‘rugby, racing and beer’: meaning and origin

The New-Zealand phrase rugby, racing and beer designates the three traditional interests of the stereotypical New-Zealand man.

This is exemplified by the publisher’s description of That F word: growing up feminist in Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins Publishers, 2018), by the New-Zealand singer-songwriter, political commentator and author Lizzie Marvelly (born 1989):

A wake-up call and a battle-cry for all Kiwi women
Lizzie Marvelly tells the story of New Zealand’s feminist roots, then traverses the modern landscape, tearing apart areas of gender imbalance and pervading attitudes to Kiwi women. In particular, Lizzie examines how men have been brought up with certain values—the rugby, racing and beer mentality we know all too well.

It seems, however, that in early use the phrase rugby, racing and beer was applied to both sexes.

These are the earliest occurrences that I have found, in chronological order:

1-: From Through New Zealand’s Mountains By Auto, by Herman Lowe, published in the Park City Daily News (Bowling Green, Kentucky) of Wednesday 28th August 1963:

Hermitage Hotel, Mt. Cook National Park—[…] These national parks are packed with skiers and hikers and there’s plenty of fishing, but, so far as I can tell, the major sports of New Zealand are rugby, racing and Beer.

2-: From an interview of Christine Coleman, Blossom Queen for Hastings, New Zealand, who was visiting Wilmington in her capacity as X-ray film salesperson—interview by Bette McNear, published in the Evening Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) of Tuesday 7th June 1966:

Christine is the daughter of one of her country’s leading racing stewards, K. K. Coleman, and she loves the races. “We New Zealanders are known for three things: rugby, racing and beer. Our horses race all over the world, and many Americans come to our yearling sales.”

3-: From an article by Himie Koshevoy, published in The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia) of Friday 21st April 1967:

In my roaming of the town I ran into Watson J. Laing and Allan V. Hardaker, a couple of Kiwis, here with a New Zealand delegation stirring up interest in their country. They informed me solemnly that the three religions of their land were rugby, horse racing and beer.

4-: From No stag Party for the Duke, published in The Canberra Times (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory) of Friday 17th May 1968:

Auckland’s city fathers have emerged somewhat ruefully from the doghouse after being worsted in a shindy with the opposite sex over arrangements for entertaining the Duke of Edinburgh.
In effectively putting the kibosh on plans for a stag party for 250 guests, outraged feminists have exerted an influence quite unsuspected by the once dominant male in a country supposedly devoted to Rugby, racing and beer.

5-: From Auckland Is Bit Of U.S., Britain Down Under, by Peter J. Kumpa, published in The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) of Wednesday 20th August 1969:

Auckland, N.Z., Aug. 19—[…]
Rugby, Racing, Beer
[…] The tradition of New Zealand as the land of rugby, racing and beer holds true. Man-talk revolves around sport. Even housewives visit the local government-run betting outlets to wager more than $180,000,000 a year.
Everyone drinks beer but not as frenetically as they used to because the closing time for public bars has been changed from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. Beer is a must at all social functions from birthday parties to weddings.

6-: From the post scriptum to a letter that one Mrs. Billie Williams wrote to the Editor as “an American who [had] just spent two years” in New Zealand—letter published in the Casper Star-Tribune (Casper, Wyoming) of Wednesday 22nd October 1969:

P.S. They have a saying the average New Zealander loves rugby, racing and beer—in that order.

7-: From Exchange student reports, by Robert W. Buehner, Jr., published in The Danville News (Danville, Pennsylvania) of Monday 30th March 1970:

Today is a Saturday, an average Saturday as they go in New Zealand. Average in respect to horse racing as at least a million or so dollars will change hands today as hundreds of thousands of Kiwis will either attend a race meeting or follow the results on the national radio network. […]
New Zealand prides itself as the land of “rugby, racing and beer.” Rugby is coming up and every one is getting concerned about the matches with South Africa, but don’t get the impression that the average person goes to a rugby match with a racing form in one hand and a glass of beer in the other, but most New Zealanders indulge in one of the three.

8-: From the column On & off the record on the go, by Fitz, published in The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec) of Saturday 22nd August 1970:

Three national religions
Rugby, racing and beer, by New Zealanders’ own admission, are their three national religions.
There’s a national totalisator system whereby bets can be made at hundreds of locations on weekly flat races, trotting meets or steeplechases. Auckland has a beautiful racing plant in Ellerslie, immaculately groomed, and a shrine to horseflesh.
Rugby games are played by the hundreds at varying levels; and New Zealand’s proximity to the sea makes boating a widely pursued avocation.
New Zealanders are as much participants in sports as they are spectators, which explains why fitness is a national phobia as well as the three national religions; and why beer is used to counteract fatigue after exercise; and the exercise an excuse to slake thirst with beer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.