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An Introduction to Rugby League New Zealand Retro Shirt


Produced by Ellis Rugby, the Rugby League New Zealand Retro Shirt Polo is inspired by the heritage of the Kiwis national teams.


Great Britain Rugby League Lions had convincingly beaten the Australia Rugby League team by two tests to one in the Ashes Series. According to reports they were desperately unlucky not to make history and white-wash the Kangaroos having lost by a single point in the third test 18 points to 17.

The Lions landed in New Zealand buoyed by some exceptional performances and they were confident of continuing their success. The first test was played in front of a modest 14,976 crowd at the Carlow Park Stadium in Auckland. The Kiwis were simply far too good winning by 19 points to nil. They scored five unanswered tries with Brian Reidy crossing for two, Ron Ackland, Jim Bond and Sam Edwards. The scoreline flattered the Lions as the Kiwis only kicked two goals from Neville Denton and Anthony Smith.


The Kiwis were captained by loose forward Mel Cooke. Cooke made his reputation as an inspirational leader with Hornby in the Canterbury Rugby League Competition. He led them to success as player-coach in the national tournament finals in 1962 and 1964. He led when they won the Thacker Shield in 1964. Further, he went on to play 22 tests for the Kiwis between 1959 and 1964, a successful era that saw New Zealand universally recognised as the top Rugby League nation in the world.


Mel Cooke

He made his debut for Canterbury as a scrum-half in 1953. But developed into one of the finest loose forwards of his era. Cooke was a superb cover defender and front on tackler. Also, he played for New Zealand in the 1960 Rugby League World Cup. Cooke was one of the first inductees into the NZRL’s Legends of League (in 1995). And was also named in the Kiwis’ Team of the Century in 2007.


The second test was again staged at Carlow Park in Auckland. And drew a crowd of 16,411 spectators to see New Zealand comfortably defeat a strong Great Britain team by 27 points to 8. The Kiwis pack included some outstanding players, including Jock Butterfield. Butterfield played for the Sydenham club in the Canterbury Rugby League from 1953.


Jock Butterfield & Maunga Emery

He was first selected to represent New Zealand at Greymouth’s Wingham Park in 1953, scoring a try in the 20-14 second test win over Great Britain. Also, he went on to play for the Kiwis in the first Rugby League World Cup in 1954 as a second-row forward. Touring Great Britain and France with the Kiwis in the winter of 1955-56, Butterfield switched to hooker and also toured Australia in 1956. He appeared at the next World Cup in 1957 also. He played in 99 games, including 36 tests, for New Zealand.


Along side Butterfield in the front row was Hone ‘Maunga’ Emery who scored a fine individual try. Emery played for the Maori rugby team from 1954 to 1958 before donning the Kiwis shirt in 1961. He gained legendary status during his test career when he formed a rugged front row trio with fellow prop Sam Edwards and hooker Jock Butterfield. Emery was the grandfather of Kiwis and Warriors great Stacey Jones.


The Kiwis ran in a total of five tries through Emery, Neville Denton, Brian Reidy. And a brace of tries by Centre Roger Bailey. Full back Jack Fagan kicked 6 goals. In reply, Great Britain scored tries through Neil Fox and Peter Small and a goal by Laurie Gilfedder.



Manufactured by Ellis Rugby from satin touch 100% cotton, the Shirt features detailed embroidery on the crest. Other features include herringbone finish on the vents and velvet tape on the neck opening.

Ellis Rugby New Zealand Heritage Rugby Polo