Wellington Scoop

Conquering heroes

How many tens of thousands will line the streets of Wellington on Friday to welcome the All Blacks? Last time, in 2011, more than 100,000 of us turned out for the parade. This time, maybe more?

The city council announced details last night. A “brief” welcome at Parliament. Then a lunchtime parade down Lambton Quay and Willis Street into Civic Square. For a “major” welcome.

It’s a coincidence that a royal tour is taking place at the same time as the All Blacks are being paraded in three cities. Comparisons are readily being made.

The royal theme is developed by Joe Bennett, who writes this morning that to play as an All Black is to be anointed in perpetuity. He compares them with Henry the Fifth’s soldiers at Agincourt. And he says the All Blacks have …

… joined the aristocracy of this little land, {and are] now knights of the oval table. With the elevation comes obligation. The newly ennobled have to sign up to a code of chivalry. They must put aside all vanity and be for the greater good. When interviewed they must deflect all praise, must turn the spotlight onto others, must mouth the simple mantras of the team and not the individual, and they must praise their beaten enemies as worthy foes. They do so happily, meekly, for it seems to them the bargain of the century, to wear such lightweight shackles in exchange for such promotion. They become brahmins, held aloft for the rest of their days by a nation’s strange but long-brewed form of faith.

Wellington has a hundred-year tradition of hero parades through the CBD. One of the first was filmed in September 1914, when soldiers departing for the First World War marched from Adelaide Road to Lambton Quay for a farewell by the Prime Minister William Massey and the Governor-General Lord Liverpool.

No marching for the All Blacks on Friday. They’ll be carried (on their sponsors’ vehicles?) above the heads of the crowds. And when the cheering and the speeches are over (Auckland today, Christchurch tomorrow), will they at last be allowed to start their own personal homecomings?

Daily Mail: All Blacks celebrate in London