A 110-year-old jersey worn by a legendary New Zealand captain has reached the highest ever price for a rugby shirt at a Cardiff auction.
The jersey was worn by the “Originals” tour captain Dave Gallaher, who is often referred to as the father of All Blacks rugby.
It was expected to reach between £20, 000 and £40, 000 when it went on sale at at Rogers Jones & Co in Cardiff on Friday.
But those at the auction room were astounded when a female bidder, working for Saracens millionaire chairman Nigel Wray at the other end of a telephone, became involved in a struggle with five other telephone bidders from New Zealand before Mr Wray eventually won the shirt with the record £180, 000 bid.
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The auctioneer said he felt “dizzy” as the bidding got higher and higher.
The female bidder could be heard saying “You got it” after placing the £180, 000 winning bid and then ending the telephone connection.
‘Quite surprised’ by sum
Gallaher’s shirt topped by a big margin the previous world record for a rugby jersey, which was set in May when a fan bid £21, 500 for a New Zealand shirt worn during the same Originals tour and which was kept at a local rugby club in South Wales.
Auctioneer Ben Rogers with the jersey
A spokeswoman at Roger Jones & Co said: “You could say we were quite surprised when the shirt reached £180, 000, particularly as the guide price was £20, 000 to £40, 000, but demand for this shirt was huge.”
The buyer’s identity was revealed as Mr Wray who is a successful businessman with interests in property, pizza and sporting goods.
Gallaher exchanged the muddy jersey with his Welsh captain counterpart Gwynn Nicholls after their match on that first Originals tour.
Nicholls took the All Blacks shirt to his family laundry business in Cardiff before handing it to his rugby-mad van boy Thomas Mahoney.
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The jersey was then kept in his family for generations until went up for auction on Friday.
‘One of sport’s greatest matches’
Ben Rogers, from Roger Jones & Co, said: “The jersey is undoubtedly the most significant sport-related lot we have ever offered.
“Gwyn Nicholls himself is an important figure in the world of rugby – outside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff stand the Gwyn Nicholls gates.
“Wales versus The Originals, in Cardiff, is regarded as one of sport’s greatest matches with over 47, 000 spectators at the Arms Park.
New Zealand’s squad for their 1905-06 tour with skipper Gallaher fifth from left in the middle row
“Even before kick-off the match had become a landmark game when the Welsh supporters sang the national anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in response to the New Zealand player’s stirring performance of the haka.”
Gallaher’s war service
Gallaher was born in Ireland in 1878 and emigrated to New Zealand with his family in the 1890s.
After becoming a prominent figure in New Zealand rugby he captained his side’s first ever tour outside of Australasia in 1905 when they played in Britain, France, and Canada.