The only trophy we won that day was the blood, sweat and tears we left on the field…..and that was enough -anonymous
Okay so we all know Kiwi’s have an accent different to the American accent, but there are so many moments when they say one thing then later I see it written and I think to myself “Oh that’s what they are saying.” Case in point, for three years I cheered for “Richie McChord,” one of the greatest All Blacks and the current All Black captain. Little did I know (when the Rugby World Cup rolled around) his name was actually Richie McCaw. I also wondered why people kept saying they were “naked” when they were exhausted. Again a year or so later I saw it written “knackered.” No idea why but that means I’m done, finished, tired beyond what I can handle. One of my all time favourites: my first couple of days in New Zealand I wondered why people were commenting on my derrière. Later I found out that “sweet as” meant “that’s great” or “that’s fine” or “I really like that.” I’m okay with my body but I knew my backside wasn’t my greatest asset, so to speak.
This week my city won the Ranfurly Shield. This is a prized possession of rugby teams. A trophy that is a wood shield and the most coveted piece of wood in the nation. We are currently in region rugby. Region plays against region and whoever possesses the Shield is the top dog. It’s a deep tradition that means more than money here in rugby land. It’s a unique tradition because once you have it you can only lose it if another region challenges you on your turf. It’s sudden death, to the end, winner takes all…the pride of the nation.
My city had it a total of SIX days. Sigh. It happened to be while I was gone as well. They unfortunately lost it to the region where I was staying with Hayley and Ryan while playing in our beloved stadium back in Dunedin. I watched in sadness as our team lost 19 to 20. It was as if you saw the stadium go silent and depression settle on the region.
The next day Max and I were flying home at the exact time the “Shield” was flying in with the entire rugby team. The entire city was coming out to see the “logger wood.” I quickly assumed that was another name for the Shield. Our friend Ryan wanted to go see the “logger wood” too so he was happy that our flights corresponded. The airport is small but it was packed full with Black & White striped T-shirts in all sizes. (The region’s rugby team colours) Littlies were there in black & white onesies and grandpas packed out the airport in black & white jerseys. Even a few local gang members showed up. Rugby knows no age (or profession). It’s one of my favourite things about it.
Just to remind you I’m American (like you can forget, look how long my blogs are I’m clearly not Kiwi actually 99.9% of Kiwi’s don’t have a blog or they deny it if they do), my region has just lost the coveted Shield and I am about to get on a plane home after two weeks away from my husband. We got to the airport early because of the celebrations so we were able to experience it all. As I stood there swept away in local excitement and national pride with the local rugby team’s song blaring (who knew they had a song?!) it happens. I start crying. The rugby players got off the plane and the airport erupted in cheers. Kids were screaming. Adults were belting out the rugby song and here I stood bawling at the joy of a region and the sacred tradition. I can blame it on being exhausted from a fun two weeks, but reality is I love watching celebrations. I love seeing people that don’t know each other and might not even like each other come together. Rugby is a great equaliser in my mind. It brings rich and poor together. Young and old. Athletic and academic. It’s just wonderful.
As I sat down to write this I quickly looked up the name of the shield because I never actually understood what they were saying. Not only did I find out they were saying “Ranfurly Shield” but they weren’t saying “logger wood” either, but “Log o’ Wood.” Now that makes more sense.
My husband laughed at me that I didn’t hear that right and asked what “logger wood” was supposed to mean. I don’t know! I live in a foreign country you fake it ’til you make. And that’s exactly what I did until I saw it written then I had a good laugh and remembered I still don’t understand half the things people say here and they speak English. What the heck would I do in a non-English speaking country?! As long as it had rugby I just might be okay.