Politics

Picture Special: When John Key Met the All Blacks

Following the All Blacks’ tense victory over the Springboks early on Sunday morning, the New Zealand prime minister did what he does, and, let’s be honest, what many of us would do were we the New Zealand prime minister: he sauntered into the team’s dressing room and chewed on a beer with The Boys.

Photographer Phil Walter was there, too, and through the magic of lens selection and mother nature, snapped a remarkable picture of the prime minister shaking the hand of Sam Whitelock, a white lock in the All Blacks.

In the image, John Key is Sophie to Whitelock’s Big Friendly Giant, Fay Wray to his King Kong.

during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Semi Final match between South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on October 24, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.

The PM is, of course, an eager participant in New Zealand rugby imagery. In his book Dirty Politics, Nicky Hager pointed to a “black ops” unit on the ninth floor of the Beehive; the most innocuous explanation might be that it is simply shorthand for All Blacks Photo-Ops.

There was the bells-and-whistles squad launch at parliament, with politicians of all stripes striving to get in the frame with the national rugby side. Before that was the controversial, photoshopped front page of Rugby News.

rugbynewsjk

The most tender, poignant even, strain of image within the Key-All-Blacks oeuvre, however, simply depicts the prime minister looking at the All Black captain. Indeed, the startled look on McCaw’s face in that Whitelock pic could be simply because he’s not accustomed to the prime minister looking at someone else.

For example, pictured in Sydney, August 2009, after winning the Bledisloe Cup, here is the new prime minister gazing adoringly at Richie McCaw:

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22:  (L-R) New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Brad Thorn of the All Black celebrate after the 2009 Tri Nations series Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 22, 2009 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

 

And from the following month, within Wellington’s Westpac Stadium at the end of the Tri-Nations 2009, here is the prime minister gazing adoringly at Richie McCaw:

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  All Black captain Richie McCaw (L) enjoys a beer with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in the dressing shed following the 2009 Tri Nations series Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies at Westpac Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images

 

Later in 2009, the All Blacks stopped in Japan on their way to Europe. Here, in Tokyo, the prime minister gazes adoringly at Richie McCaw:

TOKYO - OCTOBER 30:  New Zealand Prime Minister John Key Richie McCaw of the All Blacks pose for a team photo during a New Zealand All Blacks Captain's Run at the National Stadium on October 30, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images

 

After the nail-biting World Cup Final in 2011, the prime minister gazed adoringly at Richie McCaw.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 23: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key shakes hands with Richie McCaw of the All Blacks after the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup Final match between France and New Zealand at Eden Park on October 23, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

 

On that occasion, as many, however, the prime minister was gazing adoringly at Richie McCaw on behalf of the nation, apart from those who can’t abide rugby and/or adoring gazes.

He even wore the adoring gaze in the pioneering three-way handshake:

3wayhandshakekey

And the respect is not confined to sporting stadiums. Here, in 2012, for example, the prime minister gazes adoringly at Richie McCaw:

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 14: All Black captain Richie McCaw, left with Prime Minister John Key during the 2012 Steinlager Rugby Awards at SkyCity Convention Centre on December 14, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Come to think of it, this could be the secret. The All Blacks have never not won the Rugby World Cup since Prime Minister John Key started gazing adoringly at Richie McCaw. Gaze on, Prime Minister, Gaze On!

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