A Sporting Chance
Sports clubs are the beating heart of rural New Zealand. They have the power to bring communities together and raise spirits when times are tough..
You can tell a lot about a community from the state of its sports club. Towns with roaring crowds on the touchlines and packed trophy cabinets tend to be desirable places to live: community pride is strong, jobs are secure and property prices are relatively high.
Drive through a town where the local sporting club is on its last legs and you’ll be hard pressed to find signs of life: employers and opportunities will have often scarpered and the community will be fraying at the edges.
Sport, whether playing it or watching it, has been integral part of what it means to be a Kiwi. Historically, it was the entertainment, giving families focus for their leisure time on Saturday afternoons.
For many, sports clubs have been the glue that have held their towns together and helped shape identities: when you think of Waitete in King Country, you think of Sir Colin Meads; when you think of Ngatapa in Poverty Bay, you think of Ian Kirkpatrick. But when a town is under stress, clubs can fold for want of a coach or enthusiastic parents, and people start to lose faith in their community.
Brent Anderson, head of community rugby at New Zealand Rugby, believes the values rugby promotes – pride, respect and resilience – can help people both on and off the field.
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