There's a few emotions that were at play yesterday and they all link back to a hugely positive vibe sifting its way throughout Aotearoa. Obviously happiness and joy are at the forefront but I couldn't shake the purest form of pride taking over, which isn't a feeling or emotion that we get to experience too often. Being from Aotearoa means that you have to toe a certain line which doesn't mean that you follow all the rules and live your live as a sheep (lolz), nah we're just simple folk from a corner of the globe and it's on you to represent Aotearoa as well as you can.
For average jokers, this usually means being nice and down to Earth. There's a reason why kiwis have a free pass throughout any country as those who have ventured around the world before you have laid that platform. They have spread our kiwi positivity and you'll struggle to find someone in the country where you are that talks shit about kiwis - people like kiwis.
People like kiwis because hard work has been done to establish how kiwis are viewed around the world. The All Blacks are perhaps the most prominent example of this. Consider how you conduct yourself when venturing around the world at one level and then the All Blacks in a RWC final at another level ... there's no higher level at which someone can showcase all that is great about Aotearoa than a RWC final, not for kiwis.
Sonny Bill Williams gave his winners medal to a kid. This made me and I'm sure it made you extremely proud as well. Sonny Bill Williams is one of us, but he's not one of us ya know? He's a star, a premier-top-shelf athlete, yet he performed a good deed as you or I would want him to. He performed a good deed as you or I would want ourselves to do, hence he's not that different to you or I.
Peep Liam Messam giving the same kid the beanie off his head as well, can't sleep on that...
I can't restrict my pride to a good deed though and I'm sure you share my vibe here. The All Blacks made me proud as a sports lover for a variety of reasons. Sticking with Sonny Bill, while the world is at war with people killing other people in the name of religion or skin colour, the All Blacks (like many other sports teams around the world, shout out to ya'll) represent the diversity of our land. Sonny Bill is a Muslim and there's a lesson that many folk around the world could learn here as not only are there religions coming together, there's also pakeha, Pacific Islanders and Maori coming together to represent us.
There's the perfect mix of veterans and fresh faces that made me super proud as well. Dan Carter was the man, nothing less and the efforts of all the other OG's as well as the younger players who seamlessly fitted into the All Blacks system showcased the near-perfect running of a sports team. Think about sports teams around the world whether national or international and try to put a team up against the All Blacks in terms of culture, professionalism, foresight and skill. I can only really come up with the Queensland Maroons, who have enjoyed consistent success because the right pieces have been put in place to ensure that the core values and ideals are never lost, they are just passed on.
Dramas? The only dramas around the All Blacks are created by local media ... because the All Blacks don't give them anything to discuss. That's a mark of the level at which the All Blacks exist on as a sports team as kiwi media nit-pick at the slightest details, at players who don't deserve it and situations that might exist but don't right now. There's no diva and there's no off-field issues, the All Blacks are just a group of kiwi lads who share the same goal.
One aspect that makes me especially proud of this group is how open minded the coaching staff are. A lot has been made about the way in which the All Blacks play rugby, which is vastly different to how other countries play. I'm not sure if I would have been less proud if the All Blacks had won this RWC on the back of gritty rugby, that would have been cool as well but the All Blacks' coaching staff went out on a limb to be different. I don't see being entertaining or whatever as being better, what makes me so proud is that the All Blacks blazed their own trail. When the rugby world was moving this way in the past four years, the All Blacks went that way and backed themselves to be the best.
Some will say that the All Blacks have an advantage here because all kiwi rugby players are skillful and so it lends itself to playing a certain way. Yeah, sure that definitely plays its part in all of this but Coach Shag still needs to show enough kahunas to outline a plan to take on the rugby world and play a different style of rugby, a style that rarely wins you a World Cup. Shag said fuck that shit, we're doing this and we're going to be better than you. That's awesome.
We're going to throw the footy around and we'll still smash you in the forwards.
Aotearoa is lucky enough to be one of the strongest sporting nations in relation to population size with a variety of teams and athletes at the top of their respective sports. The All Blacks lead the way and while I don't want to take anything away from other teams and athletes who also conduct themselves admirably, the All Blacks have done this the longest and they do this under the most pressure.
The All Blacks are the sports team/athlete in Aotearoa under the most pressure. And under that pressure, their values/culture etc stay strong.
It's only right to finish this with an eye on the future, except my vision might be a bit different. Rugby is still a sport played by a minority around the world and while this World Cup showed that rugby is growing around the world, it's got a long way to go. Many kiwis don't see the point in playing games in the United States or in Japan, or even welcoming Argentina and Japan into our competitions. It's not the job of the All Blacks to help grow rugby, it's not in any sort of contract or anything like that yet it's something that we can do.
The All Blacks are the best team and biggest brand in rugby - a sport that we all want to see broaden its horizons. I'm just going to imagine how proud I would be if the All Blacks led rugby into a new era and said 'follow us, this is where we are going and we're taking rugby to greater heights'.