Letter from EnZed: Final Farewells
15 September 2011
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We arrived back in Auckland from Christchurch on Sunday but we had only an hour to check into our new City Centre hotel before we were back on the coach to go the North Harbour stadium for Australia v Italy. The generally good weather we had enjoyed on our tour up to now had turned and with only one covered stand (we weren’t in it) we were in for a damp time.
It was no surprise to see so many wearing the yellow of Australia at the ground but there seemed to be almost as many with the colours of the Azzurri. Could so many Italians either live in Auckland or made the long journey from Europe? It was when I got closer that I realised that most spoke with a New Zealand twang proving the old anecdote to be true: When a Kiwi is asked which two rugby teams he supports he says the All Blacks and anyone playing Australia.
There really is little love lost between the two nations. England supporters are used to the Scottish, Welsh, and most of the world supporting whoever their opponents are but for me it was enlightening to see that blind bigotry alive and well elsewhere. There was a decent sprinkling of ‘proper’ Italian support which added to the atmosphere.
I had read that Aussie fly-half Quade Cooper was the most hated man in New Zealand, something to do with on and off field battles he has with All Black skipper Richie McCaw and the fact that he was actually born in New Zealand. So I shouldn’t have been surprised at the cacophony of jeers, whistles and cat-calls whenever Cooper stepped up to take a kick at goal. I really do not like this kind of behaviour which happens only occasionally in the Six Nations but it seems to be more accepted during the World Cup.
The game was duly won by Australia and we made our way back to Auckland to look forward to a rare free evening and even rarer, a morning and afternoon to do whatever we pleased. Monday was our last full day in New Zealand so some of us took the sightseeing bus around Auckland to see what else it has to offer other than bars, restaurants and rugby.
That evening was our final court session where the usual list of spurious offences were read out including; the murder of Rule Britannia, pitch invasion at Eden Park, attention-seeking behaviour by leaving a game in an ambulance, bringing two different hair gels on tour, going up the 200m Sky Tower and not taking the bungee-jump down – you get the general idea. Court was followed by dinner at the Harbour and a couple of drinks to mark our last night on tour.
It was a quiet morning as we prepared to leave for our long journey home, during which we could reflect on a very busy two weeks playing four games in seven days in four cities, two Rugby World Cup games including the opening ceremony, the varying scenery of the North and South Islands. the camaraderie of the Parliamentary teams, and most of all the welcome and friendliness of the people.