Did you know? Tonga’s first All Black

The first Tongan player to play for the All Blacks team was Walter Batty, who joined the New Zealand side 87 years ago in 1928.

Batty’s father was English, but his mother was a Tongan, Luʻisa Tupou,

Walter Batty was born in Tonga in 1905 and became an All Black in 1928.

Batty played six matches as a loose forward for the All Blacks, including three tests against the British and Irish Lions during their New Zealand tour of 1930, during which he scored a test try at Wellington.

He also played in a test match against Australia the following year.

An insurance agent by profession, Batty joined up and served as a sergeant in the royal New Zealand Artillery during the Second World War.

He won the Distinguished Conduct Medal after singlehandedly holding off an attack by Italian tanks in Libya until his unit could be reinforced.

He later became A Warrant Officer First Class.

And yet there have been questions about whether Batty should count as the first Islander to play for the all Blacks.

In a 2004 story, New Zealand Herald sports writer Chris Rattue said the first Polynesian player in the New Zealand side was Ponsonby loose forward Frank Solomon, who was born in American Samoa.

As an All Black he played three test matches against Australia in 1931, the same year as Batty.

A week later, Rattue ran a lengthy quote from Batty’s nephew, Richard Keyworth, who said:

“Walter Batty was definitely Polynesian. His father was English, but his mother Luisa Tupou was related to the royal family.

“Walter Batty was, certainly, the first Tongan All Black.

“Two other brothers played representative rugby, one played representative cricket and one sister played representative cricket.

“They most certainly paved the way for Polynesian sport in this country.”

So, what do you think?

Was Batty was the first Tongan to play  for the All Blacks or was it someone else?

And should he count as the first Polynesian to play for the New Zealand team?

Do you know Batty’s mother Luisa Tupou or more details about Batty’s Tongan connection? If so, please contact us at news@kanivatonga.co.nz.

Here is our list of Tongans who have played for the All Blacks. We have edited the list of Tongans who played for the All Blacks to include Arthur Jennings, Doug Charles Howlett and Carl Henry Hoeft. Players have been included if their player profiles mentioned Tongan nationality or descent. 

  1. Walter Batty – 1928
  2. Authur Jennings – 1967 (Fijian born, but of Tongan and English descent)
  3. Jonah Lomu – 1994
  4. Charles Riechelmann – 1997
  5. Carl Henry Hoeft – 1997
  6. ‘Isitolo Maka – 1998
  7. Pita ‘Alatini – 1998
  8. Kupu Vanisi – 1999
  9. Doug Charles Howlett – 2000
  10. Sam Tu’itupou – 2004
  11. Saimone Taumoepeau – 2004
  12. Sione Lauaki – 2005
  13. Anthony Tu’itavake – 2008
  14. Ben Afeaki – 2013
  15. Charles Piutau – 2013
  16. Frank Halai – 2013
  17. Malakai Fekitoa – 2014
  18. Augustine Pulu – 2015

Editor’s Note:

This is the first in what we hope will be a new series of feature stories highlighting aspects of Tongan history, the achievements of her people at home or in New Zealand or around the world. If you have a story idea, or know somebody or something you think we should write about, please contact us at Kaniva News at news@kanivatonga.co.nz.

For more information

The first Islands men to play for the All Blacks

Walter Batty’s military career (Auckland War Museum)

Bryan Williams lit the spark that ignited Polynesian fire (NZ Herald)

Whitaker has bided time long enough (NZ Herald)

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