Most of us are armchair experts when it comes to rugby, but Opiki farmer Clive Akers really has got the low-down on the finer detail of the sport.

When Mr Akers is not rounding up sheep or beef on his Horowhenua farm, he is pulling together statistics on our nation's favourite game.

He is the chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Museum, co-editor of the Rugby Almanac, and is in Rotorua this weekend to talk about his experience researching Balls, Bullets and Boots: from Rugby Field to Battlefield. The exhibition currently on at the Rotorua Museum tells the story of ordinary rugby players and one female coach and how their lives were impacted by WWI.

"The rugby museum wanted to commemorate the war and we decided to mount an exhibition to show how the war affected ordinary players of the game," he said. "When we chose our 16 subjects we wanted to be as diverse as possible to illustrate that it wasn't just about the men, and that's why we also chose a female coach."


Stella Hickey was a primary school teacher and because there were no men left to teach her pupils, it was down to her to do the jobs that men had done previously. She ended up coaching Graeme Mourie's grandfather.

Mr Akers spent many long hours researching at Auckland's War Memorial Museum originally for an e-book about WWI. He came across many harrowing stories of rugby players who were injured, shell-shocked and traumatised by the war.

"I was fascinated by normal blokes and their army records. The more I researched, the more I thought, I can't brush it aside. I'm not a historian. I just love rugby and I love early New Zealand history and the project grew into an exhibition because I loved it."

- Contact Rotorua Museum (07) 350 1814 or email

* What: Rugby Historian: Clive Akers

* Where: Rotorua Museum

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13 May, 2016 12:01pm
3 minutes to read

* When: Sunday 2pm