In the early hours of Sunday morning I woke to thunder rumbling round and round Wellington’s harbour and hills. Something nasty afoot in the natural world? But it was just an unusual cloud arrangement. Rain soon followed and bought some relief to parched plants. I later concluded it was a symbolic groan followed by tears from All Blacks supporters in response to their defeat by England.
I think men, All Blacks included, are in the main pretty decent fellows. They can even cry! They have been re-evaluating their manliness since the 70s women’s movement gave them something to think about. And not least because 80s kids started to change codes and, heaven forbid, took up soccer. Thuggery became less acceptable. And in soccer too. Cameras have helped make it even less so.
I can’t be the only one to think a player’s thuggery can impact on other members of the team. Andrew Hore’s inexplicable high swinging arm from behind that knocked out a Welsh player in the early minutes of the game the previous weekend attracted national and international condemnation and disgust. Incredibly All Blacks’ management and coaches ducked and dived, failed to acknowledge the foul play and apologise.
When the apology finally came it was anything but in the nick of time as one commentator alleged. Please don’t tell me the judiciary would be so easily assuaged? Hore has been suspended for several games. How could these events not have affected player morale? That is not to say the English players didn’t deserve their win. They were a much better team than the Welsh. But I’ve watched enough league games to see how a stupid bit of thuggery can destabilise a team’s play. It is not just the penalty that changes play, it is as if the whole team has been sent to the bin. Even when the winning of the game seemed completely assured it can slip from their grasp.
I think the All Blacks’ shoulders were slumping before they got onto the field. It was humiliation of the Hore incident and follow-up, not hubris, that made the major contribution to their defeat. I’m not a huge fan of rugby and believe successive Governments and Councils have overindulged its ‘tourist’ potential and squandered far too much public money on it. Maybe they still think there is some value in its character shaping role given the way the way All Blacks turn up to do their bit at so many venues and members of said bodies turn up to cheer them on. Do they get complimentary tickets, surely not as that would be a conflict of interest?
Given the woeful silence of management did anybody in the media think to ask the Minister of Tourism John Key and offsider Murray McCully, who was in charge of the World Cup, if thuggery is the image we want to project abroad. Funny how rugby, tourism, politics and economics are welded together by public money on the one hand but there was silence from on high when ‘our’ team disgraced us. Come to think of it maybe the Minister of Education Hekia Parata should also have been asked about the character shaping influence of the incident, if only for light relief.