What a strange time to be a New Zealand rugby fan. By the time this goes to print, this year’s Super 14 finalists will have been found, with the very real possibility that there will be no New Zealand involvement at all. I, for one, certainly don’t buy into the petty provincial patriotism – I mean, sure, the Crusaders and the Blues aren’t my idea of a night at the flicks, but that’s not to say the Bulls and the Sharks (pronounced “Shawwwks” for that full Afrikaans effect) tickle my fancy either (like a team from the republic could tickle anything anyway).
If the 2007-2008 rugby seasons were to play out like a movie script, any reasonable director worth his or her salt (note: you don’t fit this requirement if your surname is ‘Wayans’) would start the film at the conclusion of this year’s rugby world cup.
Regardless of whether or not the All Blacks win, the competition itself is the final act in the New Zealand careers of several key All Blacks.
The story would start with an opening shot of the team, awash in Champagne, flouting the William Webb Ellis trophy, basking in the sunshine of success 20 years in the making. The screen would then freeze, and suddenly, one by one, Carl Hayman, Aaron Mauger, Byron Kelleher, Chris Jack, Clark Dermody and Anton Oliver, will begin to fade to black (with the possibility of Luke McAlister, Rico Gear, Doug Howlett and Jimmy Cowan following suit).The voice of James Earl Jones would then filter through our ears and proclaim: ‘Hey now, hey now, the dream is over’.
We’d cut to the 2008 Super 14, where one of the five New Zealand franchises would be seen hunched over in a huddle behind their goalposts, while some smarmy bastard, preferably with a twisted, evil moustache, slots an easy conversion from right out in front. The scoreboard would read 54-0 in favour of the opposition, as the Kiwi team looks on at the scoreboard, dishevelled and disjointed.
It’s an awful scenario to contemplate, but could this exodus of rugby talent from our shores really herald a period of great sadness and despair to New Zealand rugby’s fans? The New Zealand Rugby Union is already slated to post another profit loss next year, and with the calibre of players leaping off in search of delicious Pounds and Euros, one must wonder whether the All Blacks of 2008 will become the England of 2004.
Not to worry, though. There are plenty of class-A sprites wriggling their way up the rugby ladder, who will be more than adequate replacements for those sunning their way to scenic Bristol or Newcastle. We will get over it… eventually.
But let me be clear: if the movie starts with us losing the rugby world cup, I will purchase a season ticket to the Wellington Phoenix and renounce my love for rugby for all eternity. That’s how seriously I take my flicks.