Unity through Rivalry

Tommaso Pulejo


Despite being the darkest of times, AMI Stadium was filled with just as many people as emotions when the Warriors paid a visit to the South Island in a moment of need.

Ever since the NRL board announced that the Manly Sea Eagles would host the Warriors at AMI Stadium, Canterbury rugby league fans had been preparing to welcome their favourite team and were ready to enjoy this uncommon visit to the fullest.

Excitement turned into shock when the March 15th attacks took place and the event quickly became the last thing on people’s minds. Aware of this, both teams refused to consider postponing the game and decided to make the most of their trip by bringing support and solidarity to the Christchurch community.

Unexpectedly, sport managed to bring a glimmer of hope back into the heart of the city. Both players and viewers were given a chance to reunite under AMI Stadium’s emotion-charged lights and support each other through a tough time.

Once again, hate failed to break spirits and all people came together in healing by doing the one thing that the region of Canterbury loves and is famous for: uniting under the same roof to watch a game of footy. This event proved that sports, even though competitive and rivalrous, have the ability to eradicate hate while enabling personal growth and instilling positive values.


Despite many still struggling to come to terms with what had occurred on March 15th, the reactions from the community regained positivity after Canterbury Rugby League’s (CRL) media release on the 21stof March titled

“Sea Eagles and Warriors Unite for Christchurch”.

The opening sentence of CRL’s release read: “The Vodafone Warriors and Manly Sea Eagles are based on either side of the Tasman Sea, battle each other courageously on the field, but in support of Christchurch and her people, they are united” and discusses ways in which the teams planned to support the community. This gesture, combined with the hard-core nature of the fan’s passion for the sport, led to a magical night that brought people back together in taking the first step towards a new hope.

This special night is one that many will remember for years to come and one that many others around the world can relate to. By having a quick look back at our history, not long will pass until you run into a story of a historical sportingevent that impacted the lives of thousands, if not millions.

This night brought back memories of the iconic Super Rugby game between the Crusaders and the Sharks, which took place at Twickenham Stadium in the UK after Jade Stadium in Christchurch had been damaged by the 2011 earthquakes. That match also had no shortage of emotions, as Londoners and many others came together in support of the community of Christchurch and plastered the stadium with “Kia Kaha CHCH” posters and messages of solidarity. The event was made even more special for the Christchurch audience due to  the Crusaders coming out victorious, with a score of 44 to 28.Once again, the pains of tragedy were briefly forgotten and all that mattered was what was happening on the field.

There have been many other iconic instances throughout history in which an athlete or a team have turned a performance into a symbolic act that would be remembered by future generations forever. Only a few of the many examples that come to mind include the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, when Nelson Mandela’s belief that the underdog Springbok squad had the ability to bring the people of the country together proved to be rightly placed when the Bokke defeated the dominant All Black side in the final.

Another infamous sport moment that caused a lot of controversy in a moment of instability occurred during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when African-American sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals. At those same Berlin Olympics, Jewish wrestler Karoly Karpati won gold by beating the German favorite Wolfgang Ehrl. These triumphs were accomplished by two whom the Nazis considered to be of “inferior races” and resulted in the humiliation of the whole Aryan ideology itself.

Since their Christchurch game, the Warriors went on to win three of their next seven games. Maybe this sounds like a bad record, but when considering the four-win, six-loss overall record they have so far, hopes to make the finals are still very much alive.

Although history suggests that the Warriors are most likely to be in for another average season, the game they played in Christchurch will definitely be remembered for other, more special reasons.