Reflecting upon its British Colonial heritage, New Zealand has a very British-centric sports feel to it. The most popular sports are Rugby Union, Cricket, Netball, Rugby League and Cricket. Water sports are also very popular, as well as the likes of golf, tennis, netball and soccer.
New Zealand regularly compete in international tournaments in all kinds of sports, from the Olympics to the FIFA World Cup. But what are the most popular sports in New Zealand?
Cricket is the national sport of the New Zealand summer, and is one of the ten countries which competes in Test Match Cricket. Although not as widely followed as the likes of Rugby, New Zealand has a strong cricket following and support. A large percentage of the population take a deep interest in the international cricket scene, and the country has been involved since the 1930s.
Traditionally one of the powerhouses of the sport, they have yet to lift the World Cup in the Men’s game.
Rugby League & Rugby Union
New Zealand and rivals Australia make up two of the real powerhouses of the Rugby scene, but unlike Australia, in New Zealand the dominant form of Rugby is Rugby Union. The Rugby League scene in the country is almost all semi-professional or amateur, and it does not enjoy a glittering profile amongst locals.
The national side has competed in the Rugby League World Cup since the 1950s, and they won the last World Cup in 2008, for the first time ever. Rugby Union, however, is considered the national sport of the country. A massive part of national heritage and identity, it takes in the biggest attendances by far.
The All Blacks are a much feared team in Rugby Union, and are the most successful team in Rugby Union history.
Although not a massive sport at the moment, interest has been keenly growing in recent years, following the national team’s impressive showings at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where they impressed in a group including perennial challengers Italy. In fact, New Zealand ended that World Cup, the only one they have been at other than 1982, as the only unbeaten side, going out in the groups despite not losing a group match.
Although attendances in the local championships are not great, there is a growing following for teams abroad and it is currently the most popular and biggest participated sport for boys and girls aged 5-17.
Horse Racing is a slightly different style of sport, but it is nonetheless enjoyed massively in New Zealand, attracting regularly large crowds. New Zealand has been the breeding ground of some of racings finest steeds, and has a variety of Melbourne Cup triumphs to it’s name.
New Zealand sportsmen and jocket Mark Todd was chosen as the Horseman of the Century, having won a litany of medals and trophies in his career, most recently a Bronze at the 2012 Olympics.