At about 11pm on Monday, Sam Whitelock led his team through customs and into the reception hall of Christchurch Airport. And what a reception they received.
Hundreds of fans – young and old – turned up to greet this champion team, the first to win the Super Rugby title since the earthquakes.
What a spectacular season, capped off in the early hours of Sunday morning with the Super Rugby title. It was against all odds that Sam Whitelock and the team took to the field – Ellis Park stadium – surrounded by more than 60,000 fans rooting for the other team and a handful on their side. But what we know is that their home crowd was with them in spirit. And they knew that.
Their win was against the odds. So how did they do that? They had the magic of a team ethos and a razor sharp coach who has been part of winning three titles as a player and now as a coach. And he does a mean breakdance as well.
The team ethos is on the Crusaders website and it is inspirational. “An understated ruthless pursuit of excellence. Leaving nothing to chance, by attention to detail, courage under fire, innovation and risk taking, all in red and black!”
We had a civic reception for them on Tuesday afternoon. I know many fans wanted a full-blown parade, but we had a short window before those Crusaders who are part of the All Blacks squad had to leave for camp on Wednesday, and they wanted it after school so the school kids could come. It was great.
From a financial point of view, there is a cost in holding such an event. What has frustrated me the most is the cost of closing streets for a short period of time and providing barriers. I want to explore how we could minimise that.
That being said, I think it is vital that we celebrate success. Whether it’s sporting achievements or outstanding service, it is good for us to come together and bask in the reflected glory of those who go the extra mile. And there are benefits as well, beyond the community coming together to celebrate. The media coverage (including social media) puts a positive spotlight on the city.
Finally, the images of Ellis Park stadium have reminded us of the exhilaration that comes from tens of thousands of people gathering to experience an occasion like this.
We need a multi-use arena and we need to have confirmed funding to build it. We will receive a report by the end of this month, which should give us a way forward. I, for one, can’t wait.
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