You are here
Home > Club Rugby > Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 038: Sydney and Jack Shearer

Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 038: Sydney and Jack Shearer

Sydney (left) and Jack Shearer, both Poneke/Selwyn/Oriental and Wellington forwards operating a century ago. 

The Shearer brothers, older brother Sydney and Jack, were both hard-nosed forwards who flourished in Wellington club rugby in the years following the cessation of World War One, both making Wellington representative teams and the All Blacks and continuing their careers for over a decade after playing international rugby.

According to the first instalment of Wellington’s Rugby History by Swan and Jackson, at the time of his retirement from first-class rugby in 1931- hooker/loose forward Jack Shearer was Wellington’s second most capped player with 65 appearances for the province (after Arthur Wilson, 75), while hooker Sydney played 49 times for Wellington up to 1925. These numbers include a small number of matches each for ‘Wellington XVs’ teams.

Sydney and Jack Shearer were both members of the Selwyn Football club (1888-1932) based in Thorndon for many years, following their early education at The Terrace School. Selwyn provided 19 Wellington representatives whilst operating, but the Shearer brothers were the club’s only two All Blacks and Jack was the only player to make the All Blacks whilst an active player of that club.

Their older brother, Alexander (known as Alick), was also Vice-President and Club Captain of “the Selwyns”. All three boys were excellent swimmers and achieved success in the pool at the Thorndon club.

In 1913 and 1914 Sydney was playing for the Oriental Club, from which he made the Wellington representative team in both those years. Sydney was in the team that beat Taranaki late in 1914 to lift the Ranfurly Shield and lock it away for almost five years owing to the outbreak of World War One.

Syd Shearer (top right) and the Wellington Ranfurly Shield team in 1914.

Before the war, Jack Shearer had enrolled at the Wellington Technical College in 1914, qualifying as a plumber. Sydney had also qualified as a plumber and both men were employed by “Futter and Jenson, City Plumbing Works”.

Both Jack and Sydney were conscripted in 1917 and served overseas in Europe, Jack as a Cook and Sydney as a Sapper, with both boys discharged from active service in August 1919 and both were back playing for Selwyn that season.

With the Shearers leading from the front, this was when Selwyn achieved its greatest success in Wellington’s Senior Grade. In 1919, the club made the ‘semi-finals’ of the Senior Championship, losing to Poneke 12-3 (the eventual Champions).

The Shearer brothers were both prominent members of the Wellington team in 1919 and 1920 that famously went on a Ranfurly Shield tear, eventually losing it later in 1920 on the road to Southland (and winning it back the following year).

The brothers were both try-scorers in Wellington’s 23-9 Ranfurly Shield defence against Canterbury on the road in Christchurch and they scored three tries between them in the 30-3 win over Whanganui that locked the shield away for that summer.

Both brothers returned to Selwyn in 1920 and Jack was selected as a second-choice replacement for the All Blacks on their tour of Australia that year.

In July 1920, the press reported that “the eleventh-hour, inclusion of J. Shearer, the Selwyn forward, in the New Zealand team for Australia has caused a lot of pleasure to his many friends”. Jack played five matches as a Loose Forward for the All Blacks that year. Four matches in Australia and one against Wellington.

In 1921, the Shearer brothers transferred to the Poneke club together, with Syd joining his younger brother as an international player when he selected for the All Blacks that year to play one match against New South Wales in Christchurch. This was as part of a second string All Blacks side as the top side was playing South Africa at the time.

Syd was called into the All Blacks again in 1922, this time to the top side to tour Australia where he played five matches and then another two returning home against the Manawatu-Wellington selection at Palmerston North and the New Zealand Māori XV at Wellington. He was 31 at the time.

Syd continued playing for Wellington alongside his brother until his retirement in 1925.

Six years younger, Jack continued to play for Wellington throughout the 1920s until his retirement in 1931. He played in several other famous games, including one infamous one, Wellington’s 8-58 defeat to Hawke’s Bay in 1926. Although he wasn’t involved in Wellington teams in 1930 that beat Great Britain 12-8 and beat Southland 12-3 to lift the Ranfurly Shield again.

Both Shearers continued playing for Poneke until the early 1930s, Jack captaining the side for several seasons as well.

In 1932 Jack bowed out of rugby after captaining Poneke to the Senior Championship and the club’s first Jubilee Cup title.

Captain Jack Shearer and the Poneke Jubilee Cup winning side in 1932.

Jack Shearer passed away in Christchurch in 1963 aged 67, while Sydney died in Wellington in 1973 aged 82.


  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
  • All Blacks A-Z profiles – Jack and Sydney Shearer
  • Moloney, J.K. Ranfurly Shield History. Martin Printing Co. Auckland, 1960.
  • Chester, R.H. and McMillan, N.A.C. Centenary. 100 Years of All Black Rugby. Moa Publications. Auckland 1984.
  • Noble-Campbell, Gordon, Cooper, Stephen, Richardson, Nigel. Ghost Rugby Clubs of Wellington. Glenbeigh Books, Wellington 2019.
  • Poneke Football Club. A willing Band of Youths. The History of the Poneke Football Club. Wellington, 1984.
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed

Similar Articles

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: