All manner of good happens among community from sport

New Zealand’s success in the World Test Championship Final was a moment to savour. PHOTO: REUTERS
New Zealand’s success in the World Test Championship Final was a moment to savour. PHOTO: REUTERS
I half watched the All Blacks on Saturday night. I was a bit like the half-filled stadium, interested but not particularly engaged. Earlier that day I had my fill of community sports, watching semifinals of hockey at the turf, before wandering across to the stadium, to watch the finals of the schoolboy rugby.

Dr Anna Campbell
Dr Anna Campbell
What a game that was — the valiant Southland Boys’ came from behind and had one hand on the trophy. The Southland schoolboy supporters at one end of the stadium boomed across the seats at the “Hoops Army”, Otago Boys’ supporters (sensibly separated by stands of adults). When Otago Boys’ first five, Finn Hurley’s drop kick from 40 metres out wobbled over the posts, the voracious roar which broke out represented community sports at its absolute best — hard for the All Blacks to compete with that!

The following day, I woke up to sunshine and my own semifinal — the mighty West Taieri Ladies B team were to take on the City Dinosaurs to compete for a spot in the coveted third division trophy final. We are a team who have played together for years. We have celebrated babies, new jobs, promotions, weddings and travel. We have commiserated redundancies, worries over children and houses being egged (mine, for weeks on end). Late last year, we shared the loss of long-term coach and club stalwart Paul Barringer.

It has been an incredible few months for sport. Despite the contentious buildup, the Olympics were magnificent, particularly for New Zealand sporting women. The gold medallist sevens team brought Polynesian culture to the world stage and tears to my eyes. On the last day of the Olympics, I allowed myself a lazy afternoon on the couch, and watched Lydia Ko surge into gold medal position only for one poor shot to drop her to bronze — the minuscule margins of elite sport.

Her sportsmanship and attitude as she represented New Zealand and her country of birth, South Korea, filled me with awe and highlighted the role sport can play in building bridges across ethnicities.

Of course, I couldn’t write a column about sport without mentioning the victorious New Zealand men’s cricket team — I felt jet-lagged for a week as I watched into the small hours, conversing with my brothers online, who were watching in the UK. As we edged closer to victory, memories of the one-day world cup left us in a lather of nerves. Messages flew between us “OMG we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it,” “stop, stop, you’re hexing us, we’re gonna choke.” “I just can’t watch any more, I am going to bed” (me, what a lie that was).

In celebration of victory, I made a cricket ball-shaped cake, with a mace on top, for the Aussie in our office — I also made him a marzipan kangaroo, complete with sandpaper in his pouch — petty, I know, but satisfying all the same!

As I reflect on all that is going in in the sporting world, including the desperately sad demise of cyclist Olivia Podmore, I wonder, how do we embrace sport for all its glory, yet keep it in context for our young and vulnerable? How do we balance the world of measurement and performance analysis with the reality that our young sports stars are people, with emotions and idiosyncrasies.

Perhaps, we need to do more to celebrate the fact that sport is a lifetime activity, not something which is finished once you have passed your physical peak. I was involved with Taieri cricket for some time and there is a band of gentlemen at that club who are, may I suggest, somewhat advanced in years. They are there at the senior games and many practices, they support club committee meetings, renovations and take on the odd jobs that need to be done. As older men, some who have played at elite levels themselves and have many life experiences, they can pass on their wisdom and support to the younger players. They remind me that sport is more than what goes on on the park.

My hockey team won a spot in the final this weekend. Win or lose, we will reflect on the season past, the friendships built and the loss of one of our dear members. Paul and family, you are forever in our thoughts.

  • Anna Campbell is the co-founder of Zestt Wellness, a nutraceutical company and a Partner of AbacusBio Ltd, an agri-technology company.

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