Rugby League: League breaks union's power

RUGBY LEAGUE in New Zealand is so accustomed to acting like the poor relation that it is still getting used to walking confidently like a grown-up member of the family, writes Dave Hadfield from Auckland.

In the last few years the perception of the game has changed radically in New Zealand, just as the All Blacks' aura of invincibility has dissipated.

Apart from the decline of the All Blacks and relative success of the Kiwis, the main reason for league's higher profile has been the screening on New Zealand television of Winfield Cup games from Australia three, and sometimes four times a week.

Audiences have been huge, far bigger than for domestic club rugby union, coverage of which is about to be scrapped because viewing figures are so disappointing.

Teenagers in New Zealand are more likely to wear a Manly or Eastern Suburbs shirt than the All Blacks uniform, which is touted so energetically to tourists.

Even the former All Blacks captain, Wayne Shelford, says his children are more interested in the 13-man code and regard the league players of Sydney as their heroes rather than the union men of New Zealand.

Among the older generation, brought up to regard league as a game beneath the dignity of red- blooded New Zealanders, opinions have changed.

Part of the interest in the Sydney competition springs from the number of New Zealanders playing in it. Of the Test team who beat Great Britain on Sunday, seven earn their living in Australia.

That situation is likely to change in the next three years as Auckland have been accepted for the Winfield Cup in 1995 and their entry could be brought forward if, as it is feared, one or more of the Sydney clubs bow to the financial troubles besetting them before then.

An Auckland franchise will be enthusiastically supported. It will also further shift the balance between the two codes in New Zealand.

If Auckland can retain a proportion of the players who now play in Australia and England, and attract some of those who would naturally gravitate to rugby union, they will be well on their way to producing a competitive side.

Auckland will become the focal point for the burgeoning interest in the game. Although league remains the sport of choice for Maoris, it is breaking out of that ghetto.

On the weekend of the recent Test against Papua New Guinea, there were more than 80 club sides playing in Auckland alone and there is more activity in schools than at any time since New Zealand first adopted the game in 1907.

However, the picture is not all rosy for league. It is still unevenly spread, with Auckland dominating national competitions and only Christchurch, and the traditional league hotbed of the west coast, playing to any standard in the South Island.

Even in Auckland gates for club matches are low and the administration of the game is listless. Spectators and administrators seem to be waiting for 1995 before they become galvanised.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence