3 Oct 2023

A brief history of trophy desecration in Aotearoa

4:18 pm on 3 October 2023
Ranfurly Shield. ITM Cup rugby union and Ranfurly Shield game, Canterbury v Southland. Rugby Park, Christchurch, Monday 18 July 2011.


How do you work so hard for something, then break it? Quite easily, it seems.

The Ranfurly Shield is currently in two pieces and may not be able to make it past an airport sniffer dog right now, but the now-infamous actions of Hawke's Bay's rugby team are nothing new. The Shield itself could have a column of its own cataloguing the abuse it's suffered in its 119-year life-span, but many other trophies that were earned through blood, sweat and tears have met similar, sorry fates.

This isn't a just a local phenomenon - special mention firstly to French rugby's Bouclier de Brennus, which has been used as a skateboard, surfboard and slip 'n slide target. Then there's bowler Pete Weber, who memorably dropped the PBA US Open trophy after a chaotic presentation in 1991. Amazingly, it's not even the most famous viral moment the alcoholic and cocaine-abusing Weber is known for.

But back home, we have a long history of trophy destruction, so let's take a look at the highlights:

The America's Cup

While this wasn't damaged by any of the boat's actual crew, Pete Montgomery's call that "the America's Cup is now New Zealand's Cup" means that technically Moemoea Mohoawhenua's actions in 1997 were done by someone who 'won' it. Mohoawhenua, formally known as Benjamin Nathan,took a sledgehammer into the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron headquarters and bashed up sport's oldest trophy so badly it had to be flown to London for repairs. Mohoawhenua claimed the cup "represented everything he despised" and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for his actions.

Loving Cup

This is more abuse by neglect, as the Loving Cup (named because players love drinking out of it) which was awarded to the winner of the annual North v South match was left in an Eden Park storage room for 37 years and forgotten about. There is a happy ending to the story though, was found in 2020 and presented to the South when they won the first inter-island fixture in almost a decade.

Springbok head

Piet du Toit holds the broken springbok head, 1956

Piet du Toit holds the broken springbok head, 1956 Photo: supplied

Back when Springbok tours didn't involve the cops, Waikato's win over the visitors in 1956 stands as the moment iconic moment in the province's history. It meant they were gifted a mounted springbok head as the first midweek side to beat the tourists, but it was missing one of its antlers as it had been dropped in transit. The restored head still hangs at FMG Stadium Waikato in the supporter's club lounge.

Tū Kōtahi Aotearoa

Leicester Faingaanuku of the Crusaders with the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy 2020.


Probably the most shameful entry on the list, the Crusaders had the honour of lifting the Tū Kōtahi Aotearoa trophy for the first time ever after Super Rugby made its triumphant return out of lockdown in 2020. The trophy was the hard work of Ōtaki carver Bill Doyle and represents the healing power that rugby undeniably possessed in the wake of the disruption and turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the Crusaders only had it in their possession for one night before it was broken. Rumours swirled that it had been used as a doorstep and had to be retrieved by cleaners, but these have been denied by the team, who claimed that it was all "a misunderstanding".

Fox Memorial Shield

Not quite the massive damage that Ranfurly Shield got but still on the same level of stupidity when, in 2018, someone at Point Chevalier Pirates RLFC decided to film the pouring of beer and throwing of a bottle on Auckland's top club rugby league prize.

Jubilee Cup

Marist St Pats won Wellington's premier club rugby trophy in 2008 and then dropped it into Lake Taupō while on a celebratory post-season fishing trip. A police dive squad had to be called (at considerable cost) to go down and get the cup, which had fortunately landed on the edge of where the lake's topography plunges sharply to a depth of around 150 metres. It wasn't the first time MSP had lost the Jubilee Cup, following the final in 2001 it was stolen by a group of enterprising U85kg players from the nearby Pōneke FC club. No damage was caused, other than to MSP's pride when they were forced to retrieve it from Pōneke's home ground the following morning.

Ranfurly Shield

Hawke's Bay's day of infamy isn't so much about breaking the Log of Wood, but really about filming and letting the public see just how they reacted to it in real time. It will now presumably be restored at considerable cost over a lengthy time period over the off season, which will mean Hawke's Bay won't be able to use it for any commercial opportunities. But the real gag being that the repair work means the Shield will be back in the province that they beat to win it in the first place: Wellington.

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