Buller Rugby Union

Relive the 2012 Lochore Cup Final


Rugby Football came to Buller in 1886 with the formation of the Westport club. The first inter-club match was between this Westport club and the Reefton club on September 18th, 1886 and a 0-0 draw was the final result. The match was played at Martin’s Island and a large crowd was in attendance.

The Buller Union was founded 8 years later on 18 April, 1894 by the Addison’s, Charlestown, Westport and Westport Union clubs. Buller’s first two clubs (Westport and Cape Foulwind) had been affiliated to the West Coast Union since its formation in 1890 but were not content to continue this arrangement hence the forming of the Buller Union in 1894.

By the start of the first Buller championship in 1895 Denniston had become instituted and affiliated to the new Buller Union. Denniston was to dominate the early years of the Buller Union’s competitions. The Denniston club managed to win the first 3 senior championships in a row and had 8 players picked in the first Buller representative side.

The first Buller representative team played against Nelson at Westport on July 30th, 1895. The final result was a 6-0 victory to Buller.

The following season in 1896 saw Buller play West Coast for the first time. The match resulted in a 0-16 defeat, but signalled the start of a long and colourful rivalry between the two neighbouring provinces.1897 saw the first higher honours go to a Buller player when the Denniston wing forward W. Rhodes was selected in the South Island side.

1904 saw Buller embark on their first tour as a representative team and they played 4 matches the results been a 14-3 victory over Marlborough at Blenheim a 3-3 draw with Nelson and two close losses to both Manawatu and Wellington in Buller’s first matches in the North Island.

In 1906 the Seddon Shield competition was instituted and was to be contested between the Buller, Nelson, West Coast and Marlborough Unions. To find the holder a preliminary round was held where Buller beat West Coast and Marlborough beat Nelson. In the final Marlborough beat Buller 3-0 to become the first holders.

The shield was from this point on to be contested as a challenge shield. Also this year D Dennehy of Westport White Star became Buller’s second South Island representative.Another milestone followed in 1907 when Buller played their first ever challenge for the Ranfurly Shield. Buller travelled to Auckland for the match and went down 21-0.

1907 also saw the first match between the Buller and Canterbury provinces, and another great rivalry was born.1908 saw the first West Coast-Buller combined team play a match and the opponents were the Anglo-Welsh (essentially a British Lions side minus Scotland and Ireland).A special moment occurred in 1910 with Buller having its first player represent the National All Blacks.

This player was Samuel Bligh of the Westport club and interestingly enough he didn’t actually play for Buller this year but was selected for the All Blacks straight out of the Westport club. 1911 also saw more recognition for Buller on a national stage when Tom. A. French was selected for the New Zealand Maori tour of New Zealand. A well known figure in Maori rugby French would also tour Australia with the Maori side in later years.

The annual recipient of the Maori player of the year now receives the Tom French Cup.In 1913 Buller had an excellent season winning all 5 games and winning the Seddon Shield for the first time. Buller, due partly to World War One as well as their own good play, would go on to hold the Seddon Shield until 1920 when losing it back to Marlborough by 13-21.