Toys ejected from pram – Coutts sacked

I like Russell Coutts. He’s earned NZers’ ire, but has forced us to grow up as a sporting nation for doing the same thing that many, many rugby players and coaches are doing every year, going overseas to find a better opportunity. It’s just that unlike Taine, or Craig, or Christian, Russell came back to take ‘our’ cup, and freed up a lot of warehouse space in the Viaduct in the process.

Coutts is supremely focussed, won’t accept second best, is outspoken, and a winner. Like Glenn Turner and Arthur Lydiad (until recent years), this hasn’t made him popular. It’s hard to see what he’ll do next, it may be impossible for him to race in the next regatta, but Team New Zealand would have a much better chance with him (in any capacity) than without him.


All Blacks undefeated but nobody happy

Chris Rattue on the weekend’s test match. Yes the back line was sluggish, and yes they could use a plan B, but we’ve just won 6 in a row, chaps! (Including two close ones, remember we used to always lose those) By my reckoning we haven’t had a pack this good since 1997, and for once it’s the forwards instead of the backs winning matches for us. Once it all comes together we could be looking at something special – and our next two matches are to be played on dry tracks.


Armstrong out on his own in front

Lance Armstrong’s sixth consecutive Tour De France victory will go down as one of the great sporting feats. The 2004 event ended up being as straightforward as these races can be, with the competition wilting in the face of Lance and his USPS team, the Blue Train. Great to see his prickly attitude though, when urging Ullrich to race in the mountains, and not letting Simeoni get away from him. A superhuman feat from the cancer survivor.


NZ Rugby needs our greatest rivals to be great again

I remember sitting up to watch our first game against South Africa after they were re-admitted to international competition, and watching the grainy coverage of the brown grass, the forwards that seemed impossibly huge, and feeling the tension. That green jersey evokes so many memories, from the colossal test series of the 50s and 60s, to the 1981 tour and all that means for us as a young nation, to the 1995 world cup loss. It’s been six years since the Boks have beaten us, and now the foot-shooting is starting all over again. Rivals make each other strong, and we’re missing that all-out confrontation that a traditional ABs v Boks match brings. The fans from this proud rugby nation deserve far better than this.


Millar’s cautionary tale

There’s more talk of drugs in sport nowadays than on a Nandor Tanczos visit to his dealer. You just know that a big name athlete is going to be thrown out of the Olympics this year, if they haven’t been banned from going to the games at all. This is the story of David Millar, the Brit cyclist who was recently banned from Cycling for taking EPO. Millar has come clean and told his story, a refreshing attitude compared to some.


Transfer merry-go-round

Keep up to date with all the transfers from the Premier League over the (UK) summer. My pal Andrew says that Birmingham City have made the best signings and are the ones to watch this year, but I can’t see it. Chelsea have done well so far, but I still have the feeling it’s all going to turn to custard. Arsenal have been quite quiet, too – it’ll be a huge blow to them if Viera goes to Madrid, and we know how these sagas usually end, don’t we (see Beckham, D & Ronaldo)? Jaques Santini is quietly putting the Tottenham revolution in the water and seeing how it floats.


Old fashioned test match – just add water

Old fashioned wet weather rugby from the All Blacks on Saturday night. Can’t understand the doubt about the performance, though, All Black bashing after a win is both too fashionable and really boring to me – would sir prefer the Warriors? We’re building something here, take a chill pill and enjoy holding the Bledisloe for another year. And think about what that amount of possession would mean on a dry track.


‘Morning Richie

Richie Benaud, who has witnessed over 500 test matches, speaks about his career, Billy Birmingham (the Twelfth Man), and avoids the retirement issue. Benaud’s experience of the game all over the world for many, many years makes him unique among the great commentators. The Observer’s Kevin Mitchell feels “that if cricket has a Pope, his name is Richie”.


Book Review – Hadlee Hits Out by Richard Hadlee (1983)

  I’ll confess, I’m a huge Sir Richard Hadlee fan. As a cricket mad young boy I pored over this book, and borrowed it from the library many, many times until my grandparents gave me my own copy.

“Hadlee Hits Out” covers a historic period in NZ’s cricketing history, from the underarm delivery (this chapter still makes the blood boil), Hadlee’s time with Notts in England, through the World Cup of 1983, to the first test win in England at Headingly. There’s a huge amount of detail on the games, but the fascinating parts come when Hadlee muses on a wide range of issues, from touring South Africa, to Geoff Howarth’s form with the bat, through to his tussles with NZCC.

The opening chapter has Hadlee’s thoughts on his team mates in that legendary mid eighties team. He obviously handed each one a questionnaire asking their favorite food, TV show, memorable moment, etc. “Charlie’s (Ewan Chatfield) special interests include gardening. The last book he read was the Yates Garden Guide. He likes playing squash”. Despite valiant efforts at amusing anecdotes, his humor free reputation is confirmed – on Trevor Franklin’s nickname “Herman” – “A few years ago on the telly there was a programme called Herman Munster, and he looks very similar to the actor who played that part”.

He has strong views on his NZ Cricket boss Martin Snedden – “He likes all sports and is a bit of an intellectual. The last book he read was The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlam… He always has a comment to add that has very little to do with the subject being talked about”.

Hadlee has no need for a ghost writer to help with his forthright views, and comes across as a man totally focused on cricket and measuring up to his own exalted standards. This may explain his aloof reputation, but the fact remains that Hadlee remains the greatest cricket player New Zealand has produced by some distance.

You can’t argue with his record as a fast bowler and all-rounder at time when the Zimbabwes and Bangladeshes weren’t playing test cricket. The team that was built around him put New Zealand cricket on the map, and as we saw when it broke up, rebuilding takes a long time.

Hadlee was a marvelous player and we were lucky to have him. Reading this book won’t give you many deep and fascinating insights into his thoughts as he ripped through batsmen, but it will bring back some fond memories.


At Royal Troon, the Postage Stamp licks you

David Davies on British Open venue Royal Troon’s 8th hole – the Postage Stamp. Along with the 17th’s island green at Sawgrass, perhaps the most notorious par 3 in Golf. Swept by the Scottish winds, it plays 123 yards, with a tiny green surrounded by cavernous bunkers. The pros play this one with white knuckles, but it’s compelling viewing, the sporting equivalent of sneaking a look at a car accident.