Christchurch vs High School Old Boys (lost radio coverage of charity rugby game; 1926)
On 29th May 1926, Christchurch and High School Old Boys played a charity rugby game at Lancaster Park. The event would mark sports radio history, as it became the first rugby game to receive live radio coverage in New Zealand.
The encounter itself received limited documentation. Aside from receiving a preview in an issue of The Press, the charity game was generally deemed unnewsworthy by most New Zealand publications. There was no report post-game, and the result remains unknown. However, this rugby game became historic by being the first subject to live radio coverage in New Zealand. In 1921, radio broadcasting had commenced in New Zealand. Two years later, new ground was broken when coverage of an Australasian sculling championship was provided, becoming the first live sports broadcast within the country. In nearby Australia, the first rugby game received live radio coverage, which was the 1924 New South Wales Rugby Football League Premiership Final between Balmain and South Sydney. Two years later, Alan Allardyce began his radio career for Christchurch-based Radio 3AC. However, he had grown frustrated with studio work, instead being interested in outside broadcasting.
Heading into the game, Allardyce sought permission from New Zealand Rugby Football Union to provide live radio coverage, which was granted. He then brought his equipment down to Lancaster Park, where he sat at the top of what he considered a rather unsafe stand. Nevertheless, he commenced his commentary of the game, calling the action as it occurred. Allardyce received praise from listeners who wrote into newspapers and other publications about the broadcast, including for his commentary style that enabled them to visualise the game. The broadcast was deemed as the first live sports airing in New Zealand to receive exact game details. Following this, Allardyce continued with sports broadcasts, including trotting, boxing, horse racing, and two hockey games featuring the Indian army team. Rugby was still prioritised by him, with commentaries occurring well into the 1920s.
Ultimately, sound recording technology was in its infancy back in the 1920s, with acetate or lacquer discs being the only options. However, their general immobility made transferring them to outside sports events near-impossible. Thus, most broadcasts in the 1920s, including the Christchurch-High School Old Boys game, were transmitted live and were never recorded, meaning they are now permanently missing. An account from Allardyce during an interview provides an indication of how the broadcast transpired.
- 1924 NSWRFL Premiership Final (lost radio coverage of rugby league game; 1924)
- 1927 Challenge Cup Final (lost radio coverage of rugby league game; 1927)
- 1948 Challenge Cup Final (partially found footage of rugby league game; 1948)
- 1954 Rugby League World Cup Final (partially found footage of international rugby league game; 1954)
- England 11-9 Wales (lost radio coverage of Five Nations Championship game; 1927)
- England 16-21 Scotland (partially found footage of Home Nations Championship game; 1938)
- Great Britain 20-19 New Zealand (partially found footage of international rugby league game; 1951)
- North Sydney Bears 19-21 Balmain Tigers (lost footage of NSWRFL Premiership season game; 1961)
- Scotland 21-13 England (lost radio coverage of Five Nations Championship game; 1927)
- Te Ara detailing the history of early rugby broadcasts, and noting the game itself received little coverage outside of a preview from The Press. Retrieved 12th Oct '22
- Te Ara detailing Allardyce's early work and him commentating on the match. Retrieved 12th Oct '22
- Ngā Taonga noting most early-1920s airings were never recorded. Retrieved 12th Oct '22
- NRL summarising the 1924 New South Wales Rugby Football League Premiership Final being the first to receive live radio coverage. Retrieved 17th Sep '23
- Section of the Allardyce interview where he discusses commentating on the game. Retrieved 12th Oct '22
- Ngā Taonga providing the full Allardyce interview. Retrieved 12th Oct '22
- Sport and the New Zealanders detailing some of the other broadcasts Allardyce provided. Retrieved 12th Oct '22