A Kiwi’s Musings on New Zealand League

We welcome to NRL News passionate NZ supporter Stephen Gallagher, who discusses Rugby League in New Zealand, and how it has changed over the years, and what effect individuals have had on NZ Rugby League.
It’s been long overdue an era like this for New Zealand Rugby League. A successful period of year in which New Zealand League has been making more headlines than its Australian counterpart. For too long there have been one-sided clashes, to-nil defeats and now things are starting to even out. Things are looking up for the Kiwis.

It started back in 2005. A casual bloke by the name of Brian “Bluey” McClennan took the Kiwis to a Tri-Nations tournament in England and brought home some much overdue silverware. It was a remarkable victory for the Kiwis who for decades have underperformed and have never quite lived up to expectation.

Skip forward a few years and an emphatic World Cup win later under Stephen Kearney and the Kiwis are really starting to make a name for themselves. Rugby in New Zealand took a dive after the All Blacks flopped in the quarter-finals against France in 2007 which led kids growing up idolising Benji Marshall and wanting to play the other rugby. Rugby League.

Then the Kiwis did the unthinkable and made an unforgettable finish in their last set of six to win the Four Nations tournament. Capping off a new beginning for them. Five tournaments played in six years, the Kiwis had won three of them. Which lead the Kiwis and their loyal supporters to a period of which New Zealand league has never seen.

The development of league in New Zealand is slowly getting where it should be. Secondary schools have a national league competition held each year. Auckland and Wellington are two regions which do run a successful rugby league tournament for schools in the region.

Scouts are becoming more and more frequent. Every NRL team is represented at the national tournament as well as some scouts from England too come to see the up and coming talent growing in New Zealand.

It was once a rare occurrence, having a New Zealand born player in an NRL team. The national side was mainly picked from mens’ competitions around the country. Now, in 2011 there is almost the same amount of Kiwis as there are Aussies.

Especially in teams such as South Sydney Rabbitohs, where there’s a big contingent of Kiwi’s living. On the Gold Coast when the Warriors play, there’s always a massive number of ex-pat Kiwis donning their black colours and getting behind the Warriors. Sometimes the chants are louder then those of the home team’s fans.

Benji Marshall, West Tigers play-maker, Golden Boot 2010 winner and now face of the NRL. A Kiwi proud of his Maori heritage is making the biggest of waves in the National Rugby League. People are growing tiresome of Rugby which seems to dominate the headlines regardless of the success of League. To even think about a Kiwi being the face of an Australian competition is bizarre, but it’s a sign of the times.

What could be done differently though, is to harness the success, and flow it through the veins of mainstream media. Time after time the League results will get little or no mention at all on television and radio. Kids love the All Blacks, and kids now are learning to love the Kiwis.

Not to belittle other codes, but to give the kids growing up an option. I was forced in to playing rugby union at a young age. There was Rugby, or Soccer. Yet Soccer in the late 90s was not on the grand scale of what it is today in Australasia.

New Zealand has proven themselves at the international level. The New Zealand Warriors are becoming more of an option to players. With the likes of superstar Feleti Mateo joining the Warriors ranks this season, as well as veteran Australian Shaun Berrigan it shows that the Warriors are becoming more of a consistent franchise, and a team players want to play in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *