Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: A valuable lesson from sport

Crusaders rugby player Kieran Read helps with the clean up. Photo / Dean Purcell
Crusaders rugby player Kieran Read helps with the clean up. Photo / Dean Purcell

What are the ingredients in the best battle plans? That is one of the many questions our leaders will need to ask as a small nation deals with a large, terrifying and tragic earthquake.

Sport's significance in such situations will remain in the eyes of many different beholders.

One thing to be learned over years of watching and covering sport is that sentiment alone is pointless over time, that it is best channelled into a cohesive and worthy plan, that emotion provides energy that can be either harnessed or badly wasted.

Nothing has been more mystifying than watching the lessons continually dished out by the remarkable Crusaders go unheeded by the other New Zealand sides. People have looked, but they haven't learned.

Grand gestures - including pulling at the heartstrings - produce one-off results now and then, but meticulous planning, the careful harnessing of resources, intelligence and a belief in the modus operandi almost always win the days that matter over time.

The formal grieving for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake - from New Zealand and from abroad - will soon begin.

Afterwards, and even right now, they need material assistance and clear direction. They should automatically know, without any fear, that the rest of us are grieving with and for them, and that we salute their strength and heroism. We also understand those who want to flee. The weight will now fall on our politicians, builders, engineers, geologists, economists, architects, planners ... and bankers. I have said a wee prayer for those people - although to whom I'm not sure - because they face tough and draining tasks. At the same time, though, opportunities do exist, perhaps to create a magical, new-age city.

They should, I would humbly suggest, draw heavily on overseas expertise, including going to cities which have been similarly devastated to find how others have coped and emerged, even triumphantly, from the rubble.

Who knows how and even exactly where Christchurch will be rebuilt, but this is no job for the layman's wild opinion. We have trained our most determined and brightest minds, and now they have to step forward.

You don't have to look far to see examples of devastated cities - New Zealand's subscriber television service has channels quite devoted to World War II. Survival through those horrendous and unimaginable years relied heavily on leadership, inspiration and symbolism. Winston Churchill, of course, the great man, the RAF and the voice of Vera Lynn were pivotal to a remarkable victory in a sickening war. Even certain cartoonists of the day were said to have driven the war effort forward.

Churchill was unique. His was a life that appeared to have been lived solely for the purpose of leading a nation to safety from a dreadful war. We can't match that.

But don't underestimate the place sport and the arts can play in inspiring a city under siege, even in our more cynical and less romantic times.

What really stands out, though, about the British war effort was the extraordinary intelligence and lateral thinking that took place under immense pressure, from the code breakers to those who executed the invasion of Europe and the subterfuge that helped it succeed.

Christchurch has been hit tragically hard, but the impact is heightened because we are a country isolated from and spared many horrors. What counts now is how this nation thinks under pressure.

Millions live every day of their lives in places as horrible and hopeless as the state in which Christchurch has been left. Others have prevailed, and in far tougher circumstances.

We need to be inspired by the rest of the world, and invite it to be involved in the recovery. Having been overwhelmed by other nations' generosity in the immediate aftermath, we can be emboldened by their experiences and skills in the rebuilding process.

On pure sporting matters:

* South African Super Rugby referee Jonathan Kaplan must be called to account for his utterly baffling decision to award a penalty against the Brumbies prop Salesi Ma'afu, which led to the Rebels' winning goal in Melbourne. If the decision can't be explained, then Kaplan should be demoted for this shocker. All that occurred was a bit of push and shove after a collapsed scrum. There was no penalty offence to be seen.

* You can only shake your head at the New Zealand cricket team. Utter defeat or glory seems to be the mantra, with the former a short-priced favourite over the latter. New Zealand never had the best players, but they once had decent plans and perseverance when faced with those inevitable uphill battles.


The Highlanders - the deep south goes to the top of the world.


... in hope for something a bit more exciting from the World Cup.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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