5 most popular sports in New Zealand

Despite being a small nation, New Zealand enjoys a prominent place in sports globally. New Zealanders are ardent sports fans, and their love for it is evident from their success in many different kinds of games. The predominantly popular sports are the ones that were introduced in the region when it was a British colony, but over time the locals adopted and honed their skills in other variants as well. This article offers a brief preview of the five top sports in New Zealand.

Rugby Union in New Zealand

Rugby Union is New Zealand’s national sport and its residents’ favourite. The national rugby team of New Zealand has the best winning records of all the national teams in the world. The team is currently placed in third place in the world rankings.

The national team won the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, and the team won two world cups in 2011 and defended their title in 2015. The sport is governed by the New Zealand Rugby Union, which was founded in 1892. However, rugby has been played in New Zealand since 1870.

Besides the World Cup, other tournaments include the Super Rugby, a club competition with teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Argentina; Mitre 10 Cup, comprising semi-professional teams from the country; and Heartland Championship comprising lower-level teams from New Zealand.

Presently, New Zealand has around 142 rugby leagues and more than 600 clubs that receive enthusiastic participation from the country’s residents.

Cricket in New Zealand

Cricket is the second most popular sport in New Zealand and the favourite sport to play in summer. New Zealand is one of the most successful cricket-playing teams in the world and one of the twelve teams that have test cricket status. New Zealand’s national team played their first test match in 1930; however, they could not win their first match until 1956. However, in later years, the team became highly successful, scoring major victories in the 70s and 80s.

While it all started from test matches, New Zealand’s real strength lies in their one-day encounters. The team reached the finals of the World Cup in 2015 and 2019 but could not win the tournament. New Zealand won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2000 and was runners-up in 2009. The team also won a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

In the Twenty20 format, New Zealand has managed to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup twice in 2007 and 2016, and the finals in 2021.

Presently, New Zealand has more than 170,000 registered cricket players, with the numbers growing at a rapid pace.

Netball in New Zealand

The third most popular sport in New Zealand is netball. However, instead of men, it is the women that follow and play netball more. However, since this is common in most countries around the world, it is not surprising to see women taking more interest in the sport while men’s netball is predominantly auxiliary to women’s contests.

The national team also called the Silver Ferns, has been one of the most successful teams in the world for many decades. The team won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2010. Netball earned the status of a semi-professional sport in 2008 when the ANZ Championship was launched. Presently, New Zealand has more than 150,000 registered netball players.

Basketball in New Zealand

The next sport on our list is basketball. The sport was first introduced in New Zealand in 1908 and has continued to grow in popularity since then. However, basketball went through many ups and downs during these years, which can be attributed to a lack of resources as there was more focus on other sports like rugby, cricket, and netball.

New Zealand has one professional basketball team, the New Zealand Breakers, that plays in the Australian National Basketball League, while the only semi-professional league in the country is National Basketball League.

Football in New Zealand

Lastly, we have football, another team-based sport that is also quite popular in New Zealand; however, its popularity has only grown in recent years, with the number of registered football players growing considerably.

Football teams, including the Eastern Suburbs, Canterbury United, and Auckland City, are some of the most popular football teams in the country. Football players, including Shane Smeltz, Michael McGlinchey, and Ryan Nelson, are some of the highest-paid players in the country and are the reason why the sport is gaining popularity in the country.

New Zealand’s team Auckland City has won the OFC Champions League, a semi-professional league competition, a record eight times, with the last win in 2016. The team also won a bronze medal at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2014.

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