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Thread: The Myth of Kiwi Rugby Religion

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    The Myth of Kiwi Rugby Religion

    Strange birds: Kiwis who hate rugby

    Sunday Star-Times, New Zealand (via Rugby Heaven)

    They are portrayed as obsessed about rugby, but a survey has found that a third of New Zealanders have no interest in the sport while some, as Anthony Hubbard explains, despise the game and resent its grip on Kiwi culture.

    Last month, when New Zealand became the host of the 2011 World Cup, former All Black Sean Fitzpatrick said: "There are four million people in New Zealand and every one of them feels they have a share of the All Blacks."

    Sports Minister Trevor Mallard said: "Our passion for rugby and sport is part of being Kiwi, and being proud to be Kiwi."

    Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs said: "New Zealanders are passionate about their rugby ... we are a stadium of four million people!"

    This is nonsense - and provably so. About one in three New Zealanders - 32 per cent - have little or no interest in rugby, according to an April poll by UMR Insight.


    The poll found 68 per cent, or about two out of three, were either very interested or fairly interested.

    Based on these figures, at least 1.3 million people are outside the stadium. And the figure is probably bigger nearly a third of New Zealanders - 31 per cent - are just "fairly interested".

    Presumably, then, these hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders don't feel they have a share of the All Blacks either. But they might fairly claim they are Kiwis, even proud ones.

    Amid the hype and gush over the World Cup, it is good to remember these statistics. It helps to inure us against the marketing juggernaut that is trying to make rugby-going a patriotic duty.

    It is precisely the marketing hype, and the ridiculous claim that to be Kiwi is to be a rugby-lover, that adds to the dissidents' fury.

    Some - I am one - are not only indifferent to rugby but hostile to it. The current nonsense only makes us hate it more.

    The UMR Insight poll, of 750 people with a margin of error of 3.6 per cent, has been running since 1993. It shows that throughout that time there has been a substantial number of New Zealanders not interested in rugby.

    The lowest point this dissident group has ever reached in that time was 20 per cent, in November 2003. Even when rugby fever was at its height, one in five New Zealanders did not care about the game.

    People dislike rugby for the same reasons they always have disliked it - its violence and its celebration of male aggression; the dopey, hard-drinking rugby culture; its mindless machismo.

    "There are many people who can't stand the game," says Unitec New Zealand sports sociologist Rex Thomson.

    "I was a rugby player and I coached for 25 years, so I've been with the game for over half my life - and I'm very aware of the problems the game has had and perhaps still has. I can understand why some people can't stand it."

    One of the major problems, he says, is its link with booze and boozing.

    "It was described in its early years in England as being the twin sister of the drinking system. The two have been absolutely intertwined throughout their history, and for many decades much of the sponsorship of the game until TV came in came from the breweries."

    The New Zealand Rugby Union would have us believe that the culture of boozing has changed. The truth keeps leaking out. Former All Blacks captain Anton Oliver's biography in July revealed the secret once again. A team-bonding session in 2001, for instance, left some players so plastered the team could barely defeat Argentina: "I thought, 'We are teaching them that this is what it is to be an All Black, to drink a lot of booze."'

    But things have changed since then, the rugby-boosters say. Really? Last month the Sunday Star-Times revealed that a group of All Blacks went on an all-night drinking binge in Britain.

    Then there's the violence. Former All Blacks captain David Kirk described this aspect of the game with refreshing honesty in his 1997 book Black and Blue.

    "One of the first things to understand about rugby is that it is a violent game," he wrote. "Sometimes it is extremely violent. While violence isn't the point (as it is in boxing or, say, hurling) it is integral to the game. You can't play well without suffering it, or being prepared to administer it.

    "I'd go so far as to say that the team who can control their violence and apply it most effectively is the team that is likely to win."

    Canadian sports sociologist Jay Scherer, now at the University of Alberta after spending five years at Otago University's physical education faculty, says rugby celebrates violence.

    "Violence is the point. It is a fundamental or integral part of how the game is played. It is normalised and reinforced and celebrated and glorified in the media and through reinforcement from peers and coaches and role models.

    "I mean, what is the famous quote from George Orwell? 'Sport is war minus the shooting.' And rugby is the most glorified warrior-like sport there is in New Zealand, obviously along with rugby league."

    Scherer likes watching the game, just as he likes Canadian ice-hockey, an even more violent sport. "You know, rugby can be a very beautiful game to watch at times. Conversely it can also be a very brutal and thuggish game."

    But sometimes he wonders about his own motivation for watching. "To me, it's very easy to trace the development of modern sport from those early gladiatorial spectacles, and particularly men's sport... "

    There is a juggernaut of rugby boosterism at work right now, says Scherer. A great deal of money is at stake, and the marketers want to drown out any critical voices. Powerful forces are there to help. Many in the news media, he says, are part of the cheerleading chorus.

    At the same time, the critical voice sometimes does get heard. In rugby-mad Dunedin - his former town - there is angry opposition to the idea that rates should be spent on the expensive refurbishment of the Carisbrook stadium.

    The marketers have tried to spread the appeal of rugby, especially to women. But the gap between male and female attitudes remains notable. The UMR April poll found that 37 per cent of females had little or no interest, while only 26 per cent of males felt that way.

    Rugby is perhaps more dominant in New Zealand culture than it has ever been. The reason: money and marketing. "Professionalism has brought the game into everyone's home. It's there all the time," says Thomson.

    The rugby boosters like to promote rugby now as a much more sophisticated thing. The dominant figure is the dreadlocked Samoan Tana Umaga. In former times the icon was Colin Meads, a tough, taciturn farmer with right-wing views and a passion for tours of South Africa. There is a growing women's rugby movement. There are even gay rugby teams.

    And for some, clearly, the heart of the game remains as black as ever: violent, macho, gladiatorial. Despite the government propaganda and the millions spent on marketing, despite the media circus and the conspicuous public enthusiasm of self-styled liberals, a third of New Zealanders still say "no" to the national game.

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  2. #2
    Legend Contributor brokendown gunfighter's Avatar
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    the author by his or her own admission hates rugby,enough said

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    Perhaps, but he/she also has facts to back up their view point.
    The point of article is that, no matter how much NZ rugby fans would like to think otherwise, the game they claim to be their "religion" is not even rated better than "fairly interesting" by one third of the population!
    As a rugby supporter who has never been to NZ, I was quite amazed at this high percentage as the public international image is far different.

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    Legend Contributor brokendown gunfighter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burgs
    Perhaps, but he/she also has facts to back up their view point.
    The point of article is that, no matter how much NZ rugby fans would like to think otherwise, the game they claim to be their "religion" is not even rated better than "fairly interesting" by one third of the population!
    As a rugby supporter who has never been to NZ, I was quite amazed at this high percentage as the public international image is far different.


    we dont know exactly how the poll was constructed.
    we can turn it around & say 2/3rds of the population are in
    terested in rugby.
    what country has that % of the population interested in one sport?

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  5. #5
    Chardonnay drinking, cardigan wearing, Freud reading mommy's boys.

    A poll that claims a 1/3 have no interest based on a sample of 750 people from an organisation that has been asking the same questions for 20 years. Agenda? What agenda?

    Rugby is so ingrained in the NZ way of life that those that don't like it are massively anti.

    It IS the majority sport in NZ. To a greater % than anything in Oz.

    The thing is that NZ is no different than any other country in the world. Instead of being a nation of participants (in all types of sport) they are now becoming a nation of watchers.

    I'd hate to see Oz (and NZ) get like the US situation were you pretty much stop playing if you don't drafted into the pro's.

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    (formerly known as Coach) Your Humble Servant Darren's Avatar
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    Hang on, so in this Poll - roughly one third of kiwis are "Very Interested", roughly one third are "Fairly Interested" and the remaining third are (according the the author of this article) thought to have no interest what so ever.

    Any survey I have ever been a part of - either as a person being interviewed, or as an interviewer (I had a market reseach job while at uni and conducted 100's of surveys like this) have ALWAYS used a 5 point scale along the lines of: Very Interested, Fairly Interested, Interested, Not Very Interested, Not Interested At All.

    So this clown is taking an answer of "Interested" as being "Not at all interested because it is violent and promotes a drinking culture" Thats a pretty big leap - even for a Kiwi!

    In the great words of Mark Twain - "There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."

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    To me, regardless of the methods used to gather any data, the issue is the article is pointing towards disproving the attitude displayed by the average Kiwi (and officials) to the wider rugby community that all Kiwis are born in a black jersey, bleed black and nothing else matters in NZ other than AB results.
    Granted, they are throw away quotes in the joy of winning the hosting for '11 but nonetheless point to an underlying arrogance of how supposedly superior Kiwi supporters are in all things rugby.
    If you doubt that attitude exists go and read the Rugby Heaven forums for a couple of days!
    The point is that they are not a stadium of four million people!
    NZ has a fantastic supporter and playing base for the game and I don't begrudge them that for a minute, I just wish they would pull their head in a bit when it comes to the whole "rugby is our religion" palava.

    From the above article:
    Last month, when New Zealand became the host of the 2011 World Cup, former All Black Sean Fitzpatrick said: "There are four million people in New Zealand and every one of them feels they have a share of the All Blacks."

    Sports Minister Trevor Mallard said: "Our passion for rugby and sport is part of being Kiwi, and being proud to be Kiwi."

    Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs said: "New Zealanders are passionate about their rugby ... we are a stadium of four million people!"

    That's great, well done, see you in 2011, now take a reality check and please, PLEASE get some bigger stadiums so a few of us can come and watch too.

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  8. #8
    Burgs I can live with most of what you post.

    This thread, however, is making thewholeforce.com like every other rugby union site out there today. I don't want to participate in a site that copies all the others and rabbits on about these issues.

    I'm interested mainly in my club, my S14 team and the state of Australian rugby. I'm not interested in bagging another country, particularly one which has generally been exceptional over the last 100 years.

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    ... on the 6th day God played rugby and on the 7th day he rested, because he was sore and a little hungover.

  9. #9
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    Redbull,
    I think the quote was something like, "Now, now ladies keep your nighties on"?
    If you read back over the thread you will see that I haven't bagged New Zealands status on the field at all, they are, as you suggest, the best performing country over the last century.
    Sometimes, unfortunately, their fans get a little excitable and holier than thou though.
    I would suggest that Australian/New Zealand relations is very much a current issue which by association affects "the state of Australian rugby".
    Congrats on being TWF's sixth to reach Rookie status (50 posts), there's plenty of Australian associated threads to get your teeth into to kick on to "Player" (150).

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  11. #11
    Veteran beige's Avatar
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    I'm sure you'd find similar statistics here about AFL - I don't think it means much.
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