The fern, a whakatauki and a Kiwi NFL connection

The Rugby World Cup begins this week and to celebrate I’ve just released two new books about rugby. Each day this week I’m sharing interesting information about rugby to help you “warm up” for the tournament.

Day 3

The 1888 New Zealand Natives rugby team were the first sports team to wear a silver fern for an emblem. They could have chosen a kowhai, or pohutukawa or rata … why the fern?

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A Maori whakatauki (proverb) says, “Ka hinga atu he tētē-kura, ka hara mai he tētē-kura.” “When one plant frond dies, another rises to take its place.”


Maybe that’s why the team chose the fern as an emblem – to remind the players that when one was tired, another would rise up to carry on the fight. And maybe that’s why team captain, Tom Ellison asked for the silver fern to be included on the national jersey. When one player is struggling, another will rise to take his place!


Former NRL player Jarryd Hayne has been in the news recently for his brave decision to leave rugby league to try for the NFL. There’s a New Zealander playing in the NFL too. His name is Rhett Ellison and he plays for the Minnesota Vikings. Rhett’s great uncle is Tom Ellison, the man who suggested our national rugby team should wear black with a silver fern.

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Read more about the history of rugby in New Zealand and the Pacific in Rugby: The History. Read about the legendary players whose running, tackling and kicking skills ave made rugby the great game it is in Rugby: The Skills, the Players and the Style.

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