OPINION: It's not as though they took it from us - so good on Otago for wresting the Ranfurly Shield after 56 years of trying.
Our northern neighbours deserve their time of exultation. And who knows, perhaps those victory parade plans from a few years ago might at long last have proven useful.
Those plans had come together in just-slightly presumptuous anticipation of Otago claiming the shield from Southland in 2010.
Correct us if we're wrong, but if memory serves it didn't quite pan out that way.
In fact, the plans became a rather jolly topic of conversation in the south. They were drafted, in early form, by the Dunedin City Council, though as soon as more worldly types at the Otago Rugby Football Union found out they quite rightly dampened down that exercise on the grounds that if word got out it would create "a perception of arrogance".
Regrettably for Otago, these wise words came the wrong side of some jobsworth inexplicably sending the plans to Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, who on this occasion became a paragon of open-government sensibility.
He ensured the plan's status was instantly transformed from hush-hush to haw-haw - and this just in time to help motivate the Stags to a successful defence.
Bygones. This time Otago has earned its parade.
In fact, more than that, it has earned what Southland has enjoyed during its two previous tenures - a period in which the shield becomes a touchstone of resurgent provincial pride.
Legions of Otago children, old-timers and many more besides, should now be given their opportunity to get up close and personal with the shield, and with the men who claimed it for them.
As more than half a century's frustration attests, it's not an easy trophy to latch on to, even for one of the most ardent rugby provinces in this most ardent of rugby nations.
Tricky to hold on to, as well. Assailants come thick and fast.
But such challenges galvanise teams and communities. They carry with them a sense not only of occasion, but of history. The shield will energise Otago's present in part because it reaches so deeply back into the nation's past.
What is more, it's not just a sporting thing. Wider social benefits arise.
In so many areas of endeavour, the most profound victories tend to be slow-dawning. They come so gradually that they might even be recognisable only in hindsight. There's nothing wrong with that, especially since societies that can recognise events of progressive significance are the healthier for it.
But come on. There's still a lot to be said for a dramatic sense of instant gratification. When goals are attained through feats that are carried out for all to see, and then as the celebrations subside the participants are able to communicate background work upon which the glory was founded, the encouragements to be drawn from the story are more likely to be taken aboard.
Otago has earned this. You never know how long you'll hold the shield for. But while you do have it, you really should put it to work.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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