I love New Zealand. Great place. Great people. More than any country (even Mother England or the Yanks) Australia can turn to New Zealand (and vice versa) when the going gets tough. They also boast the single greatest burger joint on earth.
But when it comes to sport… all bets are off.
Cricket and rugby immediately spring to mind, but today I’m going to suggest that our fiercest rivalry with the Fush und Chup eating, jandal wearing, chillybin owning mob from across the Tasman is in a different sport altogether.
Consider this: Australia’s greatest cricket rival is undoubtedly England. The Ashes boast history, animosity and passion in ways no other cricketing rivalry even approaches. Our ‘Big Brother Beating Up Little Brother’ style rivalry with New Zealand simply doesn’t come close.
In rugby (Obviously I’m talking about Union, since it’s the only brand of rugby worth mentioning), our rivalry with New Zealand is fierce, no doubt. Genuine malice, dust-ups, and big games on big stages.
But it’s also a little one-sided… It hurts to say it, but Australia is kind of New Zealand’s bitch when it comes to rugby. Check out the history between the teams sometime… It’s enough to make any Kiwi proud.
But what about this sport:
- World Rankings: Australia #1. New Zealand #2. Separated by a solitary ranking point.
- Major Championships (Worlds/Commonwealth/Olympic): Australia and New Zealand have finished one-two in 17 consecutive meets.
- Australia has won ten times, New Zealand six times, and one meet was actually decared a draw!?!
- Their last ten meetings at Major Championships have produced six periods of extra time and two last second victories.
Now THAT’S a rivalry.
By now, you’ve probably guessed it. Yep. Squeaky shoes and flailing limbs and ridiculously tall women.
It’s still not an Olympic sport, and to be honest it needs a few more nations to compete at a high level before it should become one. At this stage it’s essentially the Australian Diamonds, the New Zealand Silver Ferns, then daylight, then the England Queens and Jamaican Mary-Janes.*
But that doesn’t take from the rivalry we share with New Zealand when it comes to the sport. Games are tight, fiercely contested, and even non-Final matchups are contested as though matters of life and death.
If ever you want to watch a sporting contest between two teams that genuinely dislike each other and actually have a closely-fought contest to back it up, tune in to The Old Firm, El Classico, or… yes… the netball.