The first Island men to play for the All Blacks
The All Blacks are probably the most well known of all international Rugby teams and their brand is often reflected in the enthusiasm of supporters who spontaneously perform the Haka in far reached corners of the world.
Indeed, anyone growing up in New Zealand would be thrilled to know an All Black or have one in the family. Such is the mana of the honour and implied service that there have been countless young men throughout the generations playing Rugby with the ambition of one day hearing their own name called out in the traditional manner of announcing the All Black team selections on the radio.
In the days before Fiji, Samoa and Tonga played the big names in international Rugby, we can only imagine how hard it must have been for any Pacific Islander to gain entry into the ranks of the All Blacks. Yet, this is exactly what happened to Walter Batty from Tonga, Samoans Frank and David Solomon, and later, Arthur Jennings from Fiji.
Walter Batty was born in Tonga and become an All Black in 1928.He played 6 matches as a loose forward for the All Blacks including 3 tests against the British and Irish Lions during their NZ tour of 1930 (in which he scored a test try at Wellington) and a test match against Australia the following year.
Walter served in the NZ Artillery during the war and as a sergeant won the DCM (2nd only to the Victoria Cross) for bravery during action against enemy tanks. He later became a Warrant officer first class.
(1905 – 1979)
Frank Solomon was born in American Samoa. He was probably the most well known Pacific pioneer of his time. Selected as an All Black in 1931, he played 9 matches for the All Blacks including 3 tests against Australia, scoring a test try at Brisbane. Frank was a big man with a high stepped, fast pace who was the last All Black ever to play the position of wing forward. He had also played a number of games for the New Zealand Maori team during their internal tour of NZ in 1927 and had the distinction of leading the All Black Haka in Australia in 1932.
He was a fine athlete who also won many important honours in rowing. Wartime saw Frank serving with the 2NZEF where he quickly became a Company Sergeant Major – and later a commissioned Lieutenant.
(1906 – 1991)
Walter and Frank actually played together as loose forward and wing forward in the very first Bledisloe Cup match between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, Auckland 12th September 1931. Walter was vice Captain. It was Frank’s first test and Walter’s last.
David Solomon was born in Fiji. He became an All Black in 1935 and played 8 matches for NZ, but no tests David played as a 5/8th and replacement fullback for the All Blacks during the 1935 tour to Britain – scoring a try against Glasgow and Edinburgh at Glasgow.
He later played league in order to support his family, but the War put paid to any further activities in that arena, and he turned to coaching Rugby after the war.
(1913 – 1997)
The Solomon brothers were in fact step brothers. Frank was born in Pago Pago in American Samoa and David in the old Fijian capital of Levuka, where their father was Mayor. Both Frank and David became respected Samoan Matai (chiefs) in Auckland.
Arthur Jennings was born in Lautoka, Fiji.
He was selected as an All Black in 1967 playing at lock. He played six matches on the tour to Britain and France. He did not play in any tests. Arthur Jennings later became involved in Rugby in the Pacific and beyond, and is recognised as being the first Fijian to don the All Black jersey.
(1940 - currently living in USA )
article: Darren Hunter