Sonny Bill Williams, rugby’s all-singing, all-dancing big-partying showman made an unusuall y profound and heartfelt comment on the earthquake that struck Christchurch
February 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Sonny Bill Williams, rugby’s all-singing, all-dancing big-partying showman – and occasional boxer! – made an unusually profound and heartfelt comment on the earthquake that struck Christchurch on Tuesday while many of Crusaders were showering after training at their home ground near the centre of the city, the AMI Stadium.
The players sprinted from the change rooms, pausing only to grab towels, and congregated in the middle of the field.
Williams had been in a spa pool, relaxing.
“I jumped out pretty quickly! We were in a lot of shock” Williams said. “It really puts life into perspective and you completely understand that the thing we do (rugby) is just a game and there is more to life than that.”
Shortly after Williams had spoken it was confirmed that one of the Crusaders’ board members had died when the building where he worked in central Christchurch collapsed.
An emotional Williams said he spent the afternoon with a friend, who was looking for his wife and kids.
“There was just devastation everywhere. They’re saying there is about 75 people dead but from what I saw it is going to a lot more than that.”
Rugby really is just a game, as Williams poignantly pointed out, and the Crusaders’ Super Rugby show was never going to go on this weekend. They were due to play the Hurricanes this weekend in Wellington and the unions honourably have agreed to share the points.
While sport has healing power and can provide good cheer, the hearts of the Crusaders players were never going to be in playing a rugby game in the aftermath of such destruction. Instead they will pay their respects to the dead by pausing for a weekend’s reflection.
Some of the comments by the Crusaders management reflect how close they were to the tragedy.
Media manager Patrick McKendry was upstairs on the phone when he was thrown to the floor.
“I looked up and saw coach Todd Blackadder with a shocked look on his face and I knew it was very serious,” McKendry said.
Blackadder, the former All Black captain, later discovered that the contents of his weatherboard home had been “pretty well trashed.”
Team manager Tony Thorpe said their headquarters could well be “heavily compromised” because of the quake, which raises the question of whether home matches can be played there in the foreseeable future. The Sharks are due to play in Christchurch in four weeks time.
They are booked into the Clearwater Resort which is about 20 minutes drive outside the city but in accordance with the rules of the tournament they are booked into the hosting city from the Thursday before the match. The Sharks usually stay at the Crowne Plaza hotel, which is next door to the cathedral that was so heavily damaged, as do many of the visiting teams, so one can only shudder at what might have been if the Crusaders had had a home game this week.
On this side of the world, the Auckland Blues arrived late on Monday night and woke up on Tuesday to the shocking news. The Blues beat the Crusaders in Auckland last week and play the Sharks on Saturday.
“There would have been a lot of shock for the Blues, and in fact for Kiwis everywhere in the world,” said Taranaki-born Sharks coach John Plumtree, whose brother very recently sold a business located in the heart of the Christchurch CBD that has been reduced to rubble.
“Everyone is absolutely devastated,” Plumtree said of Kiwis the world over. “The Blues players (from the North Island) will have family members down there (on the South Island). This is really bad news for New Zealand, everyone is shocked. Our country generally is very peaceful.
“New Zealand is on a pretty large fault line, which has been inactive for a long time and to get hit twice like this is very tough (there was another quake late last year), especially after the recent mining disaster just down the road from Christchurch,” Plumtree continued. “It is very unsettling news for Kiwis.”
by Mike Greenaway