Joe Warbrick

Joe Warbrick
Head shot of Joe Warbrick
Warbrick in 1884
Birth nameJoseph Astbury Warbrick
Date of birth(1862-01-01)1 January 1862
Place of birthRotorua, New Zealand
Date of death30 August 1903(1903-08-30) (aged 41)
Place of deathWaimangu, New Zealand
SchoolSt Stephen's Native School[1]
Rugby union career
Position(s)Fullback, three-quarter[1]
All Black No.17
Amateur team(s)
1879–80, 88
1882, 94
North Shore
Provincial / State sides
  • 1877, 1882–83, 1886, 1894[1]
  • 1879–80, 1888[2]
  • 1885, 1887[3]

National team(s)
  • 1884
  • 1888–89
New Zealand
New Zealand Natives
  • 7
  • 21
  • (12)
  • (10)

Joseph Astbury Warbrick (1 January 1862 – 30 August 1903) was a Māori rugby union player who represented New Zealand on their 1884 tour to Australia, and later captained the 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team that embarked on a 107-match tour of New Zealand, Australia and the British Isles.

Born in Rotorua, Warbrick played club rugby for Auckland side Ponsonby while boarding at St Stephen's Native School. In 1877 he was selected to play fullback for Auckland Provincial Clubs as a 15-year-old, making him the youngest person to play first-class rugby in New Zealand.[a] He played for Auckland against the visiting New South Wales team – the first overseas side to tour the country – in 1882. Two years later he was selected for the first New Zealand representative team, and playing mainly as a three-quarter, appeared in seven of the side's eight matches on their tour of New South Wales.

In 1888 Warbrick conceived of, selected, and led the privately funded New Zealand Native team. The squad, which included four of Warbrick's brothers, was originally envisaged to contain only Māori players, but eventually included several New Zealand-born and foreign-born Europeans. Although the team played 107 matches, including 74 in the British Isles, Warbrick took part in only 21 matches due to injury. The tour, the first from the Southern Hemisphere to visit Britain, remains the longest in rugby's history. In 2008 Warbrick and the Natives were inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Warbrick effectively retired from rugby after returning from the tour, with the exception of an appearance for Auckland in 1894, and went on to work as a farmer and tourist guide in the Bay of Plenty. In 1903 he was killed along with several others by an eruption of the Waimangu Geyser.

Background and early career

Joe (left) and his half-brother Billy in the 1870s
Photo of team players and management all of whom are seated or standing, wearing either their playing jerseys with caps, or formal wear.
The Auckland team that toured New Zealand in 1883. Joe Warbrick is seated in the second row in the middle.

Joseph Warbrick was born in Rotorua, New Zealand, on 1 January 1862, the third of five children.[6] His father, Abraham Warbrick, was originally from England, while his mother, Nga Karauna Paerau, was Māori and the daughter of a Ngāti Rangitihi chief.[7][8][9] After Joe Warbrick's mother died, his father remarried and had seven more children.[9] Four of his brothers – Alfred, Arthur, Fred, and Billy – went on to tour with Joe as part of the 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team.[8]

With his family still based in the Bay of Plenty, Joe Warbrick was sent to board at St Stephen's Native School in the Bombay Hills, where he started playing rugby union.[10] While living in Bombay in 1877, he started playing club rugby with Ponsonby in Auckland, even though the club was based well north of Bombay.[6] Warbrick played well enough for Ponsonby to earn selection for Auckland Provincial Clubs (now Auckland) that year despite being only 15 years old. Playing at fullback for them against Otago,[7][10] he became the youngest person to play first-class rugby in New Zealand – a record he still holds as of 2017.[a][6]

By 1878 Warbrick had left both St Stephen's and Ponsonby and was employed as a public servant. The work required him to relocate regularly, and he moved throughout the North Island for the remainder of his rugby career. By 1879 he was living in Wellington, and represented the provincial team three times that season.[2][10][b] He played three further matches for Wellington in 1880,[2] including one against his old province of Auckland.[4] The 1880 match, the first in Auckland for Wellington, was won by the visitors 4–0.[11] Warbrick was renowned for his drop-kicking,[3] and his goal in the match was the only score; many Aucklanders claimed that his performance was the difference between the two sides.[12]

The Australian New South Wales colonial team became the first overseas rugby side to tour New Zealand in 1882 and played seven matches throughout the country.[13] By this point Warbrick was back in Auckland,[10] but this time playing for the North Shore club,[6] and he again won selection for the provincial side.[2] He appeared in both of Auckland's matches against the New South Welshmen: 7–0 and 18–4 victories over the tourists.[14][c] Warwick remained in Auckland the following year when he toured with the province again, playing in away matches against Wellington, Canterbury and Otago.[4]

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