Born: 26 April, 1881 – Invercargill
Died: 1 May, 1928 – New South Wales
Test record: 1 Test (1910) – 1 try (3 points)
One of just two Southland Kiwis, Ned Hughes scored a try in his sole 1910 Test appearance – which came in between two stints as a rugby union international that saw him create All Blacks history.
Invercargill-born Hughes was a long-serving hooker for the Southland provincial rugby union team and made his debut for New Zealand in 1907, playing three Tests on the tour of Australia that year and one against the British Isles the following season.
In 1908, the Britannia club captain was suspended along with his teammates and their Pirates opposition by the Southland Rugby Union after the teams refused to play a match due to weather and ground conditions. Playing a benefit match under Northern Union rules while suspended, the players were deemed ‘professional’ by the NZRFU and expelled from rugby union.
The furore birthed rugby league in Southland and Britannia, including Hughes, switched codes. Hughes played in the historic match between Southland and Otago in 1908, but he did not play any football the following season as he unsuccessfully sought reinstatement to rugby union.
Returning to the field under rugby league’s banner in 1910, the 29-year-old was chosen at prop for New Zealand’s one-off Test against England in Auckland and scored one of the hosts’ four tries in a 52-20 defeat.
Hughes, a noted wrestler, was picked for the 1911 tour of Australia but opted to focus on boxing.
After serving in World War I, Hughes was reinstated to rugby union. He was based in Wellington and joined the Poneke club in 1919, represented his adopted province in 1920 and won and All Blacks recall for two Tests of the historic home series against South Africa in 1921.
Hughes’ gap of 13 years between representing the All Blacks remains a record, while he is still the oldest player to play for New Zealand at 40 years and 123 days. He died in a building accident in Australia just seven years later.