Legendary All Black on display in Sydney

New Zealand Rugby Museum / NZRU and New Zealand Rugby Museum     18 Aug 2012     New Zealand Rugby Museum / NZRU

The exhibition, “Rivals in Rugby, Brothers in War”, showcases rugby artefacts, photos and memorabilia exploring the trans-Tasman rivalry between the All Blacks and Wallabies and the contributions rugby players from both countries made during World War II.

The McKenzie items – provided for the display by the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North – include his honour cap from 1934, a photo of him in action in a 1938 Bledisloe Cup game and biographical material and head and shoulders portrait.

McKenzie played 35 games for the All Blacks as a flanker/lock between 1934 and 1938, including nine Tests (one as captain), and acquired his “Squire” moniker in rather mischievous fashion.

During the 1935 tour with the All Blacks in Britain, McKenzie found his hosts
disinterested on learning that he was a postman, so he invented a substantial land holding in Wellington where he said he “ran cattle on the flats and sheep on the hills”.

McKenzie served in World War II and continued to play rugby when he could. He represented New Zealand Services and Combined Dominions, and played twice for Scotland in services internationals.

Australian Rugby Union Ltd’s archivist and records manager Bronwyn Wood said the exhibition was based around the early years of the Bledisloe Cup and the war service of the Australian and New Zealand test players who played in those early cup matches.

“The theme was chosen to highlight the beginnings of the Bledisloe rivalry and to link in with the Museum of Sydney's existing exhibition ‘Home Front' which looks at Sydney during World War II.

“We tried hard to keep a good balance of both Australian and New Zealand
representatives,” she said.

McKenzie’s memorabilia is contained in an exhibition case with those from one of Australian rugby’s most memorable figures - Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop – who became the first Victorian-born player to represent Australia.

Dunlop is remembered from the first Bledisloe Cup test in 1934 when his nose was broken, but he played on to help the Wallabies beat the All Blacks.

He was studying to be a surgeon and, after drinking two bottles of beer to lessen the pain, he fixed his broken nose by inserting a toothbrush up each nostril and resetting it.

During World War II Dunlop served as a surgeon in the Australian Army and his inspirational wartime efforts as a leader and surgeon under the most trying conditions led to his knighthood in 1969.

His honour cap and the homemade nose guard he made for protection in future matches are in the display.

Other items leant by the New Zealand Rugby Museum included All Black team photographs, a tour itinerary and an invitation to a ball for the 1934 All Blacks organised by the Manly Rugby Club.