Born: 16 June, 1895 – Whakapirau Pahi, Northland
Died: 13 April, 1966 – Auckland
Test record: 13 Tests (1919-20, 1924, 1926-27) – 5 tries (15 points)
Tours: 1921 tour of Australia, 1925 tour of Australia, 1926-27 tour of Great Britain
Champion forward Bert Avery’s selection as one of the inaugural NZRL Legends of League in 1995 illustrates his status as one of the codes’ finest exponents in the decade after World War I. A prolific tryscorer in the black-and-white jersey, Avery racked up more than 50 appearances for New Zealand from 1919-27 and crossed for 33 tries. He also left a sizeable legacy as the stoic, indefatigable captain of the ill-fated 1926-27 tour of Britain.
Northland-born Avery moved to Auckland and switched codes with the City Rovers club (1915-16) before serving in the New Zealand Army until 1918. Returning from service, Avery joined Maritime (later to become Athletic and then Grafton Athletic) in 1919 and played all four Tests that year against the touring Australian team, scoring tries in the second and third matches from hooker.
Predominantly a second-rower or lock for New Zealand thereafter, Avery featured in all three Tests against England on home soil in 1920 – 3-0 series loss. He was also part of the Auckland team that carved out a historic win over the dominant tourists.
Avery toured Australia with the New Zealand side in 1921 (no Tests were played) and scored two tries in Auckland’s loss to the visiting NSW team in 1922. The 29-year-old was integral to New Zealand’s momentous home series win over England in 1924, featuring in the first- and second-Test wins before missing the third, in which the tourists grabbed a consolation victory.
Avery was chosen to lead New Zealand on its tour of Australia in 1925 (again no Tests were scheduled) and skippered his country in both matches against Queensland at Carlaw Park later that year, scoring two tries in a 25-24 win in the first clash. He also notched a double as captain in Auckland’s 18-all draw with Queensland
The 1926-27 tour of Great Britain was marred by clashes between a group of players and team management, followed by player strikes. But captain Avery was a tower of strength for the embattled party, playing in 29 of the 34 fixtures and scoring an incredible 23 tries. He dotted down in all three Tests against England, while he bagged a hat-trick early in the tour against Barrow and crossed five times against Broughton Rangers during the latter stages of the arduous trip.
Avery retired in 1927 but was a long-serving selector for Auckland, coached Kingsland Athletic (an amalgamation of his former Grafton Athletic club and Kingsland) in 1929 and was a New Zealand selector for the 1936 series against Great Britain.