When the Super 12 competition was being created, I was a student in Dunedin. I was raised in Christchurch and was a huge fan of Canterbury. After a few years at Otago, I developed split loyalties – between the team I had grown up with and a new one representing my new temporary home. It wasn’t difficult to like the Otago team. They beat the Lions and South Africa in my first university year in the deep south and had a massive amount of talent, as well as present and future All Blacks – some of whom ended up becoming legends of the game – Jeff Wilson, Josh Kronfeld, and Marc Ellis.
But the Super 12 was something new – a competition between New Zealand, South Africa, and Australian franchises. The teams were so new, that they were without names. Me and my pals spent hours imagining what the Otago franchise would end up being called. Our suggestions were, in our humble opinion, far better than what was finally decided – the Highlanders – a nod to the Scots heritage of Otago’s early settlers.
“There is no escaping the historical and cultural meanings that the name summons and in this multi-ethic, multi-racial country we live in, a name that conjures the violence of religious war is incredibly out-dated. I think it’s time for a change but not just now.”
Our disappointment paled in comparison with our bewilderment at what Canterbury were to be called – a name that was a very small homage homage to the English that had chosen to create new lives in the Canterbury in the 19th century. The Crusaders – didn’t seem the smartest choice but like all things new, it settled and I never really thought about it. But it has come up again, after the terrible terrorist attacks in Christchurch on the 15th of March.
There is no escaping the historical and cultural meanings that the name summons and in this multi-ethic, multi-racial country we live in, a name that conjures the violence of religious war is incredibly out-dated. I think it’s time for a change but not just now.
“There will be a large number of knee-jerk reactions as we navigate through new waters and establish what is, or may no longer be acceptable.”
Just like many things in the past few weeks, the discussion about this, has been largely measured and respectful. Crusaders and All Blacks player, Sam Whitelock was quoted in The Guardian:
“I just think at the moment this is bigger than rugby. We’re just trying to make sure that we take the appropriate time and make sure we’re very respectful and those decisions will happen in time but at the moment we’re just trying to give everyone space where they need it. Those things will happen in the future when they’re most appropriate.”
Personally, I think that’s a fantastic response. There will be a large number of knee-jerk reactions as we navigate through new waters and establish what is, or may no longer be acceptable. At the moment, there is a huge amount of grief and shock to process before we can initiate changes, to such things as the name of a rugby team.
I’ve thought about this for many years and I think the Norwesters would be a fantastic fit. It aptly captures a part of the particular nature of Canterbury and evokes the power that wind that visits occasionally but leaves a great impact – just like Canterbury rugby.
And hey, it’s far better than the Auckland Blues – a name that means absolutely nothing at all.