Kiwis, Rugby and Gloucester

Here’s a review from one of our students, Ben Sanders-Crook, of Professor Tony Collins’s recent talk at Park Campus, ‘The All Golds and the path not taken’.

Old ballAs part of the Showcasing History events that are organised here at the University of Gloucestershire, The History Association were able to organise a lecture that had relevance both to Cheltenham and the university.

The topic was the evolution of Rugby League in England and, in particular, how Gloucester and Cheltenham played a part in this. Professor Collins was very insightful talking about the evolution of the game and highlighted the deep-rooted prejudices between the two codes of rugby: Union and League.

The discussion was very centred upon the late nineteenth century, as this was a time when many changes in the game were being introduced – such as prohibiting clubs from paying players, as the sport was considered an amateur’s game. This, however, did not stop teams breaking this rule, causing many problems. The Northern Union was founded as a result of the widespread miscommunication that seemed apparent.

The Northern Union did not adhere to the laws laid down by the RFU, as they viewed themselves as a separate entity and therefore capable of making their own decisions and handing out their own sanctions.

Professor Collins also explained the history behind the All Golds and where they originated. Coming across from New Zealand in the early 20th century, they needed to distinguish themselves from the Rugby Union team colloquially referred to as the All Blacks – and therefore adopted the name the All Golds. Many of the team who came over settled in the UK as they were banned from playing rugby in their own country. This is where the link to Gloucester and our university was established.

Three of the All Golds team played for Gloucester and introduced young men at the university to the laws of League. The university team established at our university remains the only university team to play in non-university leagues and competitions. This is one of the reasons why the university team is so unique – and it happens to be the only student team outside of New Zealand to be endorsed and supported by the New Zealand Union of Rugby League.

The opportunity to ask questions after the talk led to a bountiful Q&A session, and an interesting discussion about the evolution of League and the decline of Union. The consensus was that Rugby League and Rugby Union will eventually merge once more – under the laws of League.

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