He iti hoki te mokoroa: Maori Contributions to the Sport of Rugby League
Thesis DisciplineMaori Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The aim of this thesis is to explore the influences and contributions of Māori to the establishment and development of the sport of rugby league in New Zealand. The overarching question of this thesis is how have Māori influenced and contributed to the development of rugby league in New Zealand? This thesis examines the international social history of rugby league from the origins of rugby league as a sport following the split in rugby union in England through to the contemporary status of Māori within the game as an elite sport in New Zealand and overseas. By examining Māori involvement in rugby league it is my intention to place Māori at the centre of the explanation for the establishment and development, past and present, of the sport in New Zealand, and also globally. While there have been some previous accounts of the affiliation between Māori and rugby league (Coffey and Wood, 2008; Greenwood, 2008; Falcous, 2007) this thesis compiles accounts from disparate sources in order to outline the history of Māori involvement and achievement in the development stages of rugby league. Key areas of focus for this thesis include the early Māori tours of 1908 and 1909, the development of the New Zealand Māori Rugby League as an independent entity separate from the New Zealand Rugby League and the contemporary influences of Māori on rugby league. This thesis will show that the early Māori tours were crucial to the development of Australian, New Zealand and, to an extent, British rugby league. It will also provide insight in to the inclusive nature of rugby league through the inclusion of Māori initiatives such as the development of a Māori Rugby League. The final section of this thesis will draw on the contemporary influence that Māori have on the sport through an examination of player migration and how Māori have emerged as a ‘donor culture’ providing high numbers of elite athletes to the world’s premier rugby league competitions. It can be argued that the mobility of Māori, in the form of touring teams and migrant players, has sustained the sport internationally while paradoxically, and simultaneously, depleting the game domestically. In this account Māori emerge, not as an appendix in a history of the game but rather as a crucial donor culture for the establishment and continued success of rugby league.