Balls, Bullets & Boots is a unique commemorative exhibition that tackles the story of wartime rugby. This autumn it will be on display at Te Manawa, its last public appearance before retirement. Developed through exhaustive military and sports research, the exhibition presents a compelling perspective on how the intertwined stories of rugby and war shaped our nation then and now.
Fifty All Blacks went away to the war; 13 never came home. No fewer than 728 provincial representatives served, of whom 163 died. By late 1915, before conscription was introduced, it was estimated that 10,000 active club players from throughout New Zealand had volunteered for service. Balls Bullets & Boots explores the impact that the harsh reality of war had on colonial sportsmen (and their loved ones) as they were transplanted from the rugby fields of home to the battlefields of Europe and the Mediterranean.
The exhibition is an engaging, interactive multimedia experience that looks at the legacy of the First World War, as viewed through the eyes of fifteen New Zealand rugby players and one woman coach – those from every background, those who served and those who stayed behind, those who came back and those who did not return.
Balls Bullets & Boots first opened at Te Manawa in 2015, before embarking on a successful nationwide tour. Now, as the exhibition approaches the final whistle, read about that opening and the way it connected past with present.
Developed and toured by the New Zealand Rugby Museum, also based at Te Manawa, Balls Bullets & Boots is open daily from 30 March until 22 July. Entry to Te Manawa and this exhibition is free. Admission charges apply to visit the New Zealand Rugby Museum.