New Zealand Rugby League

It is quite interesting looking at the Rugby League because while there is no doubts that it plays the supporting role to the Rugby Union, the national Rugby League side is currently the second best team in the world.  The All Blacks are seen as the sports team of New Zealand, but this has not hindered the development of the Rugby League side, known as the Kiwis, which has its own prestigious history. They first toured in 1907, which makes them the second oldest ruby league playing nation after England. In recent times, the national side won the world cup in 2008 with them making the finals of the last three world cups.

2008 Kiwis the world champions

The Kiwis are fiercely competitive in international fixtures and their quality has been reflected in 3 tri-nation/four nation’s victories in the last 12 years. The international Rugby League is dominated by Australia and their domestic professional league the NRL. The New Zealand Warriors compete in this competition and the side has just suffered a disappointing season failing to make the 2017 play offs.

However, the strength of the New Zealand Rugby League is reflected in the fact that 32 players will be playing in the play offs for their Australian club sides. In 2016, 26 players were plying their trade in the UK in the Super League, as well so it is clear that there are numerous New Zealanders who make a living out of playing in the professional rugby league. The New Zealand Warriors are the only non-Australian side in the NRL. They were admitted into the league in 1995. Originally known as the Auckland Warriors, they changed their name in 2001, but are still base in Auckland playing their home games at the Mt Smart Stadium.

Albert Baskerville – the driving force behind early rugby league

Over the years the Warriors have won one premiership in 2002, reached the play offs on 7 occasions and have played in 2 grand finals. The two grand finals in 2002 and 2011 have been the highlights of their history as there is no doubt that the NRL is the toughest league in the world. The Rugby League has produced nine players that have been inducted into New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame. The man who kick-started the ruby league in the country was Albert Baskerville who organised the 2007 team that went to Sydney and the British Isles.

The side beat England and Australia and of the 35 games they played they only lost to Wales. Sadly, on the return journey Albert caught pneumonia and died in Brisbane at the age of 25. On that Rugby League tour in 2007 was George Smith who is one of the greatest all round sportsman the country has produced. Coming from a racing family he rode the winner of the New Zealand Cup in 1894.

He then won sprint hurdles and 440 yard national titles on the athletics track and was a member of the 1905 All Blacks scoring 19 tries in 19 matches. After the 1907 Rugby League tour, Smith remained in the UK and played for Oldham until 1916. In recent times, 2008 World Cup victory was part of a golden era, and this was all done under the head coach Stephen Kearney. The country will be co-hosting the next world cup in 2017 with matches being played in Christchurch Wellington and Hamilton.

The Rugby League in New Zealand puts great emphasis on the young. Educational resources are regularly produced for schools and community play groups have been established. There is no doubt that the New Zealand Rugby League is currently in a strong place and should continue to go from strength to strength.

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