My first experience with rugby was at university in the U.S. I shared an apartment at the time with several other people and one of my roommates played on the rugby team. He invited me to a party after one of their games and my friend and I went. We left not long after a loud contingent of players started singing crude songs at the top of their lung and asking who wanted to be rugby queen.
But after moving to New Zealand I have a much different image of the sport. I even got up at 4 am and headed to the bar to watch the All Blacks win the World Cup. It was my first time watching a rugby game end to end and it was fascinating. As a spectator, it is soooooo much more interesting than American Football (called Gridiron here) – the game is fast-paced and never slows down for the full 80 minutes. If someone gets hurt, the medic comes on the field and they play around them if possible. Even half-time barely lasts long enough for a trip to the bathroom.
Rugby players are public figures here and hugely respected. All Blacks shirts, flags, etc. are everywhere and the All Blacks themselves can be seen in advertisements and such all over – including in billboards for Jockey that get prime coverage in Auckland.
Yesterday I finally went to Eden Park to watch a game – after over a year in NZ! We haven’t yet gotten tickets to see the All Blacks here because the last game was sold out and tickets were going for $200 a piece on TradeMe. Instead we went to a provincial game between Auckland and Otago at $20 per ticket. A quick 20 minute train ride from Brittomart out to Eden Park and we were there. Only one section of the stadium was open because they don’t get big attendance for these games but it was fine – a fun game but Auckland won by a landslide (I think the score was 54 to 15 in the end).
For some strange reason, whereas in the U.S. you often have mascots in costumes walking around the edges of the field – last night there was a chicken and a potato? For half-time, rather than cheerleaders and marching bands we had Zorb races. I’ll have to write about the Zorb in a future post as the first Zorb site was opened in New Zealand. If you attended the game then the ride home on the train was free with your ticket. It was a full train with flag-waving Aucklanders on the way back to the CBD which was a fun way to end the night.
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