Undercover, in search of Wallaby-haters

By Derek Cheng

Weekend Herald reporter Derek Cheng decked himself out in Australian gear to see what reactions he could provoke. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Weekend Herald reporter Derek Cheng decked himself out in Australian gear to see what reactions he could provoke. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Spat on and abused, they said. Last weekend at Eden Park, as the Aussies went down to the Irish, the vitriol was such that many Australians said they would never visit New Zealand again.

The Weekend Herald was dubious, so we decided to put these claims to the test in downtown Wellington before the Australian game against the United States.

Earlier in the day I had to swallow my national pride and purchase a Wallaby scarf, jersey, beanie and badges. I had green and gold facepaint on my cheeks. Garish yellow sunglasses.

But was this going to be provocative enough? I didn't think so, so I scrawled "Quade Cooper is GOD" in black letters across the front of my jersey, and walked up Lambton Quay.

People weren't biting. Some looked at the lettering, clearly reading it, but moved on. Not even a shake of the head.

But there was a nibble closer to Wellington's fan zone on the waterfront.

"Quade Cooper!" exclaimed a young lady, clad in red and white stripes and a US flag as a cape to show who she was supporting.

"He's a ****wit," she screeched, before erupting in laughter.

Chantelle, a Wellingtonian, admitted she was supporting the United States because "Australia is our arch-enemy", and when I defended Cooper she bit back: "He's a traitor!"

But he's a better runner than Dan Carter, and a crisper passer, I protested.

Her friend Lisa, also from Wellington, couldn't help but interject.

"But he doesn't look as good in his underwear."

Outside the Chicago Bar, where the US Embassy was hosting an event, I told a couple of ladies holding the Stars and Stripes that they were going to be annihilated.

"So what?" asked Jess, another Wellingtonian and honorary US fan, because she supports anyone who plays Australia.

Around the corner, Chris and Brendon Ashmore, from Canberra, predicted a scoreline of lots to the green and gold and little for the red, white and blue.

They'd been here for two weeks.

"A good atmosphere," Chris said, "except most New Zealanders really hate Australians".

Any abuse?

"Yeah, but mostly from the Irish," he said. "It's all good-natured. We give as good as we get."

I had failed. The only abuse I was able to elicit was not even directed at me, but at some letters on my jersey.

Outside the McDonald's by the train station, I tried again. As several dozen US supporters crossed the road, I stood on the other side, holding my ground.

"USA! USA!" a boy yelled at me as we crossed paths. Then he saw my jersey.

"Do you like Quade Cooper?" he asked in a clear Kiwi accent. He's awesome, I replied, biting my tongue.

"He tries to annoy Richie McCaw," the boy retorted. "And that's mean. That's bullying."

No poison in those words. Just a hint of sad resignation.

I entered the stadium and searched for the best places to erupt with a shout of "Aussie! Aussie Aussie!"

But the worst reaction was merely a "Boooooo!"

In desperation, I invaded the section of the stadium where the stars and stripes were brightest and most plentiful, but any attempt at provocation here was met with a resounding and deafening "USA! USA!"

Maybe Wellingtonians are more polite than Aucklanders. Or maybe a few bad apples have disproportionately tarred the rest of us.

Or maybe we just don't hate the Aussies all that much.

- NZ Herald

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