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Sport in the Waikato c.1897-1974: Narratives of Play, Identity and Belonging

Regional identities and allegiances in New Zealand have most often been revealed at sporting events. From the colours worn, the slogans chanted, and even the ringing of cowbells, players, teams and supporters have presented facets of their collective character. This thesis engages with narratives of sport in the Waikato region over a period of eighty years to examine these representations as they produced meanings of sporting activities for local people. Informed by competing ideas about historical truth, the thesis interprets printed media as reconstructions of both recurring events, and belonging and membership, to investigate the place of sport in the region, and to decode the ways these stories of drama and contest contribute to the development of some components of a local identity. Historically, the area now known as the ‘Waikato’ was part of the Auckland Province. The thesis argues that sport is at the centre of a notion of separation from the urban metropolis, and provided opportunities to demonstrate a growing independence. By examining examples of recurring sporting events such as the annual Ngāruawāhia Regatta, regular Auckland/Waikato rugby matches, Empire and Commonwealth Games participation, and regular lawn bowls tournaments, the place and function of sport in a regional space is able to be, in part, exposed. Uneven, often subtle, changes both in aspects of these events and in the representations of them, reveal underlying tensions and power relationships. Local, if not exclusive, understandings of the place and role of Māori, and depictions of normative gender roles, are central to the analysis of these relationships. Sport is most often a social activity, and dissection of the newspaper texts has enabled the formation of ideas about the ways sports-men, and sometimes women, are collectively presented and organised. In much of the material used, these men and women are also the most recognisable and celebrated ‘heroes’. Consideration of the role of heroes in the formation of culturally constructed group identities informs the thesis, and the relationships between local sporting participants and groups are also important. Divisions, dissension, and competition for resources are all revealed in the reported activities of sports organisations, and changes in the importance afforded these endeavours are also apparent. The focussed critical use of a local media source provides a consistent, if sometimes homogenous, group of historical narratives. The inclusion of local club and association histories, often produced with extensive use of newspaper archives, changes the perspective and enables a more nuanced examination of the place of different types of heroes, of gender norms and, most importantly, of the ways sporting organisations see and project themselves as part of the region. The stories they collectively choose to remember and tell are central to this narrative of the place of sport in the Waikato.
Type of thesis
Buckley, K. (2016). Sport in the Waikato c.1897-1974: Narratives of Play, Identity and Belonging (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10603
University of Waikato
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