Rugby great Robbie Deans believes the massacre of 50 defenceless men, women and children in Christchurch has changed New Zealand permanently.
The Kiwi coaching legend struggled for words when he described the senseless loss of life and damage done to the shattered city where he played and guided teams for decades.
‘I’m in shock…’ Deans said. ‘That’s the only way you can describe it.’
Rugby great Robbie Deans (pictured) believes the massacre of 50 defenceless men, women and children in Christchurch has changed New Zealand permanently
The Kiwi coaching legend struggled for words when he described the senseless loss of life and damage done to the shattered city. Pictured: Youngsters perform a haka during a students vigil near Al Noor mosque
Deans was born and grew up in Canterbury, the South Island area where Christchurch is the biggest city and regional seat. Pictured: A Muslim worshipper prays at a makeshift memorial at the Al Noor Mosque
Deans was born and grew up in Canterbury, the South Island area where Christchurch is the biggest city and regional seat.
He finished high school at Christ’s College in Christchurch, attended Lincoln University about 15km outside the city and while he now coaches in Japan still calls Canterbury home.
Deans was in Amberley, about 45km north of Christchurch, last Friday when he learnt a gunman had opened fire on scores of Muslims in two mosques during their prayers.
‘You just never thought that it could happen in our community,’ he said. ‘As he indicated himself, he chose the destination for that reason.’
‘It will have changed not only Canterbury but New Zealand forever. Particularly for the next generation of kids because the things that you take for granted or took for granted are no longer a given. And that’s very tough for young kids to comprehend.
‘That’s the worst thing – it’s shattered an innocence, if you like, within the community. It’s irrational. Which makes it all the more difficult to deal with.
‘It will change the place forever. It will change the community, it will change attitudes. But it will also harden the resolve.
‘The community will come through it. They’ll support each other. But it will leave a mark, it will leave a scar. And for those that were affected…’
Deans could not finish that sentence. ‘It’s beyond comprehension.’ he said.
The 59-year-old, who was in charge of the Wallabies from 2008 to 2013, coached the Christchurch-based Crusaders for eight seasons, winning more Super rugby titles (three in Super 12 and two in Super 14) than any other leader.
Before that he coached Canterbury, also based in Christchurch, to the National Provincial Championship in 1997.
The five-Test All Black, who was an assistant coach of the national team, also played 146 games for Canterbury between 1979 and 1990.
Deans was in Amberley, about 45km north of Christchurch, last Friday when he learnt a gunman had opened fire on scores of Muslims in two mosques during their prayers. Pictured: Victims of the shootings
‘It’s a great community Canterbury, as is New Zealand,’ Deans said. ‘But that’s what makes it so horrific really.
‘It’s going to linger for who knows how long – forever, I suspect.
‘In some ways that’s the way it should be too. You can’t afford to take anything for granted.
‘And the community will become more resolute in ensuring that hopefully there’s no repeat.’
Deans had been impressed by New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the massacre, in which 28-year-old Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant allegedly used semi-automatic weapons to wage war on innocent victims.
Ms Ardern, a steady voice of comfort and calm in the atrocity’s aftermath, has firmly stated New Zealand would tighten its gun laws.
‘As Jacinda Ardern has already indicated, there will be some inevitable change to make sure that we don’t get a recurrence,’ Deans said.
Deans, who coaches the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, is in Perth to send out a World XV against the Western Force in a Rapid Rugby game at HBF Park on Friday night.
Deans said the shootings will change Christchurch forever. Pictured: A man cries near his children in front of floral tributes to those who died
Former All Blacks and Crusaders players Andy Ellis, Corey Flynn and Wyatt Crockett are set to line up in the World team.
‘Friday night will be tough,’ Deans said. ‘There’s quite a few blokes from Canterbury that’s going to be involved in this game.
‘That’s going to be hard on them.’
Deans said while it was still to be decided how to recognise the atrocity in Christchurch at the game there would be a minute’s silence and fundraising for the families of those who had lost their lives.
‘We’ll do what we can from a distance,’ he said.
The Crusaders are considering changing their name in the wake of Friday’s attack.
The team has had the same name since they were founded in 1996 when rugby went professional.
Critics of the ‘Crusaders’ moniker have made links between the name and the medieval religious wars between Christians and Muslims.
The club defended their name in a statement issued on Saturday but later said a ‘conversation would be had.’
Crusaders to consider name change
Statement from Crusaders chief executive Colin Mainsbridge
Like all New Zealanders, the Crusaders team and organisation are deeply shocked by this tragedy and our thoughts are with the victims and their families. This is bigger than rugby and we’re absolutely heartbroken for our wider community, which is where our thoughts are.
In terms of the Crusaders name, we understand the concerns that have been raised. For us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community. What we stand for is the opposite of what happened in Christchurch on Friday; our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit.
In our view, this is a conversation that we should have and we are taking on board all of the feedback that we are receiving, however, we also believe that the time for that is not right now. Emotions are very raw and real at the moment. There is the need for this community to wrap our support around those who are most affected by Friday’s events, and that is the immediate focus for the Crusaders team. At an appropriate time, we will thoroughly consider the issues that have been raised and our response to that. That will include conversations with a range of people, including our Muslim community.
This team and the wider organisation are united with our community in standing against such abhorrent acts as that which occurred on Friday in Christchurch, and in standing in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters.