We’ll have them: The rise of the Ki-Wallaby

Tonight’s game against Scotland marks the first Wallabies cap for New Zealand born Mike Harris and Joe Tomane.

Harris and Tomane are just the latest additions of Ki-Wallabies included in the squad under the coaching regime of Robbie Deans.  Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane and Pek Cowan have already starred for us and the others were added to the 39 man squad last week with Harris, Tomane and Cooper Vuna being named.

Unlike Tomane who grew up in Brisbane, Harris only moved here in 2011 when he was offered a contract at the Reds by coach Ewen McKenzie.  Until then Harris had spent time in the Blues wider training squad and represented New Zealand in schoolboys and the U20s.

While most New Zealand fans have been gracious to Harris regarding his selection there have been some who have labelled him a turncoat and traitor for agreeing to don the Green and Gold jersey.

Now we all know too well that there is starting to be a huge disparity between simple good natured banter and abuse between Wallabies and All Blacks supporters and the players alike.

During the Rugby World Cup last year, Australian fans were reported to have been spat on and abused by New Zealanders not only at the game but also when walking the streets of their cities.

And let’s not forget the treatment that Quade Cooper received.  Never before have I seen one player cop so much abuse both on and off the field.

Yes I know he kneed Sir Richie, but please can’t you move past it and realise that Richie himself has done worse to others! He has, and will never receive the kind of abuse Quade did last year. Yes, we might yell out ‘Hands off BLACK 7’ but other than that, I have never heard some of the gutter talk like I did in New Zealand.

So with the amount of Kiwis living and working in Australia, why are we and our cousins across the ditch so surprised when elite rugby players do the same thing?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of NZ-born people living in Australia increased by 89% over the last two decades, from 280,200 in 1989 to 529,200 in 2009.

Compared with the other migrant countries to Australia, New Zealand has a relatively small population, with an estimated 3.0 million NZ-born people living in New Zealand in 2006. This means that for every 100 New Zealanders in New Zealand in 2006 there were 15 NZ-born people living in Australia.

Are those who come here for better work prospects and living conditions turncoats or traitors because they are simply going after their goals? No I don’t think so and rugby players should be treated the same way. 

Let’s be honest, Australian Rugby doesn’t have the depth and will probably never have the depth that New Zealand Rugby does. The Australian sporting landscape doesn’t allow for rugby to ever be the number one sport here. Though I dream of the day when that is the case, unfortunately it doesn’t seem likely in the near future.

The Wallabies have a history of immigrants playing for us, below are just a few of the big names that have worn the green and gold jersey.

  • Clyde Rathbone – South Africa
  • Dan Vickerman – South Africa
  • David Pocock – Zimbabwe
  • Digby Ioane – New Zealand
  • George Gregan – Zambia
  • Jeremy Paul – New Zealand
  • Joe Tomane – New Zealand
  • Lote Tuqiri – Fiji
  • Mike Harris – New Zealand
  • Patricio Noriega – Argentina
  • Quade Cooper – New Zealand
  • Radike Samo – Fiji
  • Sitaleki Timani – Tonga
  • Stephen Moore – Saudi Arabia
  • Toutai Kefu – Tonga
  • Will Genia – Papua New Guinea

I for one am glad that these men have played proudly for the Wallabies and I look forward to the future stars no matter their origin of birth.

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