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Joe Warbrick

A Rugby Hero

Ngāti Rangitihi

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Joe Warbrick was born in Rotorua in 1861.  He had a European father and a mother who was the daughter of a Ngāti Rangitihi chief.  He was tough, clever and hard-working.
He also happened to be a natural leader and very talented rugby player.  People who saw him play said that he could drop kick goals from halfway with no shoes on!
When he was just 15 years old, selectors saw how good he was and chose him to play for the province and then in 1884, he played his first game representing New Zealand in Australia where he got a real taste of success.
The New Zealand Rugby Football Union did not even exist in those days and there were not many chances for players like Joe to play overseas so he decided to create his own team and take them on tour.  He chose the players himself and was the captain of the team as well as the coach. The 1888-89 New Zealand Native football tour set out for Britain and Australia with five Warbrick brothers in the team.
The New Zealand Native team played over 100 games in just one year and even managed to fit in 11 games of Australian Rules.  Joe was injured quite early in the tour but he still played 21 of those games himself.
Even though the team won 78 of those tough games, their wins were quickly forgotten when they came home.  Most people soon forgot that this team was the first to ever wear the silver fern.  It is only now that people are beginning to understand what a great sporting leader Joe Warbrick really was.
When Joe’s rugby career was over, he returned to Rotorua where he became a guide for tourists visiting the Waimangu Geyser.  This spectacular geyser suddenly appeared out of the ground in 1900 and many people visited it. It must have been quite an amazing sight when it flung black sand, rocks, steam, water and mud into the air.  It was the tallest geyser in the world at the time and when it was active it could rise to be 100 metres taller than the Sky Tower.
In 1903, Joe and his brother Alfred were guiding a party of tourists through the valley when the visitors moved closer to get the best view. Alf tried to warn them that the geyser could erupt at any minute but they did not listen. Alf could only watch as the geyser burst forth and killed three of the tourists and his beloved brother Joe.
Joe was 41 years old when he died.  He had lived a short life but one that was full of daring adventure.

Qualities: diligence, innovation

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