Other Buller Legends

As stated in the Buller All Blacks section there have been a number of other players with strong connections to the Buller province, whom have achieved All Black honours the most recent being Ben Blair in 2002. There have also been a number of other great players from Buller who achieved various honours throughout their playing careers and a number of these players are shown below.


GEORGE AITKEN JNR

(Born 02.07.1898, Died 08.07.1952)

George Gothard Aitken was a Westport club player and Buller Representative in the early part of the 20th Century. Aitken played centre three quarter and made his Buller debut at the age of just 16. Having played two seasons of first class rugby for Buller he then headed to Wellington to study at Victoria University and was eventually selected for the All Blacks in 1921 while playing for Wellington. He also captained the All Blacks for the two matches against South Africa and therefore became Westports first All Black captain. He had also previously captained the New Zealand Universities side. Soon after playing for the All Blacks Aitken won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford and while there was selected to play Internationals for the Scotland National team. He eventually ended up playing for or against every international team that was playing in his era. His athletic prowess is further evidenced by the fact that he had won the NZU 440 yard hurdles and was runner up in the New Zealand national champs for the same event.
Aitken’s representative record
Buller – 1914-15
Wellington – 1917-22
Oxford University – 1922, 1924
North Island - 1921
New Zealand Trials - 1921
New Zealand Universities – 1920-21
UK Barbarians – 1922-25
SCOTLAND – 8 matches
NEW ZEALAND – 2 matches (both as captain)

...BEN BLAIR (Born 26.03.1979)

Born and bred in the Buller, Ben Blair played for a number of Buller age group representative sides. He left Buller to further his education and his early talents pointed more towards a potential cricketing career, but his rugby ability was always evident to those who saw him play. He made his name with the Canterbury province and made his All Black debut in 2001 against Ireland ‘A’. Blair amazingly scored 38 points out of the 43 points scored by the All Blacks in this match. His tally of 38 points remains the second highest points tally by a player in an All Blacks jersey for a single match. Blair now plays for Cardiff in the UK.
Blairs representative record
New Zealand Under 16 Under 19 Under 21
New Zealand Marist
Canterbury – 79 matches
Super Rugby – 51 matches (Highlanders and Crusaders)
NEW ZEALAND – 6 matches

JOHN CORBETT

(Born 01.01.1880, Died 11.04.1945)

John Corbett like many rugby players over the years played at representative level for both the West Coast and Buller provinces. Corbett, a lock-forward, was selected in the 1905 ‘Originals’ All Blacks for their famous tour of Australia and Britain. He was selected from the Reefton club which in those days was affiliated to the West Coast Union. Interestingly Corbett played for the All Blacks before he had ever played provincial rugby. As a Buller player in 1908 Corbett had the honour of captaining a combined Buller-West Coast team against the touring Anglo-Welsh side (The early form of the British Lions). In 1915 he was a Buller selector.
Corbett’s representative record
Canterbury/West Coast/South Canterbury Combined – 1 match
West Coast – 1906-07
Buller – 1908-10
Buller/West Coast Combined – 1 match
South Island – 4 matches
NEW ZEALAND – 16 matches

T. A. FRENCH

Tom French is a well known name in New Zealand rugby, particularly in Maori rugby. French played his club rugby for the Westport club and in 1911 was selected for the New Zealand Maori rugby team. He played again for New Zealand Maori in 1913 during their tour of Australia. Tom French went on to become a distinguished administrator in Maori rugby and was accorded the honour of having a trophy named after him. This trophy is the Tom French Cup which is awarded anually to the New Zealand Maori player of the year.
French’s representative record
Buller – 8 matches
South Island Country – 3 matches
New Zealand Maori – 25 matches

G.D.M GILBERT

(Born 01.03.1911, Died 13.02.2002)

Mike Gilbert was born in Scotland but his family emigrated to New Zealand when he was two years old. His family settled in Westport where he attended Westport Technical College. Gilbert playing out of the Westport Old Boys club made his Buller debut as a 19 year old in 1930. Playing as a midfield back he also represented the Buller/West Coast combined team against the British Lions in that same year. A Post Office employee, Mike was transferred to Greymouth but believes that local Member of Parliament Harry Holland had the transfer held up to allow him to help Buller defend the Seddon Shield. Playing out of the Greymouth United club he was selected in the All Blacks in 1935. A great athlete, Gilbert played rugby league for Great Britain in 1938 but upon returning to New Zealand to live had problems with the strict rugby regulations regarding his rugby league background. He was finally formally reinstated to rugby in 1995 when aged 84.
Gilbert’s representative record
Buller – 1930-31
West Coast – 1932-37
Buller/West Coast Combined - 1 match
New Zealand Trials - 1934-35
NEW ZEALAND – 27 matches (4 tests)

CLEM GREEN

(Selected in the 1910 All Blacks but could not tour due to work commitments)
Green’s representative record
Buller – 1910-11, 1913-15, 1919
South Island ‘B’ - 1914
South Island – 1910-11
NEW ZEALAND - 1910 (Declined selection)

...FRED NEWTON

(Born 07.05.1881, Died 10.12.1955)

Fred Newton at 1.83m and 95kg was the biggest player on the 1905 ‘Originals’ All Blacks tour. His physique won him the nickname of ‘Fatty’. Playing out of the Linwood club Newton was selected for Canterbury and the South Island side which eventually led to his All Black selection in 1905. A railway worker Newton was transferred to Westport where in 1908 he played the last of his 30 first class games in the Cardinal and blue colours of Buller in a match against Marlborough.
Newton’s representative record
Canterbury/South Canterbury/West Coast Combined - 2 matches
Canterbury – 7 matches
Buller – 1 match
South Island – 1 match
NEW ZEALAND – 19 matches (3 tests)

BRIAN STACK

——
Stack’s representative record
Buller – 1962-70, 1972-73
Buller/West Coast Combined – 1965-66, 1972
South Island – 1966-67
New Zealand Trials – 1966-67
NEW ZEALAND RESERVE – 1966

...ALEXANDER ‘SANDY’ WEBSTER

Sandy Webster played for the Westports Rugby Club and was selected from Westport’s (Buller had yet to be formed) for the New Zealand Natives team’s famous tour of NZ, Aus and UK in 1888-89. Webster’s tour lasted 14 months, of which 3 months was spent at sea, and his team played 107 rugby matches, 8 Australian Rules matches and 2 Soccer matches. On the British leg of the tour the team averaged a game every 2.3 days and at one stage only had 11 fit men for a match. Many good results were achieved including victory over the Irish national team. The match against England was controversial. On two separate occasions Native players clearly touched the ball down in goal – Harry Lee and Bill Warbrick – only for tries to be awarded to England players who had followed up and then touched the ball down a second time. Amazingly the referee for that match was the England RFU’s secretary of the time so a conflict of interest may certainly have contributed to the outcome of the match which was lost 0-7. Little is known about Webster other than the fact he went on the tour but it is recorded that he worked on the construction of the Buller Bridge.
Webster’s representative record
New Zealand Natives – 1888-89

...STEVEN YATES (Born 26.07.1983)

Steven Yates comes from the Karamea area of Buller. Like Ben Blair he played his Junior rugby for Buller representative teams, and then headed to the Canterbury province. He was selected for Canterbury in 2004 and has played Super 14 rugby for the Canterbury Crusaders. Yates is well known to New Zealand rugby followers due to his outstanding performances for the New Zealand Sevens team over the last two years. Yates is now playing in Japan.
Yate’s representative record
Canterbury – 8 matches
Crusaders – 1 match
New Zealand Sevens – 2007-08

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