Deborah Coddington
Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Rugby World Cup's joyful voyage must not falter on reef of doom

Everyone has been able to join in the fun of the RWC rugby. Photo / Dean Purcell
Everyone has been able to join in the fun of the RWC rugby. Photo / Dean Purcell

For some six glorious weeks, New Zealand found its happy place. The Rugby World Cup transformed us from a nation of gloomy Eeyores into little bundles of joy.

Well, not everyone. I have friends determined to make a statement on the pointlessness of rugby but their arguments, on Facebook at least, have been studiously ignored.

The fun of rugby is that unlike art, you don't have to know every bitty detail to join the national conversation.

I, who know nothing, was chuffed last week that my predictions on NewstalkZB were 100 per cent accurate - the Wallabies, the French and the All Blacks would all beat the Springboks, the English and the Pumas respectively.

We should thank Helen Clark for our success. In November 2005, straight after winning the election, the then Prime Minister jumped on a plane and joined Tana Umaga, Colin Meads and Jock Hobbs in Dublin to pitch successfully for New Zealand to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Aotearoa, she said, could offer a "stadium of four million". We've done her proud, I think, though nature - and squabbles - seemed sometimes against our being ready on time.

Did Clark wonder if she'd still be ruling New Zealand when the rugby nations came to play? I doubt she predicted her party would be in such disarray.

But her former president, Mike Williams, could muse Clark plotted a grand plan of revenge on Labour, determined that it should not succeed without her at the helm. So Phil Goff now goes into the election when rugby fever distracts the entire country from any serious political issues, and he's campaigning against a Prime Minister with rock star status.

Far-fetched nonsense? Of course, but so is the blog Williams wrote on Pundit recently in which he reckoned Don Brash was destroying Act, National's partner, because "behind Dr Brash's urbane and professorial persona beats a heart thirsting for utu".

Brash wants revenge, says Williams, because someone in National gave material to Nicky Hager for The Hollow Men, thus denying Brash a second chance to lead National to government.

Whatever. And Graham Henry's barred the All Blacks from accepting food from waiters called Susie.

Speaking of Henry, I'd love a camera trained on him during games. He epitomises the Kiwi understatement - putting down a tick when a player does well, eyebrows moving down a fraction and lips a horizontal line if things aren't going our way.

I fear for the legs of his chair though, much like the couches of the nation. If they're anything like our couch, they'll need re-upholstering when this tournament is over, and if we had a parrot it would have learned to shout two sentences in best courtroom volume: "That was forward!" and "He's been doing it all night, ref!"

Come tonight, I'll be peeping out from the corner of that couch, such will be the excitement of the ABs versus the Wallabies. Naysayers - take comfort the rugby has spared you from at least six weeks of an election campaign. The billboards are up, but the phones are off the hook.

Because most of the country would rather celebrate Mils Muliaina's 100 test matches, and sympathise over his shattered shoulder, than consider whether John Key misled the House. The credit downgrade is serious, but what now for Dan Carter? In Wellington, we've always saluted Piri Weepu as one of the greatest and no one in New Zealand can lead the haka better than he can.

For several weeks, we've been positive, joyous, uplifted and not mean-spirited. We want the All Blacks to win, but we've also shown that with goodwill, we can host a major event.

Then, 10 days ago, New Zealanders reverted to type.

In the Bay of Plenty, the container ship Rena hit the Astrolabe reef and we all became a nation of Cassandras again. Our comfort zone, it seems, is when we're in the midst of disaster.

Footnote: Since I was right last week, how about going for the double. I think Wales will beat France, and the ABs will beat the Wallabies - and we will finally get revenge for 1905!

- Herald on Sunday

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