKay 1998-99
G I (Iain) Abercrombie 2000-01
K (Ken) Eglinton 2002-03
D G (Don) Dormer 2004-5
M C (Mike) Cormack 2006-07
P A (Phil) Lindesay 2008-09
J A (John) Mills 2010


1. The majority of the history text was kindly supplied by the New Zealand Barbarians. Web site:


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