Exploring neighbourly possibilities
Flying from Melbourne to Wellington feels more like a domestic trip than an international voyage. Passports are not stamped, accents change only slightly and it’s a shorter flight than from Melbourne to Perth. Even when an Australian settles down in New Zealand, their TV screens show Aussie sights like Eddie McGuire asking million-dollar questions and Kevin Rudd answering queries of his own on parliament question time.
The two countries have their own distinct characteristics but share much more than not. The former New Zealand prime minister Mike Moore once said that Australians and New Zealanders had more in common than New Yorkers and Californians. Some of that goes back to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) of World War I but even earlier, in the 1890s, New Zealand considered joining the soon-to-be Federation of Australia. Even Fiji was in the mix to become a state, while Western Australia was a somewhat reluctant participant.
Obviously New Zealand chose to go its own way and WA joined, although the state did hold a referendum in the 1930s over the possibility of seceding. And that brings me to my point. What if the Federation of Australia featured six states – Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand – while Western Australia remained independent? What would that mean for the sporting landscape?
There would be no Michael Hussey in the Australian cricket team, and in years gone by Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh would have lined up against the baggy-green wearing Jeff Thomson, Greg Chappell and Doug Walters. The Australian side would have enjoyed the benefit of a certain Sir Richard Hadlee, while Daniel Vettori and Shane Warne could have bowled spin in tandem.
The underarm ball, which helped solidify the cricketing antagonism between the two countries, would never have happened. There would be no rivalry between the All Blacks and the Wallabies and the intertwined histories of the two nations’ netball sides would cease to exist. No, it’s better this way. Everyone needs a friendly rival, with whom competition is fierce and comradeship is even stronger. But domestic holidays in Fiji would have been nice.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here