Wanganui Rugby Football Union

The Wanganui Rugby Football Union (WRFU) is the governing body for rugby union in the Whanganui region of New Zealand. The Wanganui Rugby Football Union was formed in 1888.

Wanganui Rugby Football Union
Nickname(s)Butcher Boys
Founded1888 (1888)
Ground(s)Cooks Gardens
Chairman Jeff Phillips
Coach(es) Jason Caskey
League(s)Heartland Championship
20171st (Meads Cup Champions)
Team kit
Official website

The Wanganui team play from Cooks Gardens, Whanganui, and have enjoyed much success on the playing field throughout their history. The side are one of the leading provinces in New Zealand purely for the number of Divisional Championships won.

Since the introduction of the National Provincial Championship in 1976, Wanganui have won the 3rd most Provincial Championship titles, with 10 Championships to their name. They sit behind only Auckland (with 16 Championships) and Canterbury (with 13 championships). Both the Taranaki and South Canterbury Rugby Unions sit just behind Wanganui with 8 Provincial Championships each. Further to this, the Wanganui team have played in Heartland Championship Grand Finals in 11 of the last 12 seasons of the Heartland Championship competition (10 in the top tier Meads Cup, and 1 in the second tier Lochore Cup).

The Wanganui team were promoted to the top tier of New Zealand Rugby (the Air New Zealand Cup Division One competition), for the 2010 season. Subsequently, the NZRU later announced another alteration to the NPC format for 2010 and 2011, which meant the Air New Zealand Cup remained a 14-team competition.


The Wanganui Rugby Football Union was formed on 11 April 1888. It then joined the NZRFU as a foundation member in 1892. Wanganui's first official game after affiliation with the NZRFU was against the British and Irish Lions in 1888, with a 1-1 draw being more than encouraging for the union. In 1913 Wanganui played Australia and won 11-6 and in 1966 (with King Country) they won against touring side, British and Irish Lions 12-6.


Wanganui currently competes in the Heartland Championship, a competition for New Zealand’s amateur and semi-professional provincial unions. Wanganui have won 10 Provincial Championships across all respective divisions, placing the behind only Auckland and Canterbury for the total number of Provincial Championships.


Heartland Championship Placings

Heartland Championship results[1][2][3][4]
2006 8710309146+1635351stMeads CupWon 30–17 against Mid CanterburyLost 14–16 to Wairarapa Bush
2007 8503206135+716263rdMeads CupWon 18–0 against Mid CanterburyLost 8–25 to North Otago
2008 880035378+2757391stMeads CupWon 40–18 against West CoastWon 27–12 against Mid Canterbury
2009 8602275108+1676302ndMeads CupWon 48–13 against Poverty BayWon 34–13 against Mid Canterbury
2010 8701254134+1206341stMeads CupWon 31–24 against Poverty BayLost 18–39 to North Otago
2011 8701364117+2477351stMeads CupWon 32–22 against Mid CanterburyWon 30–10 against East Coast
2012 8701237133+1043312ndMeads CupWon 23–20 against Wairarapa BushLost 27–29 to East Coast
2013 8404171160+115216thLochore CupLost 30–40 to Buller
2014 8305203194+95178thLochore CupWon 37–6 against King CountryWon 16–12 against North Otago
2015 8611318185+1337333rdMeads CupWon 26–11 against Mid CanterburyWon 28–11 against South Canterbury
2016 8800362110+2526381stMeads CupWon 58-26 against Wairarapa BushWon 20-18 against Buller
2017 8503338163+1756264thMeads CupWon 29-24 against South CanterburyWon 30-14 against Horowhenua-Kapiti
2018 8800331113+2187391stMeads CupLost 7-17 against Thames Valley

Heartland Championship Team

2015 Steelform Wanganui Heartland extended squad Forwards: Brett Turner (Pirates); Bryn Hudson (Ngamatapouri); Cole Baldwin (Border); Daniel Fitzgerald (Marist); Fraser Hammond (Ruapehu); Kamipeli Latu (Border); Kieran Hussey (Border); Lasa Ulukuta (Pirates); Malakai Volau (Utiku OB); Peter Rowe (Ruapehu)(Captain); Renato Tikoilosomone (Border); Roman Tutauha (Ruapehu); Sam Madams (Border); Tololi Moala (Pirates); Viki Tofa (Marist). * John Smyth Brought in as injury cover.

Backs: Areta Lama (Kaierau); Ace Malo (Kaierau); Denning Tyrell (Pirates); Jaye Flaws (Taihape); Kane Tamou (Ratana); Lindsay Horrocks (Border); Michael Nabuliwaqe (Utiku OB); Poasa Waqanibau (Border); Samu Kubunavanua (Utiku OB); Simon Dibben (Marist); Stephen Pereofeta (Wanganui Collegiate); Troy Brown (Ruapehu); William Short (Ruapehu); Zyon Hekenui (Ruapehu); Trinity Spooner-Neera (Hawkes Bay)

Ranfurly Shield

A 15-all draw against the powerful Taranaki side of 1964 remains the closest the men from Wanganui have ever come to winning the Ranfurly Shield.

Taranaki v Wanganui

Ranfurly Shield

Into the last minutes of the match Wanganui held a 12-11 lead and even if on paper and in the match itself they had seemed the inferior team it seemed as if they would hang on. Their hero was wing Colin Pierce who had kicked all of Wanganui's points from penalties to put them ahead even though Taranaki had gained tries to John McCullough and Ross Brown.

Wanganui might well have won as the match approached the final minute but for excitement of their supporters who thinking they were part of a historic moment as Wanganui had never ever won the shield crowded the touchline.

A desperate Brown had dropped for goal trying to gain the winning points. When it had missed Pierce had dashed to the 22 and taken a quick drop out. In the event his hurried kick had landed among the Wanganui spectators and they gave referee John Pring and touch judge George Brightwell a dilemma for they were both unsighted by the sideline mayhem were not sure whether the ball had bounced or gone out on a full.

Pring ruled that it had been on the full and so that last scrum of the match in what was the last set-piece took place on the Wanganui 22 and it was from there that Taranaki worked the move from which replacement wing Kerry Hurley grubber kicked ahead and won the chase as the ball bounced just a feet from touch over the Wanganui goal-line. And that was it: Taranaki had won 14-12.


1907 Auckland 6–5 WanganuiAuckland
1914 Taranaki 17–3 WanganuiHawera
1919 Wellington 30–3 WanganuiWellington
1920 Wellington 20–14 WanganuiWellington
1926 Hawke's Bay 36–3 WanganuiHastings
1927Manawhenua 25–6 WanganuiPalmerston North
1930 Southland 19–0 WanganuiInvercargill
1934 Hawke's Bay 39–16 WanganuiNapier
1948 Otago 20–3 WanganuiDunedin
1951 Waikato 14–0 WanganuiHamilton
1954 Canterbury 17–13 WanganuiChristchurch
1956 Canterbury 19–6 WanganuiChristchurch
1957 Wellington 34–5 WanganuiWellington
1958 Taranaki 22–9 WanganuiNew Plymouth
1959 Taranaki 17–11 WanganuiNew Plymouth
1963 Auckland 41–18 WanganuiAuckland
1963 Taranaki 14–12 WanganuiNew Plymouth
1964 Taranaki 15–15 WanganuiNew Plymouth
1965 Taranaki 23–9 WanganuiNew Plymouth
1973Marlborough 30–6 WanganuiBlenheim
1976 Auckland 16–9 WanganuiAuckland
1977 Manawatu 26–9 WanganuiPalmerston North
1982 Wellington 30–9 WanganuiWellington
1987 Auckland 59–6 WanganuiAuckland
2000 Waikato 86–3 WanganuiTokoroa
2009 Wellington 61–6 WanganuiWhanganui
2010 Southland 62–6 WanganuiInvercargill
2012 Taranaki 51–7 WanganuiInglewood


Notable players

In 1897 John Blair became the first of 17 Wanganui players to pull on an All Blacks jersey. Until the emergence of Bill Osborne in 1975, Ernest (‘Moke’) Belliss was without doubt Wanganui’s greatest contribution to New Zealand rugby. Belliss made his representative debut for Wanganui in 1914 before enlisting to serve during World War I. He first came to national attention as a member of the New Zealand Army rugby team of 1919 which won the King’s Cup tournament in Britain and then toured South Africa. Belliss played in the three home tests against the 1921 Springboks and captained the All Blacks in Australia the following year. A Belliss has been compared to later players such as Waka Nathan and Buck Shelford. Commentator Winston McCarthy remembered him as hard, tough and fast, a good handler and a ferocious tackler. His opponents feared him and players of his era ranked him with the world’s best. His son Jack captained Wanganui until the early 1950s and his grandson Peter Belliss was a flanker or lock for the side in the 1970s before turning his attention to bowls, a sport in which he won two world titles.

All Black Bill Osborne in South Africa, 1976 Born and bred in Whanganui, midfield back Bill Osborne graduated from the Whanganui High School first XV straight into the Kaierau senior side. In 1973 he made his debut for Wanganui four days after his 18th birthday. Selection for the New Zealand Colts followed in 1974 and he made the All Blacks for the waterlogged test against Scotland at Eden Park in 1975. He played in 14 of the 24 matches on the 1976 tour of South Africa. In 1978 Osborne lost his spot for the home series against Australia to Bay of Plenty's Mark Taylor. He won his place back for the end-of-year tour of the British Isles and played in all four internationals as the All Blacks completed their first-ever Grand Slam against the home unions. Osborne and Bruce Robertson of Counties formed one of the great midfield combinations of any All Black era.

In all Osborne played 48 times for New Zealand, including 16 tests. Having retired in 1981, he made a comeback the following season, playing in two of the three tests against Australia before once more announcing his retirement. Again he had a change of heart and by now representing Waikato he was selected for the All Black side to tour South Africa in 1985. This tour was cancelled as a result of court action taken against the New Zealand Rugby Union. A replacement tour of Argentina was arranged but Osborne withdrew from the side. In 1986 he joined all but two of the 1985 selections on the unsanctioned New Zealand Cavaliers tour of South Africa.

While they might not have reached the heights of Belliss and Osborne, Trevor Olney and Bob Barrell are typical of the unsung heroes of many of New Zealand’s provincial unions. Between 1973 and 1990 Olney played a record 146 times for Wanganui. These were amateur days in which a player had to fit training and matches around a full-time job, so his commitment over 18 seasons was truly remarkable. Barrell scored a record 980 points for the union between 1963 and 1977.[6]

Wanganui in Super Rugby

Wanganui, along with Wellington, Wairarapa Bush, East Coast, Poverty Bay, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu and Horowhenua-Kapiti make up the Hurricanes region.

All Blacks

There have been 17 players selected for the All Blacks while playing club rugby in Whanganui:


Wanganui Rugby Football Union is made up of 13 clubs:

  • Counties
  • Border
  • Hunterville
  • Kaierau
  • Marist
  • Marton Rugby and Sports Club
  • Ngamatapouri
  • Ratana
  • Ruapehu
  • Taihape
  • Utiku Old Boys
  • Wanganui Pirates
  • Wanganui Tech


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