Emerging star Ellison continues rich family tradition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2005, 12:00am

Watch out for Tamati Ellison all you New Zealand fans and sports trivia buffs. For it was his grand-uncle Tom Ellison who captained the first New Zealand rugby team to wear the all-black strip with a silver fern on the jersey.

That was in 1893 - the year the New Zealand Rugby Union was formed.

Before that year, the colours of the national team were blue with a gold fern on it. Can you imagine the All Blues? Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?

Tom Ellison, a Maori, played almost 80 times for the New Zealand Natives before the current governing body was formed. Greg Ryan, in his book Forerunners of the All Blacks, reveals that at the meeting in 1892 which led to the establishment of the NZRU, Tom moved that the national colours be changed to black with a silver fern.

In 1893, after the formation of the NZRU, Tom captained the first New Zealand rugby team to play in the new colours. And this weekend, you can watch his grand-nephew in action.

The younger Ellison, 21, has a proud heritage to upkeep. Apart from his grand uncle, another member of his family was an All Black - Vince Bevan, who played between 1947 and 1954.

Although he is still yet to earn his national spurs, the Wellington-born Ellison is tipped by many in the country as a future All Black in his own right.

A member of the New Zealand team who won the IRB under-21 world championship last year, he is set to follow in the footsteps of such notables as Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen, who made their name in Hong Kong before moving on to the bigger stage.

'He is a very talented player and has the potential to go a long way,' said New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens soon after he gave Ellison his first taste of international sevens in front of his hometown fans last month.

Apart from Ellison, two other members of the squad who made their sevens debuts for New Zealand in Wellington and are in this squad are Edwin Cocker (Otago) and Isaia Toeava (Auckland).