Down on Lambton Quay by chance around 1pm today,
I wondered why so many people were clustered on the
pavement opposite. Had a building been evacuated?
Then I remembered that the capital's victorious rugby
team was about to parade through the city with the
newly acquired Ranfurly Shield. What was the score
again? Oh yes. Wellington 27. Auckland 0. I was there
at Athletic Park that day in 1982 when Wellington last
had the shield and lost it to Canterbury: I can still recall
the sinking feeling as Canterbury second-five Wayne
Smith slid through a gap in the defence to score in the
south-east corner and seal the win for the southerners.
So the shield's return after a mere third of a lifetime is
indeed cause for rejoicing. Appropriately, today was
a blowy old Wellington day, with overcast skies and a
hint of rain that never came, but an astonishing number
of people—30,000, I've just heard on the news—lined
the streets for the parade. Joining them, I felt a rush of
pleasure that such a seemingly old-fashioned ritual as a
Ranfurly Shield parade still had the power to pull the
crowds, even in this era of globalized, professionalized
sport and instant mass media coverage. And there was
the mighty log of wood itself—surprisingly small—gliding
past on a trailer crowded with hairy Wellington players.
Signed, shield and delivered, it's ours. O happy day.