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When Kiwis Fly – Crystal Palace

England-based New Zealander Duncan Perkinson has penned a book on the success and failure of Kiwi sportspeople on the famous grounds of the UK. The New Zealand Times is featuring extracts from When Kiwis Fly: A Sports Tour of Great Britain in the lead-up to the All Blacks European test matches.


Crystal Palace

This was formerly the greatest sporting venue in the capital. It was superseded by Wembley Stadium but prior to this, the great and the good watched the best play at the Palace. The name Crystal Palace comes from the cast iron and glass building that had been built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was situated in Hyde Park. It was then moved to an affluent south London suburb called Sydenham Hill in 1854. Over time, the area became known as Crystal Palace.

In 1911, the Crystal Palace hosted The Festival of the Empire. This festival was to celebrate the coronation of King George V and commemorated all things great about the Empire. Four New Zealand athletes competed as part of the festivities – Malcolm Champion, Guy Haskins, Ron Opie and William Woodger.
At the 1911 Festival of Empire, Riki Papakura was performing as a Maori  Warrior. While in the UK, he was recommended to Warrington rugby league club by Frank Shugars and former New Zealand representative Massa Johnston. Papakura played centre for Warrington’s first grade team on 14 October 1911 in a 13–8 win over Broughton Rangers. Papakura was the first Maori to play rugby league in Great Britain – a trailblazer and many have since followed in those footsteps. But after his one and only first grade appearance, Papakura played for the Reserve team so chose to return to the Festival of Empire in London. The local team, Crystal Palace play at nearby Selhurst Park but the team was formed by workers at the palace buildings.

Sadly, the Crystal Palace building was destroyed by a fire on 30 November 1936. But the name has continued. The area is still known as Crystal Palace and Crystal Palace Park is where the building used to be.

Between 1895 and 1914 Crystal Palace Stadium hosted the FA Cup final. Aston Villa was most successful during this period as they won the Cup four times. The military required the stadium from the start of World War One and the final never returned to the stadium.

The All Blacks played their first test match against England at Crystal Palace Stadium on the 1905 tour. 70,000 people attended the first ever test between the All Blacks and England. It was a historic day as the Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family were in attendance. It was a record breaking day as New Zealand won 15-0 with Duncan McGregor scoring four tries – a record not equalled until Zinzan Brooke dotted down four times against Japan in 1987. Today the stadium is the premier venue in London for athletics. The annual Grand Prix event takes place during the summer.


When Kiwis Fly: A Sports Tour of Great Britain is the first book to shine a spotlight on 140 leading UK sports venues and to profile the New Zealanders who have succeeded there.

When Kiwis Fly tells the stories of sporting dreams, hopes, disappointment and redemption. It is the story of New Zealand growing up as a nation in the sporting venues of Britain.

When Kiwis Fly covers traditional sporting venues such as Lord’s, Old Trafford and Wimbledon and some venues which many readers will not recognise – Pedestrianism at the Royal Agricultural Hall in the 1880s, Stone Skimming in Scotland and the west London concert venue where the Kray brothers boxed.

You can learn more about the Kiwis who are succeeding every week on the sports fields of Britain and purchase a signed copy of the book at www.whenkiwisfly.co.uk

The Author: Duncan Perkinson is a New Zealand sports writer who moved to the UK in 2002. After originally living in London he now lives “up north” in Wirral, near Liverpool, part of the UK’s glorious ‘Golf Coast’. He is married to Jeanette, is a proud father of two — and his three favourite sporting venues are Anfield, Wimbledon and St Andrews.