Aotearoa Maori Tennis Association Incorporated



Overview | tirohanga whanui

The history of Maori tennis is littered with a glimmering array of people and events:
History relies on the memory of; those who have created it, those who have witnessed it, those who have recorded it, those who remember it, those who have been told about it, those who have heard about it, and no doubt, those who have embellished it!
That we can look back and see where we’ve come from: So too can we now look forward and know where we’re going!
The history of Maori tennis is one of remarkable achievement and commitment; from the early days when improvised tennis courts were carved out at marae and whare, to its heyday in the 1950s, when the number of Maori from iwi throughout the country taking part in Maori tournaments rivalled and even outstripped participation in Pakeha events. Along the way there have been some colourful and hugely talented players who have excelled on the world stage.
Maori quickly picked up the skills and social opportunities of the game shortly after it was introduced to the country in the 1870s. Maori were soon excelling at the sport, and widespread competitions were being organised among hapu and iwi by the turn of the century.
While it is not certain in which region tennis was first played by Maori in New Zealand, it is known, Maori were playing tennis in these formative years in regions such as Hawkes Bay, Wanganui and the East Coast. While it would be overstepping the mark to suggest Maori tennis began in Hawkes Bay, it is clear that tennis was very strong in this area in the late 19th Century. Photographs and anecdotes reveal Maori from Ngati Kahungunu working on large farms and sheep stations in Hawkes Bay picking up the sport in the 1890s.
One thing is certain, the game was being played to a high standard by Maori in the 1890s and by the early 1900s the sport was established with hapu and iwi throughout the country. Tennis courts had become established at many marae and were carefully maintained in prominent areas adjacent to marae buildings.
Stories abound of Maori in the early days ingeniously scraping out a surface for a court, and improvising with make-shift nets of string, flax or other materials stretched across the court. Lines would often be marked in the dirt to outline the court area. In place of wire netting fences, manuka palings were often set up around the court.
‘Racquets’ were fashioned out strips of timber, sides of wooden boxes or whatever suitable materials could be adapted. These rudimentary racquets were better known as bats.
Balls and racquets were always prized possessions in the early days; kept in presses to stop wooden frames warping, with children and adults often only graduating to a racquet after first honing their skills with the wooden bats.
DRESSCODE: The very strict Victorian dress code could make the standard of dress required for the sport, a challenge for Maori players.
Women were required to wear long flowing skirts, and men always had to wear long trousers. Despite widespread poverty among Maori people, a lot of effort was put into ensuring the appropriate clothing was worn. Many families made sure their players were dressed in ‘tennis whites’, even if it meant making do with sewing uniforms from flour bags or other suitable materials.
The dress code and subscriptions to clubs were also a way of restricting the game to the well off members of society, giving tennis the upper class reputation which has been hard to shake off in New Zealand until the early 1970s.
INTER MARAE TENNIS: The strict dress code may have inadvertently contributed to the success of the game within a Maori setting. Because many Maori were unable to meet the dress code required by clubs – not to mention the subscription fees; Maori, nevertheless, adapted to the game and adapted the game to their needs. By the early 1900s, inter-marae tennis competitions were being played in many regions. The first competitions were localised – among hapu and whanau.
The benefits of this healthy pursuit, was not lost on the Maori people. Maori leaders set a good example by involving themselves in the sport, either by playing or administering the game or by encouraging their people to be active participants. As the popularity of the sport developed, so the competition was extended from inter-marae, to inter-rohe competition.
Needless to say, the intervention of World War l and the depression of the 1930s hampered the continued development of the inter-rohe competition.
Nevertheless, the friendly rivalries of inter-marae and inter-rohe tennis, and the resultant social interactions managed to sustain a positive attitude for many in a world often beset by poverty and hardship.
Whanganui was one of the first regions to organise a full-scale rohe competition; albeit for their own Hauauru tribes.
Their first major rohe tournament was contested in Easter 1907. It was to be an annual event, played for the Marumaru Cup. The cup was named after a prominent Whanganui kaumatua, Taraua Marumaru.
By 1910, the Whanganui organisers, anxious to test themselves against other regions, invited Heretaunga to take part in the competition. The tournament was held in Palmerston North. We can’t be certain of the reaction of the Wanganui team, but they lost their taonga ‘the Marumaru Cup’ to Heretaunga.
By virtue of Heretaunga playing Whanganui, the Marumaru Cup became an inter-rohe trophy. The competition was eventually extended to other rohe throughout the country. This inter-rohe competition was the fore-runner to the National Maori Championships which we enjoy today. ‘Father of Maori Tennis’ E tipu e rea mo nga ra o to ao
Ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha
hei oranga mo to tinana
Ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna
hei tikitiki mo to mahunga
Ko to wairua ki te Atua nana nei nga mea katoa.
Grow tender shoots for the days of your world
Turn your hands to the tools of the pakeha for the wellbeing of your body. Turn your heart to the treasures of your ancestors as a crown for your head
Give your soul unto God the author of all things.
This famous whakatauki or proverb often referred to as ‘Te Tipu e Rea’ sums up the vision Sir Apirana Ngata had for Maori. He believed Maori could excel in all facets of Pakeha life, in all physical and intellectual pursuits and at the same time, honour and represent Maori culture and traditions.
The support Sir Apirana had for Maori tennis is a clear example of his vision in practice.
NEW ZEALAND MAORI LAWN TENNIS ASSOCIATION: Sir Apirana and his great friends, Tai Mitchell, Pei Te Hurinui Jones and Tukere Te Anga were instrumental in assisting him in the development of a constitution, thus forming the inaugural New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association (NZMLTA) during the Maori Championships, Easter 1926, in Rotorua.
Tai Mitchell from Te Arawa commissioned local master carvers to create a
waka-huia for the inaugural tournament. The Open Mixed Doubles title was accredited to that taonga.
This waka-huia holds the mauri of the national annual Aotearoa Maori Tennis Championships, representing its history, spirit and aspirations. This taonga is the centrepiece at every national Maori tennis tournament.
The 1926 inaugural national tournament in Rotorua was the first contest with all the districts sending their best players. Elimination rounds were held earlier in each district so only the best players attended the tournament. Despite the elimination rounds, there was an impressive 94 players in the men’s singles event at the 1926 event.
In his biography of Sir Apirana Ngata, ‘He Tipua’ Ranginui Walker writes:
‘While staying with Tai Mitchell during the Maori tennis tournament of 1926, Ngata said he saw some of the finest representatives of the Maori race assembled in one place.
Many of the men and women who participated in the tournament had successful careers in the Civil Service, commerce, farming, health service, the Church and other professions.
For Ngata, the vigour, mental alertness and optimism of the people at the tournament indicated encouraging progress in Maori adaptation to modernity.
The gathering at the inaugural national Maori tennis tournament inspired Sir Apirana to promote a conference for a new generation of Maori leaders to consider the present and future welfare of the Maori people. Sir Apirana had faith in Tai Mitchell, and Pei Te Hurinui Jones. Tukere Te Anga and Pei Jones both had a strong standing in the Whanganui district for their work on Maori land issues and their success as interpreters.
One of the vehicle’s for future welfare of the Maori people was sport, in this case tennis. A degree of self realisation he believed could be garnered from the discipline of administration and participation in sport.
The administration required the hierarchy of leadership not uncommon in Maori society, but in this case based on the format of the Pakeha. Each rohe already had people in place to organise their players, to conduct elimination rounds and to get the players to the tournaments. These same people needed to be galvanised into a committee in order to co-ordinate the many rohe into a co-operative body to organise the annual national Maori tournament.
There was no shortage of strong leadership. Tukere Te Anga was nominated first president of the New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association.
In 1927, the second Maori Championships was held over the Easter weekend at Putiki in Whanganui.
Sir Apirana, while clear that an autonomous Maori tennis organisation was important, also wished the NZMLTA to work in harmony with the Pakeha tennis association. He ensured Pakeha dignitaries were given a prominent role in the proceedings, including the president of the Whanganui Lawn Tennis Association and the Mayor of Whanganui.
During that same year, Pei Jones was instrumental in hosting a remarkable tennis event. A New Zealand Maori Tennis Team played against a touring British Isles Team in Whanganui.
After World War ll, prominent Maori leaders from throughout New Zealand were called to a hui for Maori tennis at Turongo House at Turangawaewae in Ngaruawahia, on the last day of March 1947.
A Minute Book recording this, and subsequent Hui of the New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association from 1947 up to the 1960s, gives an insight into the history of the Association and the desire to ensure it remained a national body.
31 March 1947
Convenor: Pei Te Hurinui Jones
A constitution was adopted: Moved Rangi Royal.
Seconded S Maioha
Election of Officers:
Patron Kiing Koroki (Ngaruawahia)
President Pei Te Hurinui Jones (Kirikiriroa)
Vice Presidents:
Sir Apirana Ngata (Tikitiki)
Hepi Te Heuheu (Tuwharetoa)
Turi Carroll (Wairoa)
James Henare (Taitokerau)
Wetini Hotu (Maniapoto)
Haeroa Marumaru (Whanganui)
Takurua Tamarau (Ruatoki)
R Wehipeihana (Manawatu)
E Edwards (Taranaki
S Mitchell (Arawa)
Management Committee:
S Watene, S Maioha, L Morrison, P Kaua, T Takarangi, K Thompson, K Kataraina
Delegates to NZLTA: Michael Jones, Rangi Royal
Secretary: Brian Jones
Auditor: E Reweti
General Business:
a) Mr Jones explained the renewal of Maori tennis and wanted to establish a tennis tradition for the Association.
b) On the question of venues, Mr Royal said that Maori tennis should not be anchored to one place.
c) Moved S Watene, seconded by W Hotu that the tournament be held in Ngaruawhaia.
An amendment moved S Maioha, seconded T Takarangi, that the tournament be held in Rotorua, was carried.
d) Objectives: It is necessary to place on record, the idea of promoting championship games, and in future, that sub associations should have a qualifying tournaments to obviate the unwieldiness at annual tournaments.
With the Association having been in decline throughout World War ll (1939-1945) the year, 1947, signalled a major resurgence in tennis with many great Maori leaders in abundance on the committee. Kiing Koroki was Patron, with Pei Te Hurinui Jones as President. Many of the Vice-Presidents were tribal leaders with a national profile.
At this point in time, Pei Te Hurinui Jones had been actively involved with the Association for 24 years. He was the inaugural winner of the Championship Men’s Singles in 1926.
In addition to his many other duties; translating, writing, heading various Maori organisations and working in the boardrooms and courts dealing with land issues, Pei was also a key advisor to Kiing Koroki, Princess Te Puea, and later, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.
By 1950, Princess Te Puea was Patron of the Association and Sir Eruera Tirikatene was one of the Vice-Presidents.
The Minutes of the 1950 AGM is the next Hui recorded in the Minute Book.
Minutes of the NZMLTA AGM held at Poho-Rawiri Meeting House in Gisborne,
7 April 1950
Patroness: Te Puea Herangi
Moved by Mr L Morrison, seconded Rangi Royal
No further nominees. Duly elected.
President: Mr Pei Te Hurinui Jones
Moved by S Watene, seconded Mr M Waititi
No further nominees. Duly elected.
Vice Presidents:
North Auckland Mr Hemi Manuera of Maori Affairs Kaitaia
Auckland Mr Paaka Turei of Maori Affairs Auckland
Arawa Mr Rongo Winiata of Arawa Board
Mataatua Rev Wharetini Rangi of Ruatoki North
Whanau-a-Apanui Mr Mani Waititi of Cape Runaway
Horouta Sir A T Ngata of Ruatoria
Takitimu Mr Pahau Milner of Whangara
Nth Ngatikahungunu Mr Turi Carroll of Wairoa
Tamaki-Mokau Mr William Tauri of Mananui
Rangitikei-Wanganui Mr Jack Potaka, Rata P.O.
Manawatu-Wgtn Mr Nepia Winiata, Ohau P.O.
South Island Mr E T Tirikatene, C/- Parliament Buildings
Tamatea (Hastings) Mr Alec Gillies of Waimarama
General Business
Mr Carroll suggested the Association should foster tennis amongst Maori by sending worthwhile representatives to the N.Z. Pakeha tournament. This started a general discussion on raising funds for this purpose and on the motion of Sir A.T. Ngata seconded by T.A. Caroll, it was decided, ‘That each Sub-Association be asked to make a contribution of £25 to the NZMLTA’ Venue for 1951. Both Auckland and Wairoa representatives asked that the tournament be held in their respective districts. On a motion from Sir A. T. Ngata, seconded by L. Morrison, ‘That the 1951 tournament be held in Auckland and in 1952 at Wairoa – Passed and approved.’ Time of Tournament. ‘It was suggested by L. Morrison that 29 February 1951, would be a suitable date, but Sir A.T. Ngata, supported by M. Waititi spoke in favour of Easter – as it was a longer period of holiday and allowed for travelling time – after careful consideration it was agreed that the 1951 tournament be held at Easter Marumaru Cup: This subject was the source of a very lengthy discussion – with varied opinions as to how this cup should be played for in the future and after much discussion and on the motion of Sir A.T.Ngata, seconded by M.Waititi and further supported by L. Morrison, it was moved that the Marumaru Cup be competed for as a points trophy:
Men,12 points winners – 6 points runner-up Ladies,10 points winners – 5 points runner-up
Combined, 10 points winner – 5 points runner-up
In April 1950, the Association met at Poho-Rawiri Marie in Gisborne. ‘Representatives from all parts of the North Island were present. Speeches of welcome were tendered by Sir A.T. Ngata, Messers. A.T. Carroll and G Ormond.
On behalf of the visitors, the President Mr. P.H. Jones, S. Watene, S. Ruruhe, M. Petricevich and W. Clarke suitably replied; What was to become a theme for the Association was voiced, and that was a determination to foster tennis among young Maori by providing tangible support through funding, coaching and other initiatives. Each of the Maori Sub-Association’s agreed to contribute £25 to send representatives to the Pakeha tournament.
Sadly, the AGM in 1951 acknowledged the death of Sir Apirana Ngata at the age of 76. The nation had lost a champion of Maori land retention and development, a politician, a leader, a scholar, a writer, a tennis aspirant and – as legend would have it- ‘The father of Maori tennis’. Many tributes were forthcoming for his huge contribution to Maori tennis. The meeting, at Ohinemutu in Rotorua, decided to establish the ‘Sir Apirana Ngata Memorial Trophy’ as the main trophy of the NZMLTA.
A ‘Sir Apirana Memorial Fund’ was also set up to support young Maori to enter the New Zealand National Junior Trials.
1951 also saw the election of the first Life Member of the Association – Pei Te Hurinui Jones. He informed the meeting that he had received more out of tennis than he could ever repay, and that it was through tennis that he had first become associated with the late Sir Apirana Ngata.
In 1952 the Association met at Takitimu Marie in Wairoa. The president at this time was Turi Carroll. He was keen that special attention be given to younger players to improve the standard of tennis. He said, ‘encouragement and assistance for them to compete in the youth championship competitions held in larger centres was essential’ Other members of the Association recommended getting top coaches and overseas players to coach young Maori players. An indication of how the Association viewed the importance of Maori tennis is provided in a report from Rangi Royal where he outlined that the association should aim to bring the Pakeha and Maori races into ‘closer union with one another’ and that there should be no reason why in the very near future a worthy Maori champion in tennis couldn’t represent New Zealand.
He suggested that if no Maori coaches were available, every endeavour should be made to secure the services of a Pakeha, and that the ‘game of tennis should be fostered in all respects as being an ideal and suitable summer sport for the Maori people’. With the dynamic committees at regional and national level during the 1950s, the resurgence in Maori tennis was palpable.
In 1952, the tennis cubs continued to flourish, various rohe were conducting their own competitions to foster and promote the game and to ensure the best players were available and ready for the National Maori Championships.
If success can be measured by the proliferation of trophies in the rohe contests, then success it had to be!
Kaikohe and North Auckland tournaments contested the Ngapuhi Memorial Cup, the Peneha Maori Cup, and the Tiamana Cup.
In Wanganui they contested the Ruihi Tairapenga Cup.
The Arawa Tennis Association, established in the 1920s, now had 21 affiliated clubs. Trophies at stake were the Ransfile Memorial Cup, Hinemoa Rose Bowl, Rotary Cup and Horohoro Challenge Cup.
Rotorua, Whakatane, East Coast and Opotiki conducted an inter-tribal competition for the Herewini Memorial Shield.
While no trophies are mentioned for the following rohe, tennis continued unabated:
Te Puke and Tauranga ran annual tournaments in their districts.
In the Wairoa district, participation in Maori tennis clubs greatly outstripped the number of Pakeha clubs, with Maori players dominating inter-club championships from 10 clubs, compared to four Pakeha clubs.
In 1954 a contingent of Maori players came to NZMLTA championships in Gisborne, were so impressed by the sporting and cultural experience, the won the right to host the tournament in Dunedin in 1955.
Over 82 players and supporters just from Gisborne made the trip south by train and steamer, the visitors being treated to ‘titi’ at every meal.
Since its inception, the New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association has been affiliated to the New Zealand Lawn Tennis Association. Duties for the NZMLTA under this arrangement included submitting tournament results and membership numbers to the parent body.
Affiliations Details for NZMLTA
Year 1949 1951 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957
Members 430 800 800 800 800 800 800
In 2006 the Tennis NZ Board and CEO (Don Turner, Paul Smith, Claudine Toleafoa and Mark Dunphy) & Aotearoa Maori tennis Kaumatua and officials (Ted and Sue Hetaraka, Dr. Tamati and Tilly Reedy, Dick and Desrae Garratt and Harry Tawhai) met officially for the first time in 80 years, with the view to resolve past and current issues relating to governance. The outcome was that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) be formed between both parties to support the aspirations of each other toward a common goal in the promotion of tennis. This MOU was finalised and signed by both parties on the 7 May 2008.
Sir Maui Pomare CMG KBE – Ngati Mutunga, Ngati Toa
The late Sir Maui, the first Maori doctor, won, just before his graduation the prestigious Inter-University tennis championship singles of the USA.
John Hoani MacDonald
Captain of the NZ Services tennis team, which played at Wimbledon during World War 11, also won a mixed doubles title at Wimbledon (but was disqualified from the event as he was a professional rugby league player at that time)
Ruia Morrison MBE – Te Arawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa
Aotearoa Maori tennis Life Member and Maori Sports Hall of Fame Inductee, Ruia is the country’s most known women’s tennis player, and the first NZ women to compete at Wimbledon reaching the quarter finals in 1959 and on three other occasions reached the round of sixteen. Ruia played in all the Grand Slams and Fed Cup for NZ, Ruia had an unofficial ranking of number 9 in the World.
Kelly Evernden- Ngati Porou, Ngati Maru The ‘Gisborne Flash’; this former 31 ranked ATP professional (whom his coach Jeff Simpson, said, ‘should of being a top 10 player) had 13 ITF wins, competed (with one lung) in all the Grand Slam majors, Davis Cup for NZ and had many wins over the World’s top players, and in his own words ‘beating Michael Chang 6/0 6/1 was the most perfect match of my life’ Mose Harvey- Ngati Porou
At 73 years of age, Mose became the first NZ person to win a World tennis title, taking out the World 70+ Men’s singles at the ITF Super-Singles title at Christchurch in 2007.
MAORI WOMEN IN TENNIS Since Ruia Morrison put her stamp on women’s tennis in New Zealand and internationally, a number of other Maori women players have reached great heights. Following Arleen Rollerston’s success, In 1998, five of the top women tennis players in New Zealand were Maori. They included Rewa Hudson, Leanne Baker, Shelley Stephens, Gaye McManus and Nicola Kaiwai. Rewa Hudson was the top ranked women player in New Zealand in 1998. Rewa and Leanne Baker were also ranked No 1 World Junior Doubles combination, and respectively 28th and 36th in the World Junior Singles rankings. Over the past ten years, Shelley Stephens, Leanne Baker, Rewa Hudson and Tracey O’Connor have remained in the top ranks of New Zealand Women’s Tennis.
MAORI MEN IN TENNIS While Kelly Evernden is the best performed on the International circuitwe must make mention of many others have competed with distinction: Peter Smith, Barry Smith, and Joseph Harvey.
A HISTORY OFMAORI TENNIS- HE HITORI O TE TENEHI MAORI: In 2006 to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the national Maori tennis championships, the association published a book on the history of Maori tennis. Many stories, profiles and results can be read in this book, available from the association, and further, results can be seen on our website.

News | te karere

83rd Aotearoa Maori Tennis Championships, 27-31 December 2009, ASB Waikato Tennis Centre, Dey St Hamilton, Entry forms (download) or Contact 09 278 6591 or 09 277 4334

Contact | whakapa
36 Carruth Road, Papatoetoe 2025
PO Box 23650 Papatoetoe, Manukau City 2155
Phone 09 278 6591
Fax 09 278 6582

Administration | mana whakahaere
Sir Tamati REEDY KNZM Ngāti Porou
Lady Tilly REEDY Ngāti Porou
Mr David GOLDSMITH Ngāti Porou
Mrs Ruia MORRISON MBE Te Arawa
Mrs Taini JAMISON OBE Ngāt Maru, Ngāi Tahu
Mr Bill KAUA JP, ONZM Ngāti Porou
Mr Charles PENI Ngāti Raukawa
Mr Tom Te APATU Ngāti Kahungunu

Dick GARRATT (President) Ngāi Tūhoe
Annie HAWAIKIRANGI (Secretary) Rongowhakaata
Geoff KAYE-IVITU (Treasurer) Ngāti Maniapoto

Leona KAYE-IVITU Te Arawa
Desrae GARRATT Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngati Mutunga
Richard BOYNTON Ngāi Tūhoe
Adam WHAUWHAU Ngāti Hauā
Whare WHAREPAPA Ngāi Tūhoe
Aliya EDWARDS Te Arawa
Carol THORPE Ngati Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti
Ann DAVIS- MOROULIS Ngarauru Kiitahi
Jackie ALBERT Ngati Porou; Ngati Raukawa
Alan CLARKE Te Ati Awa, Ngai Tahu
Greg JOHNSON Whakatohea, Ngapuhi
David Crombie & Sum-it
Crombie & Associates
Wackrow Williams & Davies

Lady Tilly REEDY
Mr Basil Corbett
Mrs Celia RAILEY
Mrs Taini JAMISON OBE Mr Charles PENI