Tom French Cup

This article is about the award for Māori player of the year. For the London Wasps player, see Tom French (rugby union).
Waikato player Liam Messam won the Tom French Cup in 2012.

In rugby union, the Tom French Cup is an honour awarded by New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to the Tom French Memorial Māori player of the year. The cup has been awarded annually since 1949, when it was donated to the New Zealand Māori coach Tom French while the team was on tour in Australia.[1] French had represented Buller provincially, and was selected for New Zealand Maori in 1911. After the First World War, where he lost an arm at Passchendaele, French continued his involvement in rugby by serving as both a selector and administrator. In 1957 he was made a life member of the NZRU.[1]

The inaugural recipient in 1949 was Johnny Smith, who played for New Zealand's national team the All Blacks, and captained them in two Tests that year.[2] Keith Davis was the Tom French Cup winner in 1952–54, and played extensively for both the All Blacks and New Zealand Māori; his time with the Māori included matches against both South Africa in 1956, and the British Lions in 1959.[3] The record for cup wins is held by Sid Going, who played half-back for both New Zealand Māori and the All Blacks, and was awarded the cup six times; won consecutively between 1967–72.[4] Tane Norton won the cup in 1973 and 74, and went on to finish his playing career as All Black captain—his 27 international Test caps were earned consecutively.[5] 1987 Rugby World Cup winner Wayne Shelford was awarded the cup in 1985, and 1987–89; Shelford captained North Harbour, New Zealand Māori, and the All Blacks. During his 14 Tests as captain of the All Blacks the team never lost.[6] When Shelford was eventually dropped from the All Blacks, he was replaced at number eight by fellow Tom French Cup recipient Zinzan Brooke. Brooke was awarded the cup in both 1992 and 1994, and also captained the Blues to the 1996 and 1997 Super 12 titles.[7]

Carl Hayman was awarded the Tom French Cup in both 2004 and 2006, and was instrumental in helping New Zealand Māori defeat the British and Irish Lions for the first time in 2005. Hayman played 45 Test matches for the All Blacks.[8] Fellow All Black Piri Weepu won the cup in both 2008 and 2011. In 2011 he was a member of the World Cup winning All Blacks side, and was named man of the match in New Zealand's quarter-final victory over Argentina.[9][10]


Year Name Province
1949 Johnny Smith North Auckland
1950 Manahi Paewai North Auckland
1951 Percy Erceg Auckland
1952 Keith Davis Auckland
1953 Keith Davis Auckland
1954 Keith Davis Auckland
1955 Pat Walsh South Auckland Counties
1956 Bill Gray Bay of Plenty
1957 Muru Walters North Auckland
1958 Pat Walsh Counties
1959 Bill Wordley King Country
1960 Mack Herewini Auckland
1961 Vic Yates North Auckland
1962 Waka Nathan Auckland
1963 Mack Herewini Auckland
1964 Ron Rangi Auckland
1965 Ron Rangi Auckland
1966 Waka Nathan Auckland
1967 Sid Going North Auckland
1968 Sid Going North Auckland
1969 Sid Going North Auckland
1970 Sid Going North Auckland
1971 Sid Going North Auckland
1972 Sid Going North Auckland
1973 Tane Norton Canterbury
1974 Tane Norton Canterbury
1975 Bill Bush Canterbury
1976 Kent Lambert Manawatu
1977 Bill Osborne Wanganui
1978 Eddie Dunn North Auckland
1979 Vance Stewart Canterbury
1980 Hika Reid Bay of Plenty
1981 Frank Shelford Bay of Plenty
1982 Steven Pokere Southland
1983 Hika Reid Bay of Plenty
1984 Mike Clamp Wellington
1985 Wayne Shelford North Harbour
1986 Frano Botica North Harbour
1987 Wayne Shelford North Harbour
1988 Wayne Shelford North Harbour
1989 Wayne Shelford North Harbour
1990 Steve McDowall Auckland
1991 John Timu Otago
1992 Zinzan Brooke Auckland
1993 Arran Pene Otago
1994 Zinzan Brooke Auckland
1995 Robin Brooke Auckland
1996 Errol Brain Counties Manukau
1997 Mark Mayerhofler Canterbury
1998 Tony Brown Otago
1999 Norm Maxwell Canterbury
2000 Daryl Gibson Canterbury
2001 Caleb Ralph Canterbury
2002 Carlos Spencer Auckland
2003 Carlos Spencer Auckland
2004 Carl Hayman Otago
2005 Rico Gear Nelson Bays
2006 Carl Hayman Otago
2007 Daniel Braid Auckland
2008 Piri Weepu Wellington
2009 Zac Guildford Hawke's Bay[11]
2010 Hosea Gear Wellington[12]
2011 Piri Weepu Wellington[10]
2012 Liam Messam Waikato[13]
2013 Liam Messam Waikato[14]
2014 Aaron Smith Manawatu[15]
2015 Nehe Milner-Skudder Manawatu[16]


  1. 1 2 Mulholland 2009, p. 28.
  2. Frew 2012.
  3. Keith Davis.
  4. Mulholland 2009, p. 278.
  5. Mulholland 2009, p. 176.
  6. Mulholland 2009, p. 279.
  7. Mulholland 2009, p. 280–282.
  8. Carl Hayman.
  9. Hinton 2011.
  10. 1 2 2011 Awards.
  11. 2009 Awards.
  12. 2010 Awards.
  13. 2012 Awards.
  14. 2013 Awards.
  15. McKendry, Patrick (11 December 2014). "Retallick, Hansen and All Blacks the big winners in NZ rugby awards". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  16. Paul, Gregor (11 December 2015). "Nonu storms to top of NZ rugby awards". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 January 2016.


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