The New Zealand Rugby Museum is in Palmerston North of all places! That might surprise you (me too), in which case you better get Palmy on your itinerary if you want to visit the museum.
To put it simply, the New Zealand Rugby Museum is awesome. The displays are full of information and memorabilia going back to the 19th century. There’s an interactive area, and a fun spot to get a token tourist photo as you’ll see below.
This post will cover:
- My Experience
- A few fun facts I learned at the museum
- A New Zealand Rugby Musem FAQ
- Various photos from the museum
My Experience Visiting The New Zealand Rugby Museum
For context, I visited the museum in October 2018.
You know you’re at the museum when you see a big museum sign and the statue of Charles Munro, the man who bought rugby to New Zealand. The Museum is in the Te Manawa Museum on the first floor. You enter the building on the ground floor, which is where you’ll buy your tickets at the counter (takes less than 60 seconds).
There’s nothing special about your ticket, it’s on a piece of paper and looks exactly like a receipt. I’d love to see them come up with a fun ticket that could double as a souvenir.
When you head upstairs one of 50 volunteers who help keep the museum running will greet you. They give you a quick idea on the best way to explore the museum and leave you to it. I liked that.
The Museum is all in one room, with most of the displays on the walls around the perimeter. The displays are behind large glass panels and are best seen in a clockwise direction. The displays start chatting about the early days of rugby in New Zealand. The panels then start covering New Zealand decade by decade starting from the 1870’s. This is a great way to have everything organised.
There are short story info cards on each display which are well written. There are also notes about all the memorabilia you can see in the displays. There are balls, photos, game day magazines, old tickets, playing cards, and more.
According to the rugby museum website, the museum has more than 40,000 objects in its possession. This is great, as there are plenty from the 19th century which helps give the information more meaning.
If you’re reading everything in the museum, you’ll take 60-90 minutes to get all the way to the current decade history.
For the children (and adults, let’s be honest) there’s a super cool area at the far end of the museum where you can test your rugby skills. In the space (closed off by netting so you don’t destroy the displays) you can kick balls, test your scrummaging skills, and more. I didn’t try it as it would have been weird doing it on my own.
When you’ve finished your walk around there are two large photos on the wall where you can get your token tourist photo. And finally, you’ll see a small collection of second-hand books you can make a donation for. I gave $5 for an autobiography which I was quite stoked with.
I left after about 75 minutes in the museum, which is more than enough for most people (unless you get super competitive in the play area).
10 Facts Learned At The Rugby Museum In Palmerston North
The first game of rugby recorded in New Zealand was played at the Nelson Botanical Gardens on 14 May, 1870. The game was between the Nelson Football Club, and Nelson College. With a crowd of about 200 people, Nelson Football Club won 2 goals to nil playing under the rules of Rugby School thanks to the encouragement of Charles Munro.
The first New Zealand team to play overseas was the New Zealand first team who travelled to Australias in 1884. The jerseys were blue, with a gold fern. The players were selected from the Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago unions. They were known as the ‘Fernlanders’.
The kiwi you see in the photo above was the mascot of the 1924-25 ‘Invincibles’. The stuffed kiwi was placed in a specially-designed wooden case to be gifted to the first team to beat them on their tour of Great Britain. The mascot ended up coming back home as they went undefeated.
In 1891 there was an attempt for an Auckland women’s team to tour NZ. There were some negative publicity in regards to this from the Auckland Star among others, with this one reply from the teams:
“If it is permissible for ladies to participate in gymnastics, swimming matches, and cricket teams, is it not equally permissible for ladies to play football?”
Tom Ellison was the leading man behind the change to the black jersey with the silver fern (rather than the blue jersey with gold fern). This happened at the first annual New Zealand Rugby Football Union meeting.
.A kiwi sports journalist, William Atak, is deemed to be the person who introduced the whistle to referees after growing tired of shouting when both sides were talking to him. This was in 1883 or 1884, and he used a dog whistle, rather than the one we see today.
The Ranfurly Shield a.k.a. ‘Log o’Wood’ was a gift from Lord Ranfurly (NZ’s Governor of the time) for provinces to play for. Auckland was awarded the trophy in 1902 as they had the best record that season. The trophy is still played for today.
The first all-Maori team played a match in 1910 against a sub-Union in Rotorua.
The Bledisloe Cup is played for every year between New Zealand and Australia. The first Bledisloe Cup was played for in 1931 with the All Blacks victorious.
With the introduction of live and colour TV, crowd attendances declined around the country. As a result, stadiums reduced capacity by replacing terraces with seating.
New Zealand Rugby Museum FAQ
When is the museum open?
EVERY DAY! 10am – 5pm.
They’re closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Years Day.
How much does the NZ Rugby Museum cost?
- Adults $12.50
- Children $5
- Family $30
Where it the Rugby Museum in Palmerson North?
The official address is 326 Main Street which you can see on Google Maps here.
The museum is in the Te Manawa Complex. You’ll see large signs that will point you in the right direction.
What else is there to do in Palmerston North?
- Hike Along The Manawatu Gorge Walk
- Walk Along Victoria Esplanade besides the Manawatu River
- See the free gallery, Te Manawa, in the same building
- Explore The Square in the heart of the city
Is the rugby museum worth visiting?
Yes. I’m a believer that visiting sports museums is one of the best ways to learn about a country. And as rugby and New Zealand go hand in hand, this is the best museum for that. $10 would be a better price point for adults (I know it’s only a small amount of difference, but $12.50 is an odd amount).
And the best part is, there’s a good chance you’ll pass through Palmerston North on your NZ road trip around the North Island so it’s not out of the way. You might not want to spend a night in Palmerston North, but it’s a good way to spend an hour to break up the day. Especially if you’ve got a long drive!
If you are planning to visit the museum and have any questions, I’m happy to help. Below you’ll see various other photos from the museum.
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