This summer I embarked on a 2 week solo roadie around the East Coast of our North Island. In normal times, this would be an absolute indulgence; but this year even more so. I am very aware of how privileged I am to be able to do this. And I’m trying to fill and appreciate every moment
I also decided to take this opportunity to challenge myself writing wise… and so decided to “freelance” my blog…. Am asking for suggestions for blog topics, and then giving myself 36 hours to write and publish the blog.
So here we go….
My final blog suggestion was from a fellow rugby fan, though he hails from Chiefs country, so how we became friends is a mystery.. .lol
He has suggested a blog on Joe Moody – Crusader player and All Black #1134. And I have to confess I have spent most of my 36 hours pondering on the angle I should take to write this piece… (Of course, Steve being a rugby writer himself has added a smidge of pressure to my thought process….)
But here I go….
Walking to the corner of the dressing room, he reached his peg and unzipped his kit bag. There on top, lay the Valhalla for every NZ male, the coveted All Blacks jersey. It was and still remains a prize so special that it stands alongside the most hallowed, legendary sporting objects known. Like the Masters Green Jacket in the Augusta National.
Except that this was black. Always has been, always will be. If symbolism becomes reality in the sporting arena, then this simple rugby jersey, idolized by New Zealanders around the world, takes on a different aura. Universally revered, the All Blacks are arguably the most dominant team in sporting history. At once, the famed jersey inspires deep respect. Fear, too, in some cases.
Peter Bills; “The Jersey”
I first met Joe Moody at the Ladies Crusaders Lunch in 2014. He was so obviously completely out of his comfort zone – lunch with 500 raucous women made most of these boys wish they were facing a South African scrum instead. But here’s the thing; he took it all in his stride. Hung out, took selfies, chatted, poured drinks, and did what was expected of him, because this was part of his job. And there in lies my admiration for him, apart from his massive rugby skills. He is a professional. A recently newly minted Crusader player first selected in 2013 as a Crusader and 2014 as an All Black; he realised his selections meant he just didn’t need to turn up on Match day and play. That turning up for practices, PR sessions or just passing in the street and being polite are all part of the pay packet.
He plays prop – one of the big boys in the scrum; but has also shown that he can be fleet of foot and has scored 3 tries for the Crusaders and 5 for the All Blacks. He is a work horse on the field; silent; focussed; just turns up and plays his best. His career has been beset with injuries and so has sometimes lacked continuity; but 2020, while the world was going mad, Joe had his best season ever. I have been lucky to watch him play live in both jerseys of several occasions.
As a young man he was a wrestling athlete and was at one time a bronze medal winner in the Junior Commonwealth games: a fact some of his opponents may take into account before winding him up.. lol.
Professional sportspeople often get given a rough ride. Generally, it is when they misbehave; or act out. We expect a certain standard from people in the public eye and think that sportspeople especially should act as role models. I’m in 2 minds about this. They are just paid employees; albeit very well paid employees; but do we hold lawyers, painters, architects to the same high standards of behaviour – they too are well paid.
I think here in NZ though, Rugby is our national sport, and these players are revered. And there in lies the difference. It is considered a privilege to “Wear the jersey”; especially the All Blacks one. It is earned, not expected and as a result we expect those who get the right to wear it to act with honour and discipline. And, actually, generally they do. We know kids look up to them, and some dream of pulling on The Jersey themselves; and that is where the role model expectation lies. A combination of privilege to wear the jersey and knowing that kids are looking to them for cues as to how to behave. There has been a lot of work over the years to clean up rugby in terms of sexism, racism, and the drink til you drop culture. There is some work to still be done, and some fences to still be fixed. Supporters from previous generations were not known for their soberness or civility; but my hope is if the players and officials clean up the off field expectations then this will trickle through to the supporters too…
And Joe Joe, as he is affectionately known in my group; has certainly met that brief.. He turns up, does his job, and leaves with dignity. And isn’t that how we should all approach our lives and our jobs? He has also agreed to many, many selfies with my gal posse; and in fact, the photo I used to share before I regularly did selfies, to show people what I looked like; was my favourite one with him… I used to jokingly say, if you wanted a good photo of me, just throw in a rugby player… now pets, babies, friends, scenery or just a dose of self confidence will do the trick
So, my take on the brief? If you’re paid to do a job, or have earned a privileged place in life? Step up; do your best and always, always be humble….
He toka tū moana
As durable as a rock pounded by the surf