This week we’re visiting New Zealand for the 2019 Australasian Religious Press Association annual conference in Christchurch.
When visiting New Zealand as my wife and I have done on numerous occasions, everywhere one looks are sporting fields. New Zealand is a magnificent sporting nation.
Who can go past the All Blacks in the Rugby, the Silver Ferns in the Netball, the Black Sticks in the Hockey, the Tall Blacks in the Basketball, the Rowers and Canoeists, the Black Caps ‘Cricketers’ who should have been World Champions last month after an horrific umpire error. Whatever sport – men’s or women’s - the Kiwis excel.
It is therefore reasonable to ask what are the ingredients that make these Kiwis for generations - such giant killers - on the world stage.
These are some ideas I have found
New Zealand is an outdoors country. From the time they kiddies are nippers, out they go trekking (bush walking and camping). The cold, the snow, the hail, the sleet, the rain are no barriers to this experience and it’s considered a rite of passage.
New Zealand has many high places, up, up and up they climb, backpacks filled to capacity with everyone one might need – tent, tent pegs, cooking items, plates, cutlery, and they are expert at putting these things up and the like.
This gives every New Zealander an appeal to the fresh air experience, a toughness with the environment, a splendour of the rugged, a spirit of challenge and a oneness with the idea that the tough get going.
Now with that essential grounding, the same spirit of doggedness is applied to their chosen sporting endeavours. It’s war out there. From the young to the more mature, not a quarter is given once in competition.
This goes back decades and decades. As a hockey man, I’ve been reading the history of New Zealand – Australian Hockey Tests since well before WWII. Australian prides itself as a hockey nation with a history to prove it in both men’s and women’s, but it was never a simple matter with the New Zealand teams. Triumphs were pretty even.
This is exemplified across all sports – look at last month’s Netball World Cup, the Silver Ferns beat Australia by one point, and Australia beat them in the last pool round by that same margin.
In sport, never underestimate the New Zealanders.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html