In New Zealand, Rugby’s heart lies in community, family and friendship.
While many foreigners don’t get our humour, passion or our pride for rugby, I think what is having a profound affect on our image, is the way our media behaves. The British & Irish Lions Tour highlighted this problem and it shows no sign of abating.
We all grumble about media, fake news, worthless gossip and sensationalist headlines. But there is a bigger story here and it has implications for us as a nation that few realise. Our international reputation for being welcoming and friendly is becoming overshadowed by our rugby media and their relentless assault on individuals and teams, with many stories bordering on blatant defamation. Editors don’t care as long as we still click on it, hiding behind the ‘it’s just an opinion’ excuse, regardless of harm caused.
We all grumble about media, fake news, worthless gossip and sensationalist headlines
Difficult to read
I was compelled to comment after coming across a recent article that I found particularly difficult to read. This time it criticised the All Blacks, labelling them dirty and singling out individual players as intentionally dangerous. Rugby is a fast-moving, very physical contact sport. The players are adapting as well as can be expected to the new rules and coaches have their work cut out making sure their players change their tackle technique to make things safer for all. The All Blacks are no worse than any other team and the article failed to provide any supporting evidence to prove otherwise, as is typical.
I was just as appalled and embarrassed, frankly, at the press coverage of The Lions team, and Gatland himself. One of our own, who we are supposedly proud of. I was heartened to see others had the same view as me and an overwhelming majority of fans were really angry about it.
Hansen said the fans are part of the reason the All Blacks are so successful. We expect a lot of them. That expectation and desire to please us and make us proud drives them to play better and better. We can have that same impact on the NZ media. They don’t so much care about what we think, in fact, it’s obvious they set out to anger us. But they do care about money. They have to. We are the consumer, we hold the key to changing media behaviour and how the rest of the world sees us. Right now, despite the amazing hospitality we showed touring Lions fans, we are seen as arrogant, constantly critical of refs and our own team, and we are seen as rude to our guests. That is not who Kiwis are.
Neither are we, as a nation, more likely to tolerate violence or foul play, as the article in question accuses us of doing. I would never support a team like that and no rugby fan I know would either. The problem is, this isn’t going to change unless *we* the Kiwi fans, insist upon it. I don’t mean writing comments. I don’t mean making complaints to Editors. There is only one way to force them to change: do not click, do not read, do not support. Every click earns them money, and money talks.
This does not mean you will be left without good, honest, high-quality commentary either. This is the age where our choices are seemingly limitless. I sought out change and found The 1014. Here is where we can create the rugby community that reflects who we really are. If you want to uphold Rugby’s values, please carefully consider every click you make.
Author: April-Tui Buckley
I am a rugby-mad kiwi woman who grew up in remote parts of New Zealand, later settling in Wellington and now living in London with my husband and daughter, just down the road from Twickenham. I can usually be found creating and blogging recipes and have been passionate about health and fitness all my adult life. I love to watch and be inspired by top athletes and their commitment to their sport. For me, sport is one of those things that rounds out life, bringing fun and joy to our lives, a source of entertainment that bonds people and communities together.