But first, some history. Once upon a time in a land to the south of Auckland there was a small and plucky team from the south of Auckland called Counties, who attracted the support of folk like me who liked to support their local team, and liked to support a battler. They gave us a lot of fun over the years (NPC win in 1979; two Grand Finals in 1996 and 1997) , and also a lot of heartache (demotion; relegation; last-minute Ranfurly Shield losses) but never a Ranfurly Shield win.
And then, at the start of the professional era, our team was taken away from us. The dismemberment began between that Grand Final of 1997 and the Super 14 final of the next year, when the Auckland Blues played Canterbury’s Crusaders, a final which ended with eight Counties players on one side and seven on the other, and a stand full of Counties fans with no idea who to cheer for—a metaphor for what was to follow as our players were quietly hoovered up by the Rugby Union’s more favoured teams, and by other teams around the world: Joeli and Jonah to Auckland; a clutch to Waikato and Canterbury and Otago; and Tony Marsh to France. (About eight internationals emerged first at Counties before being snaffled up by others.)
So when Counties were finally demoted in 2001 after a season when even Northland beat us, many Counties fans began to feel our team had been taken away from us, the game was being changed into something else in any case, and and we began to quietly give up on the game altogether. Go Counties. Yeah right.
And then in just three short weeks this year something changed. First they knocked off Otago; then they knocked off Wellington. And now, from the top of the first-division table, Counties all of a sudden gets to play Southland for the Shield—with a definite chance to win it for the very first time!
Woo bloody hoo!
So what’s the dilemma? Well, it’s this. How do you go from bitching and whinging and finally giving up on your team, to all of a sudden yelling for them again without making yourself like a prize dick. Answer is: you can’t. So fuck it, I’m a dick.
So have you guessed the moral by now?
It’s this; as Winston Churchill once said,
Even as a fan: don’t give in, and don’t give up on your team. Even if your team is taken away, even if the region’s main paper can’t be bothered reporting them properly (so what’s changed), even if the Rugby Union tries to kill them off, never, never, never give up on them. Because they might just turn around and surprise you.