Sporting icon on display
If any silverware has the right to call itself the "crown jewels" of New Zealand, then it's probably The Bledisloe Cup - the trophy which epitomises the great rugby rivalry between New Zealand and Australia.
The Bledisloe Cup is currently on display at the All Blacks Experience, who act as kaitiaki of the precious taonga when the trophy is in New Zealand and not on tour. It's available for the public to visit for free when the venue is open, which is currently 7 days a week until the end of the school holidays.
One of New Zealand's most iconic sporting trophies, the Cup is named after New Zealand’s governor-general Lord Bledisloe, who commissioned the trophy from Walker & Hall in 1931. Since then, the Bledisloe Cup has become an icon of trans-Tasman rivalry, contested annually between the two nations.
When the trophy was first put up for contest un June 1931, it was unfortunately still in transit from it's manufacture in Sheffield, United Kingdom.
When it arrived it was displayed in the window of department store Milne & Choyce, and was described by The Press in Christchurch
“The cup is one of the most handsome presented in New Zealand. It is of sterling silver, and is surmounted by a silver Rugby football. The chasing on the lid is an interweaving of New Zealand fern and Australian gum nuts and leaves in high relief. Engraved on the front of the cup are the arms of New Zealand, the arms of Australia being on the reverse side. The chasing around the base is an intermingling of Australian wattle flowers and New Zealand kowhai flowers in relief. The height of the cup, irrespective of the plinth is 28in. It is 25in in width, and weighs 290oz (8.22 kg). The substantial oak plinth is surrounded by 25 shields for the names of the winning country in each series of games.”
The trophy being in New Zealand, when the first two games of the three match series were being contested in Australia, could have been an issue. However although a ‘young and mostly inexperienced’ All Blacks team lost the opening match in Sydney 22-17, they fought back in Brisbane to square the series with a 21-3 win.
The decider was scheduled for Sydney Cricket Ground on July 23 and the 2pm edition of the Auckland Star on July 22 gleefully announced the silverware was there on time.
The All Blacks trounced Australia 21-13 in the decider, in a match described by Australian captain Syd Malcolm as “the best sporting game ever played” and the trophy was paraded around the field by the All Blacks manager William Wallace while the teams swapped jerseys, formed a circle in the middle of the pitch, linked arms and sang Auld Lang Syne!
It’s safe to say that the Cup has been the centre of many team celebrations in the 90 years it’s been contested since, but we might save those stories for another day….
Editors note: For those interested, the height of the Bledisloe Cup including the base is 32.8in (82cm), and weighs just over 20kg including the 12.6kg oak base, making it rugby's largest trophy (and probably heaviest!)