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Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 043: Craig Mackenzie

R.H.C. Mackenzie, better known in his career as ‘Crow’, was a wing forward for the Wellington College First XV who switched positions to the backs part-way through his senior rugby career and was capped twice for the All Blacks in 1928.

Mackenzie played his club rugby for University and was his side’s captain when they won the Senior Club Championship in 1928 and carried off the brand-new trophy called the Jubilee Cup the following season.

Following three years in his school’s First XV, in which he captained Wellington College in 1922, he started at Victoria University and joined the rugby club by the same name. He was still a wing forward and struck early senior rugby success in that position. He was shaping as an understudy to Cliff Porter, who was another former player of his school five years older who did the opposite positional switch by starting in the inside backs and moving to wing forward.

Mackenize progressed straight into the University senior team in 1923 and returned in 1924 in a team of battlers building for the future. University’s fortunes improved in 1925 when they finished third and drew 15-15 with eventual champions Poneke. University also beat the touring Sydney University side 16-8 and MacKenzie and several teammates played for the NZU side against them.

Mackenize and seven of his teammates were selected in the Wellington Squad in 1925 and he played the first of 17 first-class matches that he would play for the province.

University were second in 1926 and third in 1927, ahead of their breakthrough win in 1928, that saw them beat Poneke 16-12 in the final in front of 12,000 spectators at Athletic Park and finish the  season with 13 wins, two losses and a draw and having scored 332 points and conceded 148.

The University team of 1928.

With the main body of All Blacks touring South Africa, Mackenzie was called into the second-string All Blacks in September 1928 to play two matches. The first was a warm-up game against West Coast-Buller and the second was the third non-test international against the touring New South Wales at Christchurch. Mackenzie played first-five in both matches, a 40-3 win over their provincial opposition and an 8-11 loss to NSW.

That same season he made seven of a possible 11 matches for Wellington, the most prolific season of his career in first-class rugby. Wellington had a good campaign but lost 3-9 to Wairarapa in a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

The main stand at Athletic Park was opened and the Jubilee Cup was presented in the WRFU’s 50th year in 1929. Mackenzie captained University to back-to-back titles, winning 13, losing two and drawing one game and scoring 217 points and conceding 120.

Mackenize also led the NZU side to a clean sweep of three wins over their Australian counterparts.

Mackenzie played his last match for Wellington in 1929, but he did receive two All Black trials in May 1930, ahead of the visit by the touring Great Britain team.

Mackenzie was also President of the VUW Students’ Association in 1928 and 1929, while his father was Hugh Mackenzie the foundation professor of English. His father was often referred to as “Pro”, so the son Craig acquired his nickname “Crow” as a mixture of his name and the father’s nickname.

Mackenzie was also handy cricketer and represented Wellington in the howzat sport in 1929.

He retired in 1931, after he stood on a tussock on a rugby field and badly twisted his ankle.

He played 30 first-class matches in his career, including the two for the All Blacks in 1928.

He worked as a teacher at Hutt Valley High School.

In 1975 he published a political biography of former New Zealand Prime Minister Walter Nash called Walter Nash: Pioneer and Prophet.

Mackenzie died in 1993, aged 89.


  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
  • Anderson, John. Victoria University of Wellington Rugby Football Club. The Story of the Green and Golds 1902-1987. VUW RFC 1987.
  • Dominion newspaper – various newspaper reports 1925-1930.
  • Chester R.H. & McMillan N.A.C. The Visitors. The History of Rugby Teams in New Zealand. Moa Publications, Auckland 1990.
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed

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