Pictured from left: chaplains Antonio Hall, James Poliko, Andrew Kerr at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland.
Our Rugby League World Cup experience
‘Profile was the big winner for SCNZ,’ says New Zealand chaplaincy coordinator Andrew Kerr, speaking about his Rugby League World Cup experience.
For the first time Sports Chaplaincy NZ had official accreditation as a tournament contractor. As a result, chaplains had the same status as St John (medical services) volunteers and other similar tournament services. All teams had chaplains on call; and chaplains were given matchday seats right behind the teams, as well as access when required to areas normally out-of-bounds.
This unprecedented access came about through our partnership with Sports Chaplaincy Australia (SCA). According to Kerr, ‘Australia is probably a decade ahead of us’ in Sports Chaplaincy. The majority of NRL teams have SCA chaplains, as do many major teams across other Australian sports, and SCA provided chaplains at all Australian venues for the World Cup.
‘We built a lot of bridges and connections at this tournament,’ Kerr, who was also one of the chaplains at Mt Smart Stadium, says. ‘We were very visible in our SCNZ-RLWC 2017 shirts, so were able to engage with people around us.’
Kerr says, ‘There’s plenty more we could do in this tournament space. I regret that we did not connect with the Women’s Hockey World League Finals which were also played in Auckland in November. I would really like us to be more active in providing chaplains for teams and fans at the major events New Zealand is hosting, which is something we did with RWC 2011 and Engage RWC.‘
He is confident that the Rugby League World Cup experience will open more doors into major tournaments in the future.
THAT game – England v Tonga semi-final Mt Smart Stadium
‘It was like being inside a volcano,’ Kerr recalls. ‘There’s only one other event I’ve been to that has matched it: the 1989 Eastern Zone NBA playoff between the Knicks and the 76ers at Madison Square Gardens. Patrick Ewing scored a last minute basket to win it for the Knicks by one point.’
Watching with Kerr was Antonio Hall, England team chaplain from Sports Chaplaincy UK, as well as SCNZ’s James Poliko. Hall described the atmosphere as ‘way better than the English Premier League [soccer].’
Poliko says, ‘The Tongans taught us a lesson about how to get in behind our team.’ Especially powerful for the three chaplains was hearing nearly the whole stadium singing hymns in Tongan.
Chaplains at other venues
Hamilton: Bill Davidson and Brendan Dickinson
Wellington: Paul Martell and Siona Tulia
Christchurch: Paul Keane