The localised successes but geographic boundedness of Australian Rules football raise interesting questions about the relationship of sports to the regional character of the South-West Pacific. Although it is called ‘Australian’, the game has historically been restricted to roughly half of the population of the colonies and states, failing to capitalise on its initial flowering in Queensland and New South Wales. In the nineteenth century, it was better known by its urban (Melbourne) and colonial (Victorian) origins. Although sport historians have occasionally sought to explain the game’s failure to win popular followings in northern Australia, the more intriguing question is why it failed to survive in New Zealand – the colony that had most in common with the game’s birthplace in Victoria. This paper explores the diffusion of the code to New Zealand during the colonial era, and discusses the wider ramifications for its eventual loss of purchase across the Tasman Sea.