04 September 2010
AB's getting it right
The hero billboards and the ego-pumping have gone. The All Blacks are winning both on the field and off it, by focusing on the team and returning to cultural roots that value humility.
One of the most graphic examples of the reinvention of the team is a delightful YouTube video featuring Ritchie McCaw and a class of 7-9 year old kids. How cool is this?
In a Sunday Star Times article last month, McCaw said the team had detected a change in the nation's mood. Indeed, more than a million Kiwis have tuned into either Sky or Prime to watch the first three Tri Nations home games of the year.
In WHAM's view the reason for the change of mood can be attributed to a focus on team values, even if it means that individual stars are pocketing less in their individual sponsorship deals. We no longer see Ritchie and Dan Carter draped all over the sides of buildings. Sure, there are still endorsements, but they are increasingly featuring three or four team members at a time.
In our view it's not too much of a stretch to attribute the series of recent wins to this change in culture. Certainly the AB's culture and winning record stands in vivid contrast with the Black Caps, its gaggle of ego-driven wannabe stars, and their chronic underperformance on the pitch.
Even within the super Rugby teams, on-the-field success appears to be closely related to the team spirit of the franchise than the number of stars in its line-up. Did someone mention the word Hurricanes?
The challenge for next year and the Rugby World Cup will be for the ABs to maintain this connection with the rugby following public in the face of the organisers' perceived singular focus on profit.
Certainly the culture of the Cup has little in common with the grassroots values of traditional New Zealand rugby — a connection that risks being stretched to near breaking point if the IRB and its sponsors are seen to run roughshod over the rugby values we hold dear.
- Trevor Walton