Weary Crusaders men take the field
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2011
OPINION: The dark irony of the Crusaders wearing jerseys to commemorate the Pike River tragedy will be lost on no-one at Nelson's Trafalgar Park tonight.
Their first home match was scheduled for AMI Stadium and was to mark the coal mine explosion that killed 29 people last year. The Crusaders will wear red and white jerseys embossed with the West Coast union's emblem which will be signed and auctioned on Trade Me.
Now, Mainlanders have been forced to cope with another disaster, one that has claimed more than 160 lives, and the Crusaders have been directly affected by the death of amiable board member Phil McDonald.Several players have spoken candidly about the effect last week's earthquake has had on their families and communities and how their decision to scrap last weekend's match against the Hurricanes was the right one.
Some men with families, such as captain Kieran Read, hooker Corey Flynn and assistant coach Daryl Gibson, have sent their wives and children out of town, while others, like Brad Thorn, reflected on the need for the city's people to grieve and for communities to continue to look out for each other.
Dan Carter spoke about the shock of seeing the full extent of the devastation in the central city on television at his parents' Southbridge home and Read wondered how Cantabrians could be so unlucky to suffer two major earthquakes in the space of six months.
Despite their personal situations, the Crusaders have heaved shovels and wheelbarrows to help clear the liquefaction in Christchurch.
If circumstances were different, the return of walking news whirlwind Sonny Bill Williams would have dominated bulletins but his first start for the Crusaders has been overshadowed by the growing body count.
Williams must be wondering what else Christchurch is going to throw at him since he arrived in the city last winter.
Williams said he could not fathom what those who had lost family members and friends were going through as he offered his condolences to all those affected.
Although the journey to Nelson for tonight's match against the Waratahs has offered the Crusaders some respite from the aftershocks and liquefaction, and for some it will be a chance to have a hot shower, it is likely those with families will be happiest when they touch down at Christchurch airport near midnight.
Players and management will rush to the airport soon after the final whistle to board their charter flight and fly back to their devastated city.
Amid all this, somehow, they have to win a rugby match.