Screened as part of NZIFF 2019

By the Balls 2019

Directed by Charlotte Purdy, Simon Coldrick

Sport and politics most definitely do mix in this gripping look back at a brutal and turbulent time for New Zealand rugby, told from the point of view of the players themselves including David Kirk and Buck Shelford.

84 minutes DCP


Charlotte Purdy

Drama director

Chris Dudman


David Paul


Simon Coldrick

Production designer

Petelo Vahui

Costume designer

Pauline Pohatu

Courtesy TVNZ. Made with the help of NZ On Air


David Kirk
Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford
John Kirwan
Grant Fox
Keith Quinn


It may seem like the All Blacks have always been world beaters, but Charlotte Purdy and Simon Coldrick’s stirring new documentary looks back at one of the darkest chapters of our rugby history – one that ironically led to one of the All Blacks’ greatest triumphs.

In the lead up to the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, the All Blacks were in disarray. A rebel tour to South Africa lead to deep divisions within the team and the nation as a whole. Only two players, David Kirk and John Kirwan, refused the lucrative payments on offer to what were then amateur players to tour the Republic. Meanwhile, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and the protests against nuclear testing in the Pacific added a significant amount of spice to upcoming matches against the French national team.

By the Balls follows these turbulent events through the eyes of the players themselves, featuring revealing and frank interviews with Kirk and Kirwan, as well as rebel tourists Buck Shelford and Grant Fox. An extensive selection of archival material and seamlessly integrated re-enactments all serve to take us back to a time when sport and politics most definitely did mix. — MM