If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two imposters just the same...
Damian McKenzie, Jordie Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown and Beauden Barrett on the 5th hole at New South Wales Golf Club at La Perouse,
From Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If'.
What has always impressed me is people who handle adversity with as much poise as they do success. It speaks to the quality and calibre of the individual and the environment they operate in and is reflected as much in how they treat others around them during a time of strife, when under stress and subject to great scrutiny and criticism.
Have had the privilege of interacting a little with the All Blacks during their extended stay in Sydney over the Tri-Nations tournament, hosting them at New South Wales Golf Club just after they arrived following their first win over the Wallabies at Eden Park. I posted and commented then on how well they conducted themselves, during that visit. That group included Beauden and Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith, Damian McKenzie, Brad Webber and the now famous, two tries in two minutes, debutante, Will Jordan.
I had agreed to host them again the Sunday afternoon, after that match against Argentina! Any one with an ounce of rugby or broader sporting knowledge knows which game I am referring to, where Argentina beat New Zealand for the first time ever. All Black fans like me, were gutted, though to be fair, given the improvement in Argentina over recent times, it was a matter of when, not if. The rest of the rugby world was delighted, for Argentina and also that the All Blacks had been taken down a peg.
So what about the players, how would they be feeling? How would they behave? Would they even still play?
Sent a text Sunday morning about numbers, it was Saturday at the Masters and I enquired if they were watching it and the text comes back. ‘Dustin’s on fire and there will be 8.’!
So it was to be the same guys as last time with the addition of Tyrel Lomax and Anton Lienert-Brown.
Anyway, wondering what mood they might be in my fellow Kiwi members and I prepared for a more sombre and potentially grumpy group!
Well nothing could have been further from the truth, they presented as they had the first time out. They were impeccably behaved and well mannered, relaxed, smiling and chatting with all and sundry. They took selfies with staff and members, gifted signed jerseys and insisted on cleaning out their carts after golf!
It was a very relaxed Sunday afternoon with perfect conditions, warm with a slight easterly and New South Wales Golf Club at La Perouse was at its very best. And being in the company of some of most high profile All Black players enjoying and playing some great golf at my golf club, all seemed pretty right in the world.
One of the players received a call from their young child. Being late afternoon in Sydney it was 'bedtime' in New Zealand. He disappeared and from out of the bushes, where he had retreated out of sight, could be heard ‘Itsy bitsy spider…’. An All Black perhaps but more importantly Dad singing a bedtime lullaby to their child back home. Priceless!
Last Saturday in Newcastle I got to witness first-hand the response from this player group and while not perfect, it was an emphatic win over Argentina. And witnessing how they were after the game, interacting with the Argentinian players, their support staff and fans, they were exactly the same.
Despite what this team and key individuals have copped over the last couple of weeks, from what I witnessed of this group, and how they dealt with both success and failure, I am very comfortable that New Zealand rugby and the game overall is in very good hands. For me, it speaks to the quality and calibre of the individuals and the environment they operate in.