As we sat in the bar, awaiting our Sunday roast, I couldn’t help noticing Charlotte craning her neck to see the rugby on the television screen. Dan noticed too. He quickly offered up his seat to Charlotte; an instinctive gesture from a father of three girls, willing to do anything, to encourage a love of sport. Never before has she followed a sport on television with such magnetism. She is absolutely fascinated with the sport. If rugby is screening on TV then her eyes will be drawn to it.
Sophie is also interested, but not with quite the intensity. Maybe it’s because Charlotte’s spent the past term at school talking about the rugby, dressing up in colours to represent a given country, sharing food for an international lunch to mark the start of the RWC 2011 with her class-mates, played (and loved) ‘ripper rugby‘ and even seen a couple of All Blacks walking her school grounds! Maybe it’s because she’s a born Kiwi (despite both her parents English roots – with a dash of Scottish and Chinese). As to what team she supports – well, it depends on the game. I’ll have to ask her who she’d support in an England vs New Zealand game!
Ask her why she’s drawn to the game she’ll give an honest answer, that comes direct from the mouth of an eight year old,
“It’s funny watching the men pile on top of each other!”
She is drawn to the game in awe, as many woman I know (and a few men) would agree. The sheer power, strength, agility and skill of a rugby player (or any athlete), on top of his (or her) game, is amazing to watch.
Dan and I came to New Zealand having grown up on a diet of mostly football (more often called ‘soccer’ here). Dan grew up in Lancashire, proudly supporting Burnley. I grew up with a father from Liverpool who would have to find out the results, without fail, every Saturday. These days it’s easy to get results, but back then we’d be out and about and have to make a pit-stop at a TV store, or a pub, or anywhere with a TV to get the results. I remember lazy afternoons lying on the sofa, cuddled up next to my Dad, with the football blaring from the screen. Occasionally my Dad would shout something at the screen, or even get up and wave his fist. When I met Dan I was already well trained to understand the importance of football to British men – and the passion that went with that.
So coming to New Zealand was a big change for Dan and, in a smaller way, for me. Rugby was now the talk of the office around Friday drinks (Friday drinks in the office was, in itself, a new thing for us – and as a P.A. it was part of my job to order in the drinks – or else – each week!). Weekends would be spent with new Kiwi friends watching rugby games in taverns, bars or ‘the local’ (they don’t really use the word ‘pubs’ here). Occasionally we’d enjoy the thrill of a live game. The atmosphere wasn’t quite the same as watching a live game of British soccer, but we weren’t going to tell the Kiwis that!
Back in 1997 there was no big stadium in Wellington. There was ‘Athletic Park‘ in Berhempore, where the first game was played in 1896. The last game was played in 1999 and the site is now a retirement village. I feel quite fortunate to have experienced a few games on those stands – especially from the open-topped Millard stand (quite an act of bravery in a strong southerly!). Now we watch games in Wellington’s grand stadium, affectionately known to the locals as ‘the cake tin’, where the seats feel a lot safer and the ‘Mexican waves’ stream round in a circular motion, with no angles.
If our daughters passion for the game continues it looks like our watching of live games may become a family affair in the not too distant future. Next term Charlotte is signing up for ‘touch rugby‘ at school! Sophie is going for tennis, but she’s cheering loudly for the All Blacks in the RWC!
Even Alice can say ‘All Blacks’!