Recently, I have been posting exultant blogs about New Zealand sporting triumphs and I have been reflecting on why I do this.
I have not lived in New Zealand for 40 years, I now have dual citzenship and I probably identify more as an Australian…. but not when it comes to NZ sporting victories which still fill me was an inordinate and quite incomprehensible pride.
Some are relatively minor: The Under-20 All Blacks winning the world championship crushing England 64-17.
Who cares? Only a small proportion of the world understands or recognises rugby as a sport. Few comprehend its subtle beauties.
But for those who do, New Zealand is the undisputed champion and maintaining their position is an important part of the national psyche.
Others are currently major and anticipatory: Team New Zealand goes 4-0 up in the America’s Cup and now has a chance of defeating the best in the world in one of the most technologically advanced and demanding sports that man can think up.
Yeah, I know we’re not there yet. And everyone in New Zealand remembers the last one when the Kiwis went from 8-1 up to 9-8 down in what must have been one of the greatest reversals in yachting history.
But despite the fact we’ve got Emirates and Nespresso money (and presumably George Clooney will tag along if we win), it is still a bunch of Kiwi blokes taking on the most technologically advanced nation and one of the richest blokes in the world.
Now, with the yachting, if you can call it that, the connection to New Zealand is getting increasingly tenuous. But in New Zealand, and everywhere where there is an expatriate New Zealander, this will be seen as a great New Zealand victory.
This is probably an indication that globalisation, or more correctly an understanding of it, has not yet reached the Shaky Isles. We are already basking in the glory.
And this is where Rugby is so important to New Zealanders. They probably accept that yachting is dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars from Emirates and global sponsors but they also like to think that there is a certain amount of Kiwi know-how that derives from P class yachting, the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf that contributes to this particular victory.
But it is probably a bit tenuous.
But rugby is different.
Everybody in New Zealand has played rugby. Nowadays, both boys and girls.
When girls couldn’t play, families were involved. So everybody really understands what it is like to pull on the boots and run onto the field or at least to stand on the sideline, whether it is for the Under-10 Ponsonby side or for the All Blacks. There is actually no difference. The experience is the same
This is All Black great Joe Stanley.
I taught him at Bayfield Primary School in the early 1960s. I also coached him in the school rugby and softball teams. I think Joe would say I taught him everything he knows about metaphysical poetry.
That’s Joe third from the right in the back row.
The point is that in New Zealand with a population of just 4 million everybody probably knows an All Black, some of us got to coach one of them. So when they run on the field, we all feel that in some way we made a contribution and get some vicarious pleasure in watching them play and win.
There is something else as well. And it’s even more ridiculous. With each All Black victory, the merits and achievements of our own rugby careers are somehow enhanced, made all the greater. We, the bedrock of New Zealand rugby, growing greater year by year.