What a tournament

It has been a tough 12 months for New Zealand. 11 months ago, we had the Pike River explosion, and then in February the second Christchurch earthquake. On top of that, we’ve watched as countries big (US) and small (Greece) topple on the edge of disaster with debt defaults, and have wondered how badly will we be hit, if one or more countries drown under their debt burdens.

So when we won the hosting rights in 2005, who would have thought it would prove such a tonic for our country. It has captured our collective spirit in a way I’ve not seen with any other sports tournament. Why has it been so good? Many, many factors. Here’s some of the factors and people to thank in my opinion.

  • Jock Hobbs and Helen Clark for winning us the hosting rights. My third favourite moment of the RWC was having Jock Hobbs present Rochie McCaw with his 100th test cap.
  • Leon Grice and the RWC2011 team who implemented the concept of a stadium of four million people. Leon told me at a fairly early stage about the plans (which were part of the bid) to have teams and overseas fans “hosted” by various cities and towns, and it was an inspired idea that worked magnificently.
  • Martin Snedden and the NZRFU who organised the tournament so well. I loved the choirs, and the Oles at each kick off!
  • The four million Kiwis who loved being great hosts. It’s something we excel at.
  • Also those who attended the games and cheered passionately for whichever team we adopted for the day. For many of the teams, they probably played to a bigger more supportive home crowd than they ever got at home.
  • The party central and fan zones. They were brilliant. We are (mostly) social creatures and even the largest pub can only hold so many. They were almost too popular in Auckland, but also made the rest of the country feel part of the action.
  • RWC Minister Murray McCully. Murray gets a fair bit of flak for his hands on management style and one journalist famously said Murray makes Helen Clark’s micro-management look like benign neglect! But in this case, Murray and his team’s attention to detail have  paid off in spades.
  • The RWC Opening Ceremony. The comparison to 1987 RWC is like comparing humans to apes. The ceremony was Olympic-class. It was my second favourite moment of the tournament.
  • The minnow teams. They all played their best games, and all 48 matches were good games to watch. This wasn’t a tournament of three or four countries, but all 20. If it were not for Canada, France would not have even made the quarter-finals, let alone the final.
  • The mighty All Blacks.  They won the average pool game by 60 points to 12 – a 48 point margin. They won their quarter-final by 23 points, their semi-final by 14 points and the final by one point.
  • While it is a team effort, Graham Henry and Richie McCaw impressed and inspired as coach and captain. Richie one day will sit in Olympus as one of the Gods of the game.
  • The French. They hit their top form just when it was needed, to give the All Blacks the fight of their lives. The French and the Welsh should both be proud of their team’s achievements.
  • The Final. I’ve never been so caught up in a game. God knows what would have happened if we had lost. I now understand why 30% of NZers said the outcome of the RWC mattered more to them than the election outcome. I was living in terror of the drop goal. Breating was optional for those last few minutes.
  • The Award Ceremony. This was my number one moment of the tournament, with two parts resonating especially. McCaw holding the Webb Ellis Cup aloft. That moment will become as iconic as David Kirk’s 24 years earlier. But the most emotional moment was when the Cup was taken onto the ground by a Canterbury boy whose mother had died in the earthquake. His beaming smile of joy led to many a tear being shed, as people reflected how rare such smiles has probably been since the earthquake.

So it has been a great six weeks, and the All Blacks are world champions. Despite the euphoria, I think this will be the last Rugby World cup we host in New Zealand. But it will be a tournament that I know I, and many others, will never forget.

Feel free to share below your favourite memories. No negativity on this thread please. If you feel the need, go to General Debate.

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