Sunday, July 23, 2006

1981: Day of Shame

I don't know if they deliberately scheduled tonight's All Black Springbok match on the 25th Anniversary of the first match of the tour. I doubt it, there wouldn't be a weekend this winter that wasn't the anniversary of something (they don't have a game in Hamilton - which I think is in good taste - although more on that later).

I'm going to take advantage of this anniversary to do a little bit of history writing. Hamilton, Molesworth St and the Tests at least, I may decide to cover some other events, and write some analysis as well as recalling events, we'll see how we go.

Poverty Bays vs. South Africa was the day that the sport boycott was officially broken. The protests in Gisbourne weren't that big - I imagine 500 people is a large march by Gisborne standards, but given people travelled from outside it was a tiny fraction of the Gisborne population. The protests were larger away from the match, 600 in Dunedin, 1,500 in Auckland, 3,000 in Christchurch.

In Wellington, my hometown, there were 5,000 people on the streets the day the sports boycott was broken. They blockaded the National party headquarters (often a worthy goal), and marched on parliament. I know how 5,000 people fills Wellington's streets - that was their beginning.


  1. Maia I hadn't realised that today was the anniversary of that match in Gisborne. I remember the drive down from Auckland through the night and the almost surreal march accross the sodden golf course the next afternoon with the police trying to deter us. There followed 80 minutes of trying to breach the fence, knowing that if we succeeded we would be beaten to a pulp by the crowd. Almost feeling grateful for being pushed down the bank again and again by the police.
    I recall the police commander at Gisborne. Pelted with mud the rotund figure kept his bemused smile. I don't recall his name but I admired him for his professionalism and patience. Like us on the other side, he knew that something monstrous had been let out of the bag but didn't know quite what.
    A few days later as I ran on to the field at Hamilton I saw it. Everything had changed. It was one of the most scary moments of my life. I saw people in their hundreds who looked like they wanted to kill me. Some of them I knew in other contexts. A couple I had coached.
    That no-one died in the next few hours was remarkable.
    From that day I think so many things changed in New Zealand.
    Interesting times.

  2. Anonymous5:12 pm

    My memories of the 1981 tour....are of being assulted by protestors while trying to stop them from damaging my car while I was visiting friends in Thorndon....

  3. my memories of that tour are watching Naas Botha when he missed the penalty at Eden Park that would have evened up the series.
    What a fantastic game that was.

  4. My memories are of two mighty rugby teams beinig disrupted by a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking anarchist hippies.

    Bloody good footy, tho'.