Ponsonby District Rugby Football Club – 140 Years

My nine year old son Thomas has recently started playing for the Ponsonby-Kelston junior division of the Ponsonby Rugby Club, colloquially known as the ‘Ponies’. The Club celebrated its 140th anniversary at the end of May, so I thought that provided a good opportunity to explore the club’s history.

Ref: Andre Elliot, Thomas in full flight for the try-line, by kind permission of the photographer, 2014
Founded in 1874, Ponsonby is one of the oldest rugby clubs in New Zealand, and is the last surviving founder member of the Auckland Rugby Union, which was formed in 1883.

Ponsonby is well known as a ‘feeder’ club, with hundreds of its players having gone on to represent Auckland, an impressive 53 players are on its Honours Board for wearing the All Black jersey, and 21 for representing NZ Māori.

Ref: Ephemera from Ponsonby Rugby Club, 140th Queen's Birthday weekend commemorative badge, 1874-2014
Early All Black legends from the Club include Dave Gallaher and George Nicholson, both members of the 1905 ‘Originals'. Gallaher captained the ‘Originals’, and went on to serve in First World War, losing his life at Passchendaele in 1917. The Gallaher Shield was created in his honour in 1922.

George Nicholson was awarded Life Membership of the Club in 1914, his commitment resulting in the nickname ‘Mr Ponsonby.’ Shortly before his death at age 90 he presented the Club with his impressive collection of old jerseys and caps; they remain on display in the clubroom’s George Nicholson Trophy Cabinet.

The article below from the New Zealand Herald in June 1874 is believed to the first match report on a Ponsonby game:

Ref: Excerpt from New Zealand Herald, Volume XI, Issue 3928, 15 June 1874, p. 2, Papers Past
In May 1875, the Auckland Star reported on the club’s first AGM and a decision to adopt black and white stripes as the team kit:

Ref: Excerpt from Auckland Star, Volume VI, Issue 1631, 11 May 1875, p. 2, Papers Past
In 1876, influenced by two new members from England who brought their old school colours with them (Neazor, Paul, 1999, p. 21 - see full reference below), the kit was changed to blue and black stripes. Those colours are still in use today - the photograph of Thomas (see very first image) shows the kit with additional yellow bands, used for when playing against another Ponsonby team.

The 1891 photograph below showcases a successful team:

Ref: FW Edwards, Ponsonby Football Club, winners of the ARU Senior Cup, no location, 1891, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A5986
The 1920 photograph below features one of the junior grades:

Ref: Herman John Schmidt, Ponsonby 6th Grade Football Team, no location, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries,  31-WP1368
The 1907 photograph below shows Ponsonby in a game at Alexandra Park:

Ref: Photographer unknown, Auckland Rugby Union District Cup Competition, Ponsonby vs City, Alexandra Park, 1907,  Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19070627-11-2
The 1911 photograph below features Ponsonby players in action at a season-opening match:

Ref: A N Brecon, Ponsonby vs University, no location, 1911, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19110518-4-3
Keen to find out more? Explore these heritage resources about Ponsonby Rugby Club:

Author: Rachel, Central Auckland Research Centre


  1. Great article. Certainly makes you feel proud to be associated with a club with such an impressive history.

  2. Great, glad you enjoyed it! I will pass on your comments to the author :)

  3. This is a fantastic website and I can not recommend you guys enough. Full of useful resource and great layout very easy on the eyes.Thanks.

  4. Thank you - glad you enjoy it! I will pass on your comments to Rachel, the author of this post. Cheers, Natasha

  5. Dear Ponsonby RFC. I am a member of Beccles RFC in Beccles, Suffolk, England. I am involved in compiling a history of the Club as this is our 50th year. I intend to put a lot of information on a blog and I do like the look of yours. But I struggle with setting it all up. Any chance of hints and tips to get a little bit like your excellent site?
    Kind Regards
    Stuart Janes

    1. Hi Stuart,

      Yes, we're more than happy to help. I've just emailed you about it.




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