From The Old Club: The History of the Christchurch Football Club 1863 -2013.
Written by Tony Murdoch
Of all the Christchurch All Blacks George Humphreys has proved to be the most difficult to get any knowledge about. The Club’s Annual Reports in the 1890s were remarkably brief when commenting on individuals and the Press newspaper reports tended to focus closely on the back play but only mention the forwards as a collective. Thus comments about George Humphreys whether for Christchurch or Canterbury lump him alongside his fellow grafters with comments such as “Humphrey’s Frost and Pascoe played well in the tight.” Equally there is very little if anything on Humphrey’s life before or after rugby and this is a pity because he was good enough to be selected for New Zealand and in his only match scored a try. He was for a time Deputy Club Captain and loyally served the club in this role.
George Humphreys was an English-born loose forward who came to New Zealand as a teenager, settling in Canterbury and first appears in team lists for Christchurch in 1890. He played through to 1896 and was a regular member of the Christchurch forward pack, invariably playing a full season.
When he came into the team the Seniors were not strong and this may be attributed to the competition from other clubs, especially Merivale and Sydenham, and the changing face of football in the city. From isolated comments it is possible to see that Christchurch’s elitist background and its strong base of what later became known as ‘white collared workers’ was under threat from more working class clubs. Christchurch teams in this period struggled to get on top of the fiery forwards from these other clubs and it was the likes of Humphreys and Harry Frost that were responsible for the improvement in forward play.
He is invariably mentioned in match reports which appeared in the Press during his time with the Club. Generally the praise is in connection with other forwards and there is nothing to suggest he was a particularly outstanding player. He was a diligent follower -up, chasing kicks with some speed, and he certainly did his work in the tight exchanges drawing favourable comment on a number of occasions for his work in the ‘heart of the pack’.
Humphreys played nine games for the Canterbury provincial team between 1891 and 1894, playing at a time when even the major unions had sparse programmes of no more than two or three matches a season. One of his appearances for Canterbury was in the province’s 11-3 win over the touring New South Wales side in 1894. He must have impressed because he was included in the New Zealand side which met the tourists in the international also staged in Christchurch, two days after the Canterbury fixture.
Humphreys scored a try but the national side was beaten by NSW 8-6. The match report is fairly scathing about the efforts of the forwards and there is little detail on Humphrey’s try. The Evening Post’s report was very critical, “The result came as a great surprise to most people, New South Wales just getting home 8 points to 6. This was brought about principally though want of combination of the New Zealanders, this feature being lamentably apparent in the forward division. Each man there seemed to play a lone hand.”
His try is not given much space at all, “The Black backs getting possession again, more neat passing followed and Balch made a number of fine runs to the line and very soon Humphreys went over”
And for George Humphreys this was pretty much the end. He may have played again in the 1897 season but appears to have faded from the game soon after the NSW matches. But his son, F E Humphreys, had a short representative career in 1919-20 for Poverty Bay.
Seasons for CFC: 1890 - 1896
Matches For Canterbury: 9
Matches For New Zealand: 1