This rugby world cup has ignited a few memories of children who I have taught or coached, so I will pause and go back through the short list for you. Kevin Mealamu (All Blacks) from Tokoroa then Aorere College, he was a good keen flanker and a tough player. James Arlidge (Japan) went to Dillworth had a good kick and was a tidy player. Khan Fotualii (Samoa) went to Onehunga High, couldn't make the top team was a good reserve, lacked a few skills, but loved playing with his mates. Samiu Vahafolau (Tonga) went to Onehunga High, was a giant at school but relied on his size too much. The thing is that these guys didn't attend the elite colleges, they had to work hard to get where they are today and they are scattered in all parts of the globe. None of them were the childhood stars, they we good keen players without being anything special. It's a good message to us all that hard work and dedication pays off no matter what field we are in.
In 2003 a boy who I taught was playing at the rugby world cup for Tonga. He was a New Zealand age grade player and had been a schoolboy star in New Zealand. After playing overseas he was selected for Tonga and played at two rugby world cups. They played the All Blacks and lost by plenty. After the game he rushed into the opposition changing room to see his friends who were now All Blacks, he took with him a bag to fill up with freebie All Black gear, jerseys socks, shorts, some stuff for his mum, after all these were his childhood friends. Sadly those 2003 All Blacks just looked straight through him, they said "hi" and turned back toward their teammates. He knew at that time, that things had changed. He was telling me this story when he said "they will lose, they will get what they deserve". It has stuck with me and he was right. I watched it repeated in 2007 when the All Blacks holidayed during the world cup and capitulated in Cardiff. Wind the clock ahead 4 years and how they have learnt. They have reached out to the country, many many children have met their heroes, they have signed everything, turned up to everything and they even went to Kaeo! They may not bring home the bacon and win this cup but in my eyes they have done what is right, they have kept their feet on the ground and stuck to their values. This has been highlighted this week with photos that parents have shown and sent me of their children with the men in black. I think that as parents and as a community it is important to keep the values that are important to us no matter what our status, fame, or salary because in the end as my friend Sililo said "you get what you deserve". When I look at the our schools values this little story reminds me about integrity, being truthful to yourself and others.
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