Arise, Sir Richie McCaw. Are these words coming for our Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks captain?
Sacrilege perhaps, but I don’t really care. Actually, I’m not sure McCaw is enjoying the continued questions around whether he’ll take the title if – or rather when – it’s offered to him again either. Okay, I admit to getting up early last Sunday morning to watch the final and may have yelled at the screen in accidental enthusiasm, but it’s just sports I can’t say it’s just a game, because it’s a profession these days and a well paid one at that.
I’m no fan of our reintroduced old-fashioned honours system, so find the use of sir and dame in New Zealand odd, but I’m also not a fan of our sporting heroes getting a gong for playing well – they’re already well recompensed for that.
Yes they train incredibly hard and yes I’m happy for Dan Carter getting Man of the Match after missing out playing the previous two World Cups – he had an outstanding game and silenced his critics (there must be a few embarrassed faces among those who thought he should have been dropped).
The local heroes I rate and would love to see getting a bigger share of the limelight are the community leaders who volunteer their time or choose lower-paid careers to help people. Now some of them do get honoured each year – their projects win awards and they get featured on One News’ Good Sorts series – but there’s no shortage of people who make lifelong commitments to the community sector who stay under the radar.
This week I visited Christchurch for work and met some people doing amazing things in their community. Project Lyttelton is a grassroots organisation committed to building a sustainable, connected community. Their projects include NZ’s first time bank, a farmer’s market, a range of festivals, a library and other initiatives. For our visit, they also hosted reps from other community groups who are exploring an alliance together to strengthen their impact across youth work and mentoring, helping people rebuild lives after domestic violence and supporting people with disabilities into the workforce through a social enterprise. Next stop was Kilmarnock Enterprises. It may be NZ’s first “modern” social enterprise, starting more than 55 years ago. Today Kilmarnock employs more than 80 people, most with intellectual disabilities, and delivers all sorts of contracts like packaging food, cleaning plastic containers for reuse and deconstructing electronics for recycling. They also produce iconic wooden toys and bespoke furniture.
There is more to NZ than rugby and I felt honoured to meet some of the Christchurch people leading the way. However, if NZ is going to hand out titles to rugby players, I nominate Sonny Bill Williams for his gifting of his World Cup medal to a child. I read a brilliant and hilarious column by Stuart Heritage at www.theguardian.com about it. As Heritage points out, SBW has raised the bar for every person who wins an award – the headline said his “thoughtless act of generosity has ruined sport for ever”.
Heritage wrote: “Time was you could just get drunk and lose the award in a taxi on the way home, but Williams’ unforgivable decency has taken care of that. He should be ashamed of himself, the big, kind sod.” The column is worth a read – it’s a great comedic piece about selflessness, and yes, it is tongue-in-cheek. For a more heartfelt local version, check out Polly Gillespie’s reflections on SBW in the NZ Herald. Now our extended rugby season is over, there might be a few extra column centimetres spare for us to read more stories about people making a difference.
-Nicola Young has worked in the government and private sectors in Australia and NZ and now works from home in Taranaki for a national charitable foundation. Educated at Wanganui Girls’ College, she has a science degree and is the mother of two boys.