October 25, 2023
Māori make league part of cultural identity
The author of a new book on rugby league says the code in this country has long been a source of Māori cultural expression and community.
Ryan Bodman says Māori have played the game since it was introduced here in 1907, with some Māori players in the original All Golds tour.
It was kept alive in the 1920s by miners in the Kiingitanga around Huntly and Ngaruawāhia and flourished among Māori in the 1930s when the Rugby Union started implementing a colour bar by not considering Māori players for tours of South Africa.
As Maori moved to the cities after World War Two, clubs like Petone became hubs for Māori communities.
“It fitted for a lot of those people. They came from spaces where there was a collective ethos there was a community element to their lives so the clubs were different to that but also similar and right through the history of the game Māori have absolutely interwoven their culture and identities with the sport,” Mr Bodman says.
Rugby League in New Zealand: A People’s History is published by Bridget Williams Books