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5 Most Popular Sports That Make Fans Go Wild

FootballSource: Comfreak

Although New Zealand is a long way from Great Britain, the country’s preferences for sports still has close ties to its colonial history. Colonized in 1840, New Zealand follows Britain’s lead as it favours sports like rugby, football (soccer), basketball, and netball. Throughout the last decades, New Zealand has shown its fierce competitiveness, despite its small size, and produced formidable players in the world’s sports arena. Five of the most popular sports played and loved in New Zealand include:

Rugby team posing in black uniformsSource: Gianluigi Guercia

Rugby

Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport. You can expect with that distinction that most of the country is fully behind this classic game. At the top of all rugby teams in New Zealand are the All Blacks. This is the national team and they have won the Rugby World Cup three times in 1987, 2011, and 2015. This winning record is higher than any other world team.

Within the country there are two types of rugby: Rugby Union and Rugby League. The main difference revolves around gameplay and the number of players on a team. Rugby Union includes the All Blacks, other national teams, provincial teams, and professional rugby union teams. Rugby League is less common but gaining popularity with teams like the Kiwis, who won the World Cup for the first time in 2008.

Football

Football, or soccer, is the second most popular sport in New Zealand. In 2007 the country started calling the sport “New Zealand Football” to fit in with the rest of the international trend. The national team is called the All Whites. This team qualified for the FIFA World Cup twice. New Zealand also has a professional team called Wellington Phoenix FC, who plays in the A-League, an all-Australian competition. The two major domestic competitions include the New Zealand Football Championship and the Chatham Cup.

Football is also for competitive women and children. The Football Ferns is the national women’s team and there are numerous teams for those under 17 and 20 years of age. The women’s team qualified for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and won the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

Man cheering at the start of a football gameSource: damonify

Netball

Netball is ranked as the most popular women’s sport in the country. Played between two teams of seven players on each side, each team attempts to score goals by passing a ball down the court and shooting it through a goal ring. The game takes place on a rectangular court with raised goal rings down at each end. The goal is to keep or gain possession of the ball and makes for a fast-paced game of skill and agility.

New Zealand’s national team is the Silver Ferns. Currently ranked fourth in the INF World Rankings, they have competed at every Netball World Cup since 1963 and have won four times in 1967, 1979, 1987, and 2003.  Many international female heroes have also evolved from playing for the Silver Ferns, including Dame Lois Muir and Irene van Dyk.

Basketball

Growing quickly in popularity among the youth of New Zealand, basketball is slated to become the most popular sport in schools for the country by 2020. Currently, it is the third most popular in secondary schools, right behind rugby (second place) and netball (first place). Youth are moving away from the classic New Zealand games of cricket and rugby and searching out the excitement of American basketball.

However, basketball is holding its own in adult teams. The national team for New Zealand is called the “Tall Blacks.” They have won three FIBA Oceania Championships, have appeared twice in the Olympia Games, and won fourth in their first FIBA Asia Cup in 2017. One of their most impressive wins has been the 2011 Stankovic Cup. They played three games against China, Russia, and Angola. After losing to Russia by three points, they smashed China in their second game, leading to a strong win against the fierce Angolan team, helping them win the gold medal.

Volleyball player blockingSource: KeithJJ

Volleyball

Volleyball is another important sport to the country of New Zealand. On a community level, Volleyball New Zealand strives to make volleyball the most popular participation sport in the country. People from secondary school children to college kids to professionals play the sport at all levels, including beach volleyball and highly competitive provincial champs. More than 30 affiliated clubs participate in three zone qualification events from June to September. From there, the top teams participate in the Volleyball New Zealand National Club Championships every October.

Nationally, the men’s New Zealand volleyball team currently ranks 50th in the world. The women’s team represents the country in both competitions and friendly matches. They have also appeared at the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship ten times.

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