I still remember making the first tackle - It was a big hit and I smashed him. It had been an even physics battle and I won it. But I had got lucky. The rest of the teenage team weighing in at over 100kgs - they were the Goliath to our David, it felt like amateurs vs professionals.
The last time we met on the field they had wiped the floor with us. With the fresh sting of defeat and the screams of Coach JC still ringing in our ears, we had we recouped together, identified weaknesses and strengthened our faith in each other’s abilities.
Now on a sunny day in August 2004 in front of a screaming crowd, we rallied to face the giants.
“Who’s going to put a stamp on this game?” I remember the coach roaring at his team of 22 young boys.
“I am” I thought, “I am”.
I was learning the meaning of comradery.
Out there on the Rugby field there was no prejudice - no social, racial, language or cultural inequalities.
It was a test of your character, humility, preparation, co-operation and skill - That’s what mattered.
We took the championship that day – but lessons I brought away from that event were far greater than a trophy. The lesson of leadership, social skills, courage and teamwork were ones that that would stay with me into adulthood.
They remained with me as I travelled from Hamilton to London and San Francisco, where I played rugby, worked in innovation, and made lasting friends from different parts of the world. And they remained with me as I moved back to New Zealand, prepared to pass on the gift of empowerment and drive change.
I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for sport.
Today, the gap between haves and have nots is growing in New Zealand. Some of the same kids who would have had the opportunity to play sport 20 years ago are struggling to find a way. Instead, they’re hanging out with friends after school and they’re looking for the adrenaline rush of that first tackle, just in the wrong places.
If we can give opportunity to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience the benefit of sport, I believe that we can make New Zealand a better place to live.
So I look to you.
I look to business leaders, many of whom have traveled a similar path as me.
I look at the world, where corporate social responsibility, where giving back, is more important than ever before. I look at the bored kid hanging out with her mates after school, and I know that if given the chance at netball or hockey, at the chance to show herself that she’s got massive potential, she’ll have a chance at running your business in 20 years - or her own - with values of teamwork, humility and giving back.
As New Zealand grows, kiwis have more options on where to spend their money. They are beginning to look for businesses who are willing to step up.
To be different. To show that they care about the community outside their office door.
I started the Water Boy because I care. I started the Water Boy because I want to make this awesome country better.