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“Rugby for Boys, Basketball for Girls”
New Zealand is ideal for games, with a climate that allows the sports-minded to play outside all year round. As far as national sports are concerned there are two basic seasons: the cooler months when rugby and netball dominate and the warmer months when the nation is preoccupied with cricket and the beach.
Young New Zealanders have traditionally enjoyed a healthy mix of organised sport and informal activities. There was little choice during winter, with rugby for the boys and what used to be known as basketball for the girls. There were levels for players of all ages and abilities and presumably even some of this country’s greatest All Blacks and Silver Ferns began at the lowest or “midget” grade. At primary level practice sessions and weekly inter-school games were often played during school hours. However, practice at secondary level usually took place after school, with games on Saturday mornings. The school rugby coach often needed deep pockets to safely mind his charges’ spectacles, dental plates and other such expensive breakables.
During playtime and lunch hours New Zealand school children have enjoyed a large range of more informal games played with varying numbers of people. Some games, like knucklebones and hula-hoops in the 1950s, are no longer fashionable, while playing marbles was easier in the days when there were more bare clay surfaces.
For some games, such as “bullrush” and “tag”, both the names and the rules enjoyed regional variations. A skipping rope was always popular and could be enjoyed solo or in groups, while four-square needed only a large ball and a small patch of concrete. For hopscotch a small flat item like an old boot-polish tin (Kiwi or Nugget) was ideal. And out in the country many young New Zealanders enjoyed their horses, frequently riding them to school.
Out of school, the nation’s playground is the beach. As well as swimming, surfing or just splashing about in the waves, there is also the sand to enjoy. The country’s extensive coastline provides further scope for impromptu games of cricket or touch (rugby) perhaps. But for the more curious there are usually rock pools to explore, while those inclined towards engineering might settle for building sandcastles or a dam against the incoming tide.