In 2011, New Zealand, a small series of islands in the South Pacific that half the world knows of, and the other half haven’t a clue about, played host to the Rugby World Cup. Given that for those who do know where New Zealand is, visiting is a once in a lifetime journey to a magical paradise, the opportunity for sports fans and rugby fans alike to visit and be part of the action would prove irresistible. What the greater world probably wouldn’t be so aware of is that for those of us fortunate enough to live here, being in your home country during this World Cup has proven to be something truly, truly special.
New Zealand is different to the rest of the world. It’s a country of 4 million people for whom rugby is not a religion but just part of being a New Zealander. Even those who aren’t fans know about it, who the players are and when a big game is on. Yet it’s not like most places I’ve ever seen, not an excuse as a fan of such a sport, to promote excessive drinking and a yob culture, where taste makes way for crass and supporting your national team means checking your brains at the door. Here, in New Zealand everyone celebrates it as much as having fish and chips on the beach, the first snow at the Mount, Tui billboards, jandals and reminiscing over Goodnight Kiwi. Young or old, people come together as one, as a big family celebrating the fabric of their country, especially when we’re playing Australia, and chill out, smile and enjoy a sense of national belonging. I reckon a good 60% of Kiwis own an All Blacks jersey, and although some see it with a sense of cynicism, noone will deny the All Blacks their haka.
Being here in New Zealand when the whole country, and I mean, the WHOLE country turns it on for the world to see, uniting behind the ABs and being quietly proud of their little Pacific home, is a genuine pleasure. And so I set out to try and capture a little bit of the spirit of Wellington and New Zealand during this time. No players, just people and the way they’re sucked in.
Browse through the gallery below, and have a look at the photos. I hope you enjoy. I have, in so many ways.