I guess I was a typical Kiwi boy growing up. My dad was a rugby fan and was elated when I started playing rugby for a club at around eight years old. Prior to that my mum had convinced dad that I should play soccer ("poor thing might get hurt"), but dad never got into that the same as when I played rugby. I played as Prop for the Massey Rugby Football Union's JB teams (along with ex-All Blacks Troy Flavell and Ron Cribb). Dad would come and keep my aftermatch jersey warm under his jacket. We would have pies & chips after the game, which was free if you won "Player of the day" (that only happened once...doh!). Rugby was a special part of my formative years.
Then a decisive moment happened. For me, like many others, the 1987 All Blacks winning the first Rugby World Cup was a turning point. It was so exciting and in many ways cemented my love for rugby forever. JK, Michael Jones, David Kirk...they became legends in my eyes and by the time I was in my late teens I suppose I'd become a little obsessed with the game - and the All Blacks in particular. If you doubt it then one day ask me for a look at my collection of 1995 All Black world cup player cards with signatures from every player, and the stories about chasing the team around (I think they call that stalking these days..hehe). Had we won that Cup I was planning on making a fortune out of that series of cards (sigh). Alas, it never happened. Then there were the Ranfurly Shield matches that I traipsed around the country attending. I will never forget Bull Allen and the Taranaki boys dashing North Harbour's Shield hopes, and mine, the last time Taranaki held the shield about 15 years ago. Now I'm here in Taranaki I have a whole new perspective on Taranaki holding the Shield - go you good thing!
For the past 15 years or so the rugby cards have sat in a box and my obsession has subsided somewhat. I still watch some games, but only having "poor mans TV" has limited that somewhat. I guess I've grown up and had time to put rugby in a more proper place in my life. In an interesting way, my rugby journey has parallels with my Christian journey, so this week I will be preaching on "Why I love Jesus more than rugby" - should be good.
Blessings to all...and "enjoy the games"!
Pastor David Auty