100th anniversary of Dave Gallaher's death

Dave Gallaher.jpg

Dave Gallaher

One hundred years ago today, on 4 October 1917, one of the great figures of New Zealand rugby was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele. Dave Gallaher also holds a special place in the history of the Ponsonby District Rugby Club – he was the first clubman selected for the All Blacks.

Starting in 2005, when the Lions tour coincided with a revival in interest about the 1905-06 Original All Blacks to Britain, Dave Gallaher has finally enjoyed the general recognition that his sterling feats of 100 years ago deserved. To rugby people he had long been one of this country’s great figures but the passage of time had dimmed the legend as far as the wider audience was concerned, and it took something special to rekindle the flame. As a result of the doings of last 12 years, it will probably never burn low again.

Ponsonby’s first All Black – he was initially chosen in 1903 – had already packed a fair bit into his life before winning national selection at rugby. The Gallaher family emigrated to New Zealand from Ireland when David (born in 1873) was just a little chap and eventually settled and farmed in the Katikati area, where his mother also became a teacher.

The family moved north in the early 1890s, Dave eventually joined Ponsonby and soon became one of the club’s leading players. He was in the championship-winning 1897 team and was first chosen for Auckland the year before, but he didn’t have a particularly storied career at either club or provincial level; that was the only championship success he tasted with Ponsonby and while he played in the first Ranfurly Shield match of all, his Auckland career didn’t even run to 30 matches.

Gallaher had been interested in military matters from a young age and, growing up as he did, was introduced to what were then the basics of army life (riding and shooting) while still little more than a boy. He signed on for the Mounted Rifles who went to South Africa in 1901 and was there for two years; his replica medals, in the committee room, show five clasps on his QSA medal where one was awarded for each campaign (Cape Colony, Transvaal and Orange Free State, as well as the years 1901 and 1902) he fought in.

His rugby fame really rests on the three years immediately following his return from South Africa. Originally a hooker, Gallaher found wing forward suited him better – he was taller than the average front-rower, and his rugby skills and ability to read play were far more suited to the rover role – and he quickly became regarded as the best in New Zealand. Not only opposing players considered he had won that recognition; the selectors agreed and he went on the Australian tour, during which New Zealand played its first test match, and Gallaher was in the All Black side that day.

He was chosen for the first test New Zealand played at home (in 1904 against Great Britain) but was not part of the reduced All Black team that played three matches in Australia in 1905; he had been chosen for this mini-tour but withdrew before the team sailed. When the side returned to New Zealand and played matches against provincial sides Gallaher only took part in the last, against Wellington, but he did lead the side instead of Jimmy Hunter, who had been skipper before then.

On voyage to England his appointment as captain was challenged by several team members and Gallaher offered to stand down. Billy Stead, his vice-captain and probably the favoured replacement among the dissidents, immediately stepped aside as well and after some negotiations Gallaher won the team vote, if only by a small majority. It didn’t matter; from then on he was the undisputed boss.

 He was a dominant figure on the field, and the focus of much British ire as they had never seen a player who was ‘a back but who claimed the privileges of a forward’, as the wing forward seemed to do. The big difference was a regulation that applied only in New Zealand so the rover, who was not allowed past halfway of the scrum until the ball cleared at home, was free to move forward alongside the ball on tour. Gallaher, big, fast and clever, needed no second invitation to create mayhem among the always under-pressure local backs.

He felt the British habit of killing ruck ball was a bad influence on the game, he wished the Welsh matches had come earlier in the tour when everyone was fitter and less knocked about (although some members of the touring party were probably over-played, so selection was something of an issue), and he wasn’t best pleased with the treatment he got from the Welsh crowds although ‘I will do my best to forget it,’ he wrote later.

He and Stead combined during the tour to write ‘The Complete Rugby Footballer’, an instruction manual that was years ahead of its time and not outdated a century on. It’s also on most collectors’ wish lists, but good original copies (there have been more recent facsimile reprints) are very hard to find and pricy once located; you’ll need somewhere between $500 and a grand to make it your own if you can find one.

Gallaher was recognised as an outstanding leader of men on that tour and, as the captain of the team, received a steady stream of civic honours. He had a dignity about him that one would expect a man in his position to have, but unlike most British amateur captains it wasn’t because he or his family was well-connected. Gallaher was by then a middle-class but from humble origins and most of his working life was spent with the Auckland Farmers Freezing Co-Operative (AFFCO), the meat people; his personal demeanour was something that had developed considerable strength over his lifetime; from a young age he had to support his younger siblings, and because he was the man he was.

He retired from active rugby after the tour, except for one time he pulled on an Auckland jersey when the provincial side was desperately short of numbers on tour, and turned his hand to coaching and selecting at club and provincial level before moving on to the national selection committees. Not surprisingly he proved very able, and teams under his control had a great deal more success than most.

He had no need to enlist for World War I – in fact he was well over the call-up age – but a desire to avenge two brothers killed in battle led him to join up and head off to another war. He must have been the oldest man in his regiment, and by far the most famous, but he still took a full part in the fighting as and when it fell their lot. He, along with far too many others, was killed at Passchendaele in the middle stages of yet another bogged-down offensive in the middle stages of the war.

Gallaher is buried in the Nine Elms Cemetery at Poperinge in Belgium. The grave itself has become something of a shrine for young New Zealanders on their circuit of World War I sites, and is often visited by All Black teams when on tour, especially if an Armistice Day test against France is on the horizon. Sean Fitzpatrick visiting Gallaher’s grave was the opening sequence of the 2017 television programme ‘Behind the Black’ and captured a lot of the emotion felt by rugby people at the site.

In 1922 a group of admirers presented the Gallaher Shield to the Auckland union, to be awarded to its champion senior team of the year. It’s a trophy that has a special place at Ponsonby, as Gallaher’s own club has won it far more often than any other and a cabinet, with the years of victory listed on the front, awaits its return each year. The club commissioned and paid for the fine statue that stands outside Eden Park by the main Walters Road entrance, where the 1.5 times life-size figure looks over the crowds with an unmistakable air of command; the statue itself is very similar to a famous photograph of Gallaher preparing to throw to a lineout, which he did as well as feeding the scrums.

In the last 20 years or so Gallaher has been inducted to several Halls of Fame, both rugby and New Zealand sport, and the ground at the Letterkenny RFC, the closest to his Ramelton birthplace, was renamed the Dave Gallaher Memorial Park. The 2005 All Blacks attended the unveiling of a plaque at the ground, and the opening of the renovated park was done by another Ponsonby stalwart and President of the NZRU, Bryan Williams, in 2012.

Dave Gallaher’s position in New Zealand rugby is secure for ever; he is now recognised as the first great All Black captain although his nearly-forgotten predecessors, especially Tom Ellison, had already set a very high standard. Because Gallaher led a touring team to Britain that conquered almost everyone it came across (one loss in 35 matches), because of its incredible scoring feats (976 points to 59, and that with tries worth three points) and because of that test against Wales, the 1905-06 Originals are, without much argument, the most famous rugby team of all time. Their leader, therefore, will always have that reflected glow as well as any recognition of personal merit.

Gallaher showed Britain that a leader did not have to be high-born, but leadership could be in the power of any man and its exercise was one of its greatest skills. He was tough; as Ernest Booth noted upon hearing of his death, ‘To us All Blacks his words would often be, 'Give nothing away; take no chance.’’ Booth described him as someone who paid attention to detail and a ‘man of sterling worth, slow to promise but always sure to fulfil … He was a valuable friend and could be, I think, a remorseless foe … He treated us all as men, not kids.’

Gallaher is regarded as the man who set the standard for All Black captains, and he set the bar high. A quick cast down the list of names that have followed over 100 years and more show that tradition has been worthily maintained by every man who has ever taken up the mantle. Although few say so publicly, it’s certain that each and every one has learned the story of Dave Gallaher, and has been inspired by it. That’s a huge legacy for one man to have left New Zealand rugby.

David Gallaher

  • Ponsonby, Auckland and New Zealand
  • Born 30 October 1873 at Ramelton, Ireland
  • Died 4 October 1917 at Passchendaele, Belgium

First-class playing record

  • Auckland (1896-1909) 26 matches
  • North Island (1903-05) 2 matches
  • New Zealand (1903-06) 36 matches, including 6 tests
  • Gallaher scored six tries and one conversion in first-class rugby.

Sevens Management Appointments

Ponsonby Rugby Club are excited to announce that Tony Koonwaiyou has been appointed Ponies 7's Head Coach, Jason Payne as Fillies 7's Head Coach and Cam Kilgour as our U20's 7's Head Coach.

Tony or "Koons" played 59 times for Ponsonby Premiers and was a regular member of the Ponies 7's squads that toured internationally. He has played NPC for Auckland, Northland and Southland and was apart of the Crusaders squads from 2004-06. He has also represented NZ in both Sevens and age grade rugby. 


Tony will be supported by Ricky McCamish a former Ponsonby Premier player and Cook Islands 7's representative and also Morna Pulevaka. Jody Wong will manage the team.

Cam Kilgour currently heads up the sevens programme at Alfriston College and has recently been named as the manager of the NZ Barbarians Schools team. He has extensive experience working with Super Rugby franchises, Cook Islands 7's and a variety of schools across NZ. Cam will be supported by current Ponsonby U20's coach John Tetini.

Training for both sides commences Tuesday 19th September, 6.30pm on the inner fields at Western Springs Stadium.

Jason Payne returns to the role after successfully leading the Fillies to the Auckland 7's final in 2016. Jason has vast experience coaching particularly in USA where he worked with various USA Age Grade teams and also ran successful Women's representative programmes including USA South Women's All Stars and Atlanta Harlequins Women's. 

Injured Fillies and Auckland Storm player Shannon Leota will manage the team.

All women are welcome to join club 7's trainings every Tuesday and Thursday night however Fillies 7's training officially starts Tuesday 3rd October 6.00pm on Western Springs Outer Fields.

Ponsonby Rugby Club would like to thank Jack Huch for his outstanding service to our Sevens programme for so many years. Jack will continue to be a resource coach for both the Sevens and Senior Club.

Coaches and Managers Wanted for 2018 Season

Be a part of Auckland's oldest, largest and most successful rugby club!

Applications are now open for dedicated rugby people willing to make a contribution to New Zealand's most famous rugby club. We are looking for inspirational people seeking a rewarding experience who can meet the challenges of coaching or managing one of the following club teams. 

* Premiers                             * Under 20’s

* Premier Development     * Under 22’s (grade TBC by ARU)

* Premier Women               * Women’s Development (10 a side)

* First Grade                         * Under 85kg Restricted

All of our coaches and managers will be given the opportunity for further development and support through ongoing courses run by the club and Auckland Rugby Union.

Please forward expression of interest and CV to Nathan Kemp - Director of Rugby  

Email: nathan@ponsonbyrugby.co.nz      Phone: 027 3982288 

Applications close Friday 29th September 2017

Sevens Coaches and Managers wanted for 2017 season

Ponsonby Rugby Club are looking for committed people to drive a professional sevens programme. We are currently entered into the following competitions:

·         Sat 14th Oct        Patumahoe Ray Pilcher Memorial 7's     

·         Sat 28th Oct        Pakuranga Club 7’s         

·         Sat 4th Nov         Auckland Club 7’s            

·         Sat 11 Nov           Glenfield 7’s        

·         Sat 18th Nov      Silverdale Invitational 7's  

For more information please contact Director or Rugby nathan@ponsonbyrugby.co.nz




Sevens Managers Coaches.jpg

U13-U15 Girls Rugby

The ARU are kicking off the new and exciting pilot initiative -  AUCKLAND RUGBY U15 GIRLS CLUB RUGBY COMPETITION

This will be a club based U15’s competition designed specifically for girls who are wanting to try it out or are currently playing but would prefer to play with girls of a similar age.

Ponsonby Rugby Club will be looking to enter at least one team possibly two into this competition. The aim is to grow the girls game through fun training and playing opportunities.

There will be no cost to the girls and rugby jerseys will be provided for the games.

Trainings are Monday and Wednesday nights inside the stadium on the #1 field starting at 4pm.


·         Club based U15’s sevens / 10’s competition

·         Ages 13-15 as of the 1st January 2017

·         A 4 week compressed competition - Playing on a weekly basis at a centralized venue on a Saturday starting Saturday 9th September.

For more information please contact Director of Rugby nathan@ponsonbyrugby.co.nz


U15 Girls Comp.jpg

Ponsonby Junior Girls

Our Junior Girls have been training hard for this Saturdays Girls Rippa Competition held at East Coast Bays Rugby Club on the North Shore. This competition is part of the NZ Women's Invitational Tournament.

They will compete in the Under 9 and Over 9 grades with games at 2pm and 2:40pm.

This is very exciting as we are aiming to build Girls Rugby within the Club. Huge thanks for Siu and Carly for putting the effort into coaching and coordinating the Girls team.




The Premiers season came to an abrupt end on Saturday afternoon when they were defeated by University 27-22 in the Gallaher Shield semi-final.

Played at Colin Maiden Park in damp and often blustery conditions, Ponsonby scored three tries and trailed by 17-15 at the halftime break.

Ponsonby were forced to start this match without a recognised first five eighth after William Talataina-Mu was picked up by Southland for the forthcoming Mitre 10 Cup competition and was urgently required in Invercargill for training, throwing Ponsonby's pre-match preparations into disarray. The task of playing in this pivotal position against University was handed to winger Tilitili Puloka, who reportedly had never played here previously. 

Ponsonby started strongly, and in the opening minutes a beautiful break by Keenan Masina freed Patrick Tausie to crash over the line, but the University defenders were able to turn him on his back, preventing the ball from being grounded.  From the ensuing five metre scrum Ponsonby then constructed some good forward momentum and Robert Cobb charged over for the opening try. Jordan Trainor added the extra two points, giving Ponsonby a handy 7-0 lead.

Soon after both University put their first points on the board, a penalty goal from the boot of Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald.

Trainor then responded for Ponsonby with a magnificent 50 metre effort.

Midway through the first spell Ponsonby attempted an attacking move down the left hand flank, only to have Pryor Collier unnecessarily taken out of play. The subsequent penalty was drilled to the corner for the lineout. From the following ruck, Waha Waitohi stretched out to score. The Trainor conversion shaved the upright.

In the final six minutes of the half, University added two converted tries, giving them a 17-15 advantage on the scoreboard at the break.

University commenced the second half with their restart being kicked out on the full. From the scrum on the halfway mark Ponsonby were able to make some good ground, which included an outstanding run by the young prop Robert Cobb. Play then went to the left and Tausie crossed in the corner. Trainor added the extra two points from the sideline.

Ponsonby missed a penalty goal from 35 metes out in the 51st minute, these three points would have been beneficial.

In the 57th minute University regained the lead after they scored their third try following the charge down of an attempted Ponsonby clearing kick. Their successful conversion gave them back the lead in the match at 24-22.

With six minutes to play University added a penalty goal stretching their lead to 27-22.

In the final four minutes Ponsonby set up camp just metres from the University line. Despite being awarded a handful of penalties and scrums, Ponsonby were unable to break the impenetrable University defensive line.   

Ponsonby: 22

Tries: Robert Cobb, Waha Waitohi and Patrick Tausie

Conversions: Jordan Trainor 2

Penalty: Jordan Trainor


Their win on Saturday afternoon over Grammar-TEC in the final round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield competition secured the Ponsonby Premiers a spot in next week’s Gallaher Shield semi-finals. Ponsonby will face University at Colin Maiden Park in St Johns in a sudden death encounter.

Against Grammar-TEC the Ponsonby side crossed for six tries in the 36-26 victory, earning them a valuable bonus point which was crucial in their quest for the semi-final place.

To clinch that spot in the finals Ponsonby not only needed a bonus point win against Grammar-TEC, but they also needed the result of at least one other competition match to go their way on Saturday.  That came from the Eden and Suburbs encounter, with Eden unable to record a bonus point in their 23-21 win, which saw them miss out on the playoffs.

Ponsonby finished the round robin on equal points with College Rifles, but as the blue and blacks won that encounter back on the 10th of June they sneak into third place on the table, leaving Rifles with the unenviable task of doing battle with Suburbs at Shadbolt Park next Saturday.

The Ponsonby and Grammar-TEC match was played in superb conditions and the ground was perfect for an open running game, which Ponsonby were intent on playing.

In the opening minute Keenan Masina ran a perfect line on a 40 metre dash to the line for the first of Ponsonby’s six tries.

Just two minutes later a magnificent break by the athletic Presley Tufuga saw Ponsonby go back onto the attack. A well-executed grubber kick by William Talataina-Mu in behind the defence was gathered by Tilitili Puloka who scored out wide.

With three minutes on the clock Ponsonby had raced out to a 10-0 lead, and the frenetic and high paced game was not showing signs of slowing.

Ponsonby fed a lineout five metres from their own line, which was stolen by Grammar-TEC. The home side distributed the ball through their backline, and looked to have a created perfect overlap. However the vigilant Pryor Collier was lurking, and took his chance, grabbing an intercept and racing 95 metres to score. Talataina-Mu added the extra two points.

Grammar-TEC were unable to halt Ponsonby’s dominance of the match and had no answer for the fast pace and outstanding skills displayed by the blue and blacks.

At the mid-way stage in the first spell, Ponsonby nabbed a Grammar-TEC lineout, the loose forward trio combining in a move that would finish 80 metres down field. The mixture of pace and slick passing by Waha Waitohi, Aleks Dabek and Presley Tufuga saw play streak down the left hand touch, the final pass going to Charles Napa’a who crossed for Ponsonby’s fourth, and bonus point try. The successful conversion extended Ponsonby’s lead to 24-0, after as many minutes.

Ponsonby took their 24-0 lead to the halftime break, and knew that a lot of work was still required to take the win. On three occasions in the first half Grammar-TEC were agonisingly close to the Ponsonby line, but were unable to convert their possession and territory into points.

The halftime message from the Grammar-TEC management seemed to work, and in the first minute of the second spell the winger Kitione Taimani showed some remarkable pace on a 60 metre solo run to score. Jono Hickey added the extra two points.

Ponsonby were able to strike back soon after when Tili Puloka crossed for his second try.

Grammar-TEC continued to look for opportunities to score, and in the 56th minute of the match a dropped pass by one of their front rowers was snapped up by Keenan Masina who dashed to the line. Pryor Collier added the extra two points by way of a drop kick, taking the score to 36-7 in Ponsonby’s favour.

At the halfway point in the spell TJ Vaega crossed in the right hand corner for Grammar-TECs second try. Hickey added the conversion from the sideline.

In the final 13 minutes Grammar-TEC enjoyed a wealth of possession, crossing for two more tries, firstly to Lisati Milo-Harris and then to Matthew Storm,.

Ponsonby will now focus on next week’s encounter with University, and a win would see them advance to the Gallaher Shield final on the 29th of July. Despite Ponsonby being victorious over University less than three weeks ago, the students too will be eager for an opportunity to hold the coveted trophy aloft in a little over a week.

Ponsonby 36 (T Puloka 2, K Masina 2, C Napa’a, P Collier tries, W Talataina-Mu 2, P Collier conv) 

Grammar TEC 26 (K Taimani, TJ Vaega, L Milo-Harris, M Storm tries, J Hickey 3 conv)

Halftime: 24 - 0

 Other Senior Results from the weekend

  • Premier Development 54 Marist 15
  • U20's 19 Papatoetoe 43
  • First Grade EP's 40 East Tamaki 7
  • Restricted U85's 36 College Rifles 17
  • Fillies WBD v East Coast Bays  
  • Falcons 30 Suburbs 20



In last Saturday’s penultimate round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield competition the Ponsonby Premiers grabbed a solid 37-19 win over Pakuranga, keeping their Gallaher Shield semi-final hopes very much alive. The five competition points earned from this fixture has Ponsonby placed fifth, on equal points with College Rifles and Eden. A win next week over Grammar-Tec and the result from at least one of the other competition matches next week should see Ponsonby be amongst the top four qualifiers and then advance to the Gallaher Shield semi-finals.

Coming into this match Pakuranga had recorded one solitary win from their previous five matches, and were out of Gallaher Shield play-off contention, but were always going to be hungry for a victory in this game.

The blue and blacks crossed for four tries against Pakuranga, including one scored by William Talataina-Mu, who added 17 points from the boot for a personal tally of 22 points and now leads the season’s top point’s scorers in the Auckland competition

Ponsonby started strongly in this must win match, looking very composed and focused on the job at hand. Pakuranga on the other hand looked were struggling to win their own lineouts, twice in the first five minutes opting to throw long, which on both occasions were gratefully nabbed by Waha Waitohi.

It was on the second of these occasions that Ponsonby were able to prosper. Waitohi made some good ground from the Pakuranga error, and then some excellent support from Matai Fakautoki saw a ruck form 30 metres from the visitor’s line. From the base of the ruck Campbell Woodmass scooted down the left hand touch, passing to Presley Tufuga who ran untouched to the line, scoring in his 40th and Blazer game. Talataina-Mu added the extra two points.

Soon after, Talataina-Mu goaled a handy penalty giving Ponsonby a handy 10-0 lead after as many minutes.

From the restart Pakuranga endeavoured to get into the game, only to concede a turnover to Ponsonby. The ball ended up in the hands of Freedom Vaha’akolo, who displayed some superb pace on a lengthy run down the right hand flank, eluding several would be tacklers. It appeared that Vaha’akolo may go all the way to the line, but a desperate covering tackle saw him bustled into touch at the visitors 22 metre mark.  Pakuranga opted to throw long to the lineout, and once again it was gratefully accepted by Waitohi who charged toward the line, only to be dragged down short. From the ruck, Talataina-Mu sliced through the gap to score beneath the posts, which he duly converted.

Pakuranga were able to get into the game midway through the half with a converted try.

A high tackle by the visitors had them penalised close to their own posts, which Talataina-Mu goaled with ease.

Ponsonby went to the break with a commanding 20-7 lead.

The first 18 minutes of the second spell was a tight tussle, with both sides unable to gain any significant advantage. A slippery surface ensured that ball handling became an issue.

Pakuranga were first to add points in the second spell, with an unconverted try.

With a lead of 20-12 and only having scored two tries, Ponsonby’s task of finishing strongly with a bonus point win from four tries became a little tougher when Tom Fisi’ihoi was shown a yellow card.

Being a man down on the field saw Ponsonby tighten their game, and within minutes they were on attack very close to the visitor’s line. Replacement prop Phil Viane barged over from close range, and again Talataina-Mu converted.

Pakuranga responded a few minutes later with a seven pointer.

With seven minutes to play Talataina-Mu goaled his third penalty of the match, extending Ponsonby’s lead to a seemingly unassailable 30-19.

Then with two minutes left on the clock Ponsonby put the icing on the cake with a gem of a try. From inside the Ponsonby half a move was initiated by Pryor Collier, who wrong-footed the defence on a deceptive run which went one way then another. Play then went wide to Vaha’akolo who ran round his opposite and an excellent run by the right winger he then drew the final defender before passing infield to the supporting Keenan Masina to score beneath the posts.    

Attention now swings to next week’s away match against Grammar-Tec, and whilst they are out of Gallaher Shield play-off contention, they will be a tough opposition. Ponsonby join University, College Rifles and Eden who are all vying for three spots in the semi-finals. Grammar-Tec have recorded only two wins from six outings in this round, and last week were on the receiving end of a 43-12 hiding by Eden. As an old foe of Ponsonby’s , Grammar-Tec will be eager to halt the blue and blacks progress to the finals.

In the curtain-raiser on Saturday between the Ponsonby and Pakuranga Development teams, a last gasp try by halfback Roger Tuamoheloa secured the win for Ponsonby by 23-22.   


Ponsonby: 37

Tries: Presley Tufuga, William Talataina-Mu, Keenan Masina and Phil Viane

Conversions: William Talataina-Mu 4

Penalties: William Talataina-Mu 3

Pakuranga: 19

Tries: S Afoa, M East, T Latu

Conversions: S Vaevae 2


Premier Team Announcement vs Pakuranga 8th July

Must-win game for our Premiers this weekend! Here is your lineup. A particularly special game for our Number 8 Prez Tufuga. He'll take the field this weekend for the 40th time and receive his blazer! Development KO at 11:30am followed by the Prems at 1:45pm (note earlier time due to Lions Test Match) #noezy

Other Senior Teams:
U20s will face College Rifles away at 11:45am
Fillies take on Manurewa away at 1:45pm