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Sport and the New Zealanders: A History

Media Release

Sport and the New Zealanders: A History

Greg Ryan & Geoff Wilson

Auckland University Press

Hardback, 240 x 170 mm, 464 pages
9 August 2018, $65.00
Subject: Sports, sports history, New Zealand society
Sport and the people of New Zealand are inseparable. This is a history of New Zealanders and the sports that we have made our own, from the Māori world to today’s professional athletes.


‘Those two mighty products of the land, the Canterbury lamb and the All Blacks, have made New Zealand what she is in spite of politician’s claims to the contrary’, wrote famed cricket writer Dick Brittenden in 1954. ‘For many in New Zealand, prowess at sport replaces the social graces; in the pubs, during the furious session between 5pm and closing time an hour later, the friend of a relative of a horse trainer is a veritable patriarch. No matador in Madrid, no tenor in Turin could be sure of such flattering attention.’

Sports have played a central part in the social and cultural history of Aotearoa New Zealand but it’s a story that has not truly been told until now. Why did rugby become much more important than soccer in New Zealand? What role have Māori played in our sporting life? Do we really ‘punch above our weight’ in international sport? Does sport still define our national identity?

Viewing New Zealand sport as activity and as imagination, Sport and the New Zealanders is a major history of a central strand of New Zealand life.



Greg Ryan is a professor and the dean of the Faculty of Environment, Society and Design at Lincoln University. He is the author of The Contest for Rugby Supremacy: Accounting for the 1905 All Blacks (Canterbury University Press, 2005), The Making of New Zealand Cricket: 1832–1914 (Frank Cass, 2003) which won the 2005 Ian Wards Prize, and Forerunners of the All Blacks: The 1888–89 New Zealand Native Football Team in Britain, Australia and New Zealand (Canterbury University Press, 1993).

Geoff Watson is a senior lecturer in history at Massey University. He is the principal author of Seasons of Honour: A Centenary History of New Zealand Hockey 1902–2002 (Dunmore Press, 2002) and one of the editors of Legends in Black: New Zealand Rugby Greats on Why We Win (Penguin, 2014).
Deeply informed by psychological research and a life of social activism, Niki Harré’s provocative book teaches us all how we might live life as an infinite game.


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