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Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 040: Hercules ‘Bumper’ and Alan Wright

A father-son duo who both featured in Wellington club rugby and played for Wellington and New Zealand, one in rugby league and the other for the All Blacks.

Hercules, or ‘Bumper’ Wright as he was known around the traps was a Wellington representative out of Petone between 1903-07, playing 27 games for his province including in some famous early matches involving the Ranfurly Shield, before switching to rugby league and playing in and captaining the 1907/08 All Golds team.

Still a teenager, Bumper Wright served in the Boer War in 1901/02 with the sixth contingent and played for the NZ Army Corps team whilst in South Africa, before returning to play for Petone who were building nicely to become a force in Wellington club rugby.

Petone would win a four-peat of Senior Championship titles in Wellington club rugby between 1904-07.

The Petone team in 1907. Bumper Wright is in the back row, second from left.

Bumper Wright, who was a ‘forward’, made his Wellington debut in 1903 and played five matches, returning in 1904 to feature in 10 of 11 games on the representative programme. This included the first ever Ranfurly Shield on 6 August that year, which Wellington won 6-3 against Auckland and in defences against Canterbury and Otago.

He played a further three matches for Wellington in 1905 and one match for a Wellington-Wairarapa-Horowhenua selection in a 23-7 win over the touring Australians. He appeared in a further eight first-class fixtures for Wellington in 1906, scoring his only first-class try in a 34-0 slaying of Canterbury.

These were heady times for Wright and his rugby mates.

But rugby was strictly amateur, so when Albert Baskiville came calling for players to join his tour to get paid to play against the breakaway British unions now playing the professional northern game code he signed up.

As we wrote last year in our profile with Wright’s teammate Arthur Kelly:

In 1907 the Petone club enjoyed their best season to date. Not only did the top team retain the Senior Championship, but all five of the club’s sides finished clear winners of their respective competitions. In all, these teams played 57 games and won 51, lost three and drew three of them, scoring a combined 921 points and conceding only 123.

Petone’s top side beat Poneke in the final game of the 1907 season – but without six leading players who had just joined up with the ‘Pro Blacks’ team that toured England and Australia.

These six Petone players were Kelly, Edward Tyne, Dan Fraser, Hercules Wright, Tom Cross and Duncan McGregor. Of these, Hercules “Bumper” Wright was the incumbent Petone and Wellington representative captain; “Angry” Tom Cross and Duncan McGregor were All Blacks.

Four other Wellington players joined the venture, Eric Watkins (Wellington College Old Boys), Arthur Calman, Daniel Gilchrist (both Melrose) and Adam Lile (Oriental).

Plus 24-year-old Oriental club wing Albert Baskiville, who was the tour’s organiser and mastermind.

The team played 49 matches between August 1907 and June 1908, including seven test matches in Wales, England and Australia.

Wright captained this side on tour and played rugby league for Wellington and represented Wellington in this code in 1908 and 1909.

Wright was later on the Petone Borough Council, whilst his brother Robert Wright was Minister of Education and Mayor of Wellington from 1921-25.

Bumper Wright had two noted rugby playing sons.

Older brother Max played 10 first-class matches for Wellington out of the WCOB club between 1934-37 and a handful of Wellington B/Colts matches and was a Poverty Bay representative in 1935.

Younger brother Alan Wright was the most accomplished, playing four matches (no tests) for the All Blacks in 1938, also out of the WCOB club.

Wing Alan would have been 13 and not yet at Wellington College when the White Tigers famously won the Wellington Senior Championship in 1927 but he was in the team that won the Jubilee Cup in 1933, aged 19 and operating as a strapping 90kg winger and no doubt a mini-me ‘Bumper’ after his father.

In 1933 WCOB won 12, drew one and lost just two of 15 games, scoring 225 points and conceding 121.

Of note, by this time father Bumper was a coach at the WCOB club and in 1933 he coached the club’s Third Division team to a joint title win in their grade. He was later WCOB Club President 1953-55.

The WCOB team in 1933, featuring Max and Alan Wright (back row).

Alan Wright’s breakout season was his second in senior rugby in 1934, appearing in two matches for Wellington, a handful more for Wellington XV/B teams and gaining a spot in the North Island team that played the South Island in its annual fixture.

He gained a New Zealand trial in 1935 then received a call-up to the All Blacks in 1938 for their tour of Austraia. He played four matches, scoring 11 tries, including a four-try haul in the 57-5 against ACT.

Wright played 35 matches for Wellington A up and including 1940 when war broke out and that effectively spelled the end of his top flight career, although he played briefly for Manawatu during his army service and also for the Centurions club.

Post retirement, Alan Wright was a prominent Wellington rugby administrator and coach.

He was a committee member and coach at the Upper Hutt club 1947-50, served on the WRFU Management Committee 1950-59, then was on the WCOB Management Committee 1966-68 and was the Senior team’s coach 1960-67 and was made a Life Member. In 1973 he served as WRFU President.

Father Bumper passed away in Wellington in 1963, aged 82. Sons Max died in Waihi in 1980, aged 71, and Alan died in Wellington 1990, aged 75.


  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
  • All Blacks A-Z Alan Wright profile, by Lindsay Knight.
  • Dominion/Evening Post early 1930s newspaper reports
  • The Hounding of the Baskivilles – Article published on Club Rugby on 24 November 2015 –
  • Griffin, Don and Gallagher, Peter. True Blue. The First 100 years of Petone RFC. Apex Print. Petone, 1985.
  • Moloney, J.K. Ranfurly Shield History. Martin Printing Co. Auckland, 1960.
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed.
  • Wellington College Old Boys Football Club. Golden Jubilee 1898-1948 Souvenir Booklet

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One thought on “Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 040: Hercules ‘Bumper’ and Alan Wright

  1. Great story about the Wright family. Alan’s sons Alistair and David played for WCOB as well, and Calvin Wright was a relative and also played for WCOB

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