The Most Popular Sports in New Zealand

The Most Popular Sports in New Zealand
The Most Popular Sports in New Zealand

New Zealand is not shy when it comes to physically intensive and sometimes downright dangerous sports. The sports culture in New Zealand is largely inherited from the colonial past, but the locals have managed to really make much of it their own, becoming world-renowned in many disciplines.


A well-loved sport in most Commonwealth countries, rugby has gained enormous popularity and a unique new flavour in New Zealand since its introduction in 1870. Their national rugby team, the All Blacks, have become the international standard-bearers for the sport. Professionally, there were only twenty three tournaments in the sport’s history, and sixteen of those went to New Zealand. In addition to their stellar performance, the All Blacks bring a unique bit of culture and theatre to the sport before every match. They perform the haka, which is a bizarre posture dance that’s designed to be intimidating to the opponents. The combination of shouting, grimacing and movements that resemble martial arts, the All Blacks make it clear to their opponents that they mean business.


If you’re from mainland Europe or North America, chances are you’ve heard of cricket, but need it to be explained. And even after it is explained, you might be left confused as to why anyone would want to play a game that can last from three hours up to five days. But you’d be surprised to know that cricket has a 2.5 billion following, and is considered a national sport in New Zealand. In terms of physical intensity, it’s almost opposite to rugby, as it is a non-contact sport. But what attracts people to cricket is how strategic the teams have to be in their play to score as many runs as possible. The New Zealand national cricket team, sometimes referred to as the Black Caps, have had less success than their rugby counterparts. But you’d be hard pressed to find an international cricket competition that doesn’t have New Zealand playing.


Sounds almost fictional, doesn’t it? Yet, netball is well-known in the Commonwealth countries, albeit doesn’t match the scale of cricket or rugby. Something of an offshoot of basketball, with the fundamental set-up of the court and the objective of the game being similar, netball is vastly different in its rules. Netball is played predominantly by women and is far less of a contact sport than basketball. There is no tackling as such, only interception of the ball, which is facilitated by the three-second rule, where a player cannot hold on to the ball for longer than three seconds. Each player is assigned a role, which is designated to specific region of the court that they can move within. This makes it impossible to build a successful team around the outstanding talent of one player. New Zealand is one of the few nations that has a netball domestic league, the ANZ Premiership, which is evidence to the sport’s popularity. As a spectator sport, you’d be surprised by how entertaining it is to watch, even without the full grasp of the rules.

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