UTSNZ Shield Celebrates its 100th Year

UTSNZ Shield Celebrates its 100th Year

In 2023, the overall University and Tertiary Sport New Zealand (UTSNZ) National Tertiary Championship Shield - “The Shield” as it is colloquially and fondly known, celebrates its 100th year.

Unveiled in 1923, the Shield has existed for 100 years with the first winner being the University of Otago. Over the course of its history, the University of Otago has gone on to hold the Shield aloft 36 times, more than any other university in New Zealand. The University of Auckland - Waipapa Taumata Rau has won it 20 times, the University of Canterbury 14 and ten titles for Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington. The University of Waikato and Massey Univeristy have secured bragging rights a few times (three and two respectively) and AUT has won it once.

Like the Shield, university sport has held a significant place in New Zealand's heritage of sporting success. Sport in New Zealand universities at the intercampus level originates back to 1900 when, during a tennis match arranged between Canterbury and Otago University Colleges, a proposal was formed to organise the first formal inter-university sports tournament.

This became a reality in 1902 with Canterbury hosting the first Easter Tournament which saw teams from Canterbury, Otago, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Auckland compete in Athletics, Tennis and Debating.

The annual Easter Tournament was organised by a Tournament Committee which held its first meeting on April 1, 1902. The Committee was responsible for recording tournament results, awarding medals to outstanding athletes, ruling on eligibility and updating the relevant tournament rules and regulations.

"Throughout the University of New Zealand there is now a bond of friendship and respect, which will tighten as years go by, and which will stand as long as the Tournament lasts, a safeguard against a system of mere University cram"—The Spike, June, 1902.

Over the years further sports were added to the competition; Boxing and Shooting in 1921, Basketball in 1927, Swimming in 1930 and Rowing in 1932. The Easter tournament also provided an opportunity and forum for political and social discussion as well as sporting competition, with profits from the 1915 event donated to the Belgium Relief Fund.

As years progressed, many new sports were added to the programme of events, with the ‘University Games’ reaching its peak in 2011 providing opportunities across 20 different sports, played over four days, engaging over 2000 tertiary student participants.

Now, UTSNZ leads a new era in university sport which sees the continuation of inter-tertiary rivalries across New Zealand’s eight universities through the National Tertiary Championship Series.

Established in late 2015, UTSNZ successfully rebuilt the pathways and frameworks required for the quality, sustainable delivery of inter-tertiary sport after a period of no inter-tertiary competition between 2013 and 2015. This included the revival of national inter-tertiary competitions, facilitation of pathways to international opportunities, as well as increased opportunities for workforce development and volunteering; recognising that tertiary students are the workforce of the future.

The inter-tertiary competition has now moved from being one big “Easter Tournie/University Games” to a series of stand-alone championship events (delivered in partnership with New Zealand national sporting organisations) which see the top teams battling it out for national supremacy across eight sports, with each event accumulating points towards the awarding of the overall Shield.

The University of Auckland - Waipapa Taumata Rau has had a strong hold on the Shield in recent years, holding the Shield aloft every year since the new championship model was introduced.

Now in its 100th year, the Shield, like the memories of many student athletes, remains a treasured taonga in the history of university sport in New Zealand.

Posted: Tue 28 Feb 2023