"Looking forward to Saturday": a social history of rugby in a small New Zealand township : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts, Department of Sociology, Massey University
This study examines the history of club rugby in Eltham up to the Second World War. It is based on the life-review accounts of a small number of elderly, ex-Eltham rugby players and backed by a study of club-records and newspaper accounts.
The study was stimulated by events surrounding the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand and by a dissatisfaction with existing sociological attempts to examine the role of rugby in New Zealand society. Previous writers have too often uncritically celebrated the game, or succumbed to a number of recurrent theoretical and methodological shortcomings. "Cultural Studies" is introduced as a body of analytic theory and method with the potential to redress the limitations shown in existing writings on rugby. It directs the study of a sport to three critical emphases, all of which are evident in the current study.
Firstly, the sport needs to be considered in terms of the social-structural context it exists in. In the present study a strong link is identified between the development of the general social infrastructure and the form adopted by local rugby.
Secondly, we should approach sport as a significant dimension of local culture. Involvement in sport has significant effects on the way the people involved think about the world around them. In the present study rugby is discussed as a site where local men negotiated physical and mental responses to the class-characterised society they lived in. Rugby is addressed for the way it constructs and gives "common sense" meaning to ideologies like "egalitarianism", "community" and "moral asceticism".
Finally, Cultural Studies promotes a sensitivity to the historical dynamism of sport in both its practice and meaning dimensions. In this respect, Ingham and Hardy's recent theory of "Ludic Structuration" is employed to identify three distinct stages in the development of Eltham rugby up to the Second World War.
Overall, the study tends to discount the notion that "sport" and "politics" are clearly separated spheres. Rather, the notion of hegemony is used to explain how an ostensibly apolitical and enjoyable activity like rugby can, at the same time, be deeply implicated in the maintenance of existing patterns of power and privilege in our society.