After weekend after weekend of late nights, early mornings and anticipatory couch-dozing, Rugby World Cup 2015 drew to a beautiful, satisfying close on Sunday. It was six weeks of preoccupation, excitement, nerves and elation. Still suffering from the trauma of 2007, how close the 2011 final was and a general suspicion of the French, I found myself making pies early on the Sunday of the quarter-final to take my mind off the awful possibilities. Rolling pastry at 6.30am as a form of therapy. No matter the hour of the day and no matter who was playing, each week the lights on around the valley told the story of a national obsession. And then there’s this guy…
As a nation we were rewarded for our devotion by a team of extraordinary, dedicated men who put on demonstrations of speed, physicality and intelligent play. We can be (and are) proud of our All Blacks. But it occurred to me more than once over the course of the tournament that as much as I love the fact that rugby brings us together, it’s also a source of complaint for me that it sometimes seems like it’s the ONLY thing around which our sense of national identity seems to rally. Across ethnicities, income brackets, professions, countries of origin, religions – it brings us together.
But beyond rugby, what does it mean to be a Kiwi? We promote our diversity (ahem, that’s another conversation), but what are the things that we share? What values can we all line up behind? As a nation, who do we want to be in the world? And without being offensive (or too easily offended), what are our differences? With the possibility of a new flag on the horizon, it is timely for us to consider these questions. Some might argue they should be answered before we choose a new flag… others would say that a new flag will serve as a focus for the discussion. Both sides probably have a point.
We are young. Not even 200 years since the signing of the Treaty. Growing up will mean asking questions of ourselves and each other as we explore what a common sense of nationhood might look like. Whatever the ‘look’, I hope it feels something like the magic, excitement, pride and sense of community we have shared in the Rugby World Cup 2015 – and that we experience it more often.