A day at the park

Last Friday I was at a ‘work’ ‘off-site’ at Eden Park – it was fascinating seeing the game preparations, with guys marking out the advertising on the grass, seemingly by hand, the Auckland team playing a raucous game of touch and the Waikato team later mooching around the turf like a bunch of bored teenagers at a shopping mall, taking it all in. It seemed to work for them.

Meanwhile, the big screen on the Western stand played an unidentifiable swords n goblin epic (Underworld?) DVD menu. All day.


The new Southern stand must be pretty close to being finished – it’s imposing. The new terraces (that now incorporate the old Panasonic stand) look much more sanitary than the old ones, at this stage.

More photos – the Southern and Western stands, the Southern and a little model of the whole thing.

Portrait of the blogger as a young drunken idiot

Having embraced this revolutionary scanner technology, I’m going to fire up some photos from the vault. You can click on the photos to make them bigger.

This was one one of my best sporting days out ever – New Zealand v Australia in the 1999 Cricket World Cup in Cardiff. Me and three of me besht mates made the train trip from London the night before, and after an evening out dodging short, angry Welsh men wound up to punching point by pissed antipodeans trying to steal their girlfriends, we woke up and made our way to the ground. Possibly the biggest cheer of the day came early when then-Wales Rugby coach Graham Henry (still the Great Redeemer at that stage) and Raewyn came past trying to find their seat.

Graham Henry 200608

We had great seats, if a little side-on. Behind us sat an English cricket boffin in a ‘I got dressed in the dark’ pink shirt. He’d bought his hand written notebook of handy stats, and scribbled away happily all day. We’d get questions like “Whatever happened to random under-20 player that toured England seven years ago we didn’t have a fucking clue about? I thought he might have been playing?”. Bless.

Behind us and to the side – an Aussie wearing only a mullet and Aussie flag boxers – I shit you not. He had an amazing array of songs and chants and mixed it up all day, not repeating himself once*. We soon discovered the beer tent, and spent most of the accumulation period getting fairly arseholed under the warm Cardiff sun. I forget what we were having, but it was served in proper plastic pint glasses. Very civilised.

As for the match, Geoff Allot took out the openers, and except for Lehmann’s Micheal Beven-impressions, the Aussies had nothing, really. 213 was the target and the between-innings beer queue murmurings were cautiously optimistic. Until we came out and started losing wickets. The Aussies were going through us like Kim Hughes goes through tissues, until Roger ¬†Twose and Chris Cairns started turning things around, taking singles until they caught and passed the run rate, and started playing shots. In the haze, I can remember Cairns twice hitting Warne back over his head into the river running behind the ground. Glorious. Cairns went with a dozen or so to go, but we were all but there.

Pitch 200608

When the winning runs were hit, there was nothing to do but run on the field. I turned to shake hands with Pink Shirt, and he waved me on, saying “Enjoy it lads”. We bloody did, getting the obligatory ‘lying on the pitch!’ (above), and the ‘in front of the scoreboard on the day we wasted the Aussies! The bloody Aussies!’ (below) photo ops. Then it was back to the train station for the three hour journey home with the Aussie fans. Nice.

Scoreboard 200608

Then we lost to Pakistan in the semi, the Aussies somehow won theirs, and they only went and won the bloody thing. Still, I’ll always have Cardiff.

*this isn’t true.

Being there: Chiefs v Blues, Super 14

Friday, I was at Eden Park for the Cricket, but if this is Saturday, it must be Rugby.


Last year’s Super 14 was the testing ground for ‘Look, Ma, no All Blacks!’. This year we’re testing the Experimental Law Variations (or something). The players all looked like they’d been in the gym. There were some really big hits.

They’ll need to be fit, cos the new rules make the game FAST. There was lots of sevens-style chasing after the ball slowly, forcing the opposition to cover you all the way back.

There was a lot of kicking. The forwards spent much of the game wandering around the half way line like a Zombie hoard while the full backs and wingers played force back over their heads.

The Chiefs have a great team – Mils, Sivivatu, Anesi, Kahui, Donald, Leonard, Messam, Gibbes, Luaki, and Willis… that’s a really solid spine, with some real experience tucked in there. The only thing we’re missing is a couple of massive, hairy props, which is strange, as Waikato teams are usually renowned for its great hairy props.

Eden Park seems to be taking the threat of cinemas seriously in it’s bid to retain the title “Biggest, evilest rip-off merchant of the year, Food and Drink”. I’ll review the items one by one.

– Chips – these are OK. Still. Four bucks.
– Battered Hot Dog – Horrible, pitiful, pitiful amount of sauce, and a round stick. A round stick just seems wrong.
– Fish and Chips – I’d rather have gravel and chips than pay $8.50 for fish and chips at a rugby ground.
– Calamari and Chips – No way. Just… no way.
– Soft drink / water – Jesus, don’t leave yourselves short, will you?

Overall, it was a fun, low key night out, and Eden Park is not a bad place to be of a balmy February evening. The Blues will do well this year, and it’s only early days for the Chiefs. It did make me feel I need to make the most of what’s left of this summer, though.

The Eden Park one-two

Tomorrow, instead of spending my best years sitting at a desk (I love my job, really), I’ll mostly be sleeping in then trotting off to the Cricket (if the rain stays away). Let’s see if we can wrap it up 3-0 and then play the kids. What? We’re beating them WITH the kids? OK then.

While I’m there, I’ll fire some insight (heh) through to the Sportsfreak. Their live blog of game two was a real larf and got picked up on the Guardian’s blog.

Actually, I’m just hoping to see the lights. I’ve been to two day night matches where it’s been all over before they’re even turned on. Come on, England!

Then on Saturday night, it’s Eden Park again for the Chiefs v the Blues. They will play a game called Rugby, you may have heard of it. Surreally, it’s that season again, seems like only yesterday I was wallowing in a black hovel of despair… Still, it’s not going to go away, and as much as I hate myself, I’ve got a nagging curiosity, and I’ll be interested to see the New Rules. I’ve got no idea what they’re about. It’s going to be a shambles. Nah, it IS far too early to be watching Rugby, isn’t it?

Cross post: Guide to Cricket this summer

Here’s one I prepared earlier at The Aucklandista…

Cricket’s a summer bat and ball game invented by England but perfected by the West Indies, India, Pakistan and Australia (boo!). Being English, there’s a whole bunch of complicated rules, but they won’t concern you when you’re deciding if you can still eat a hot dog dropped in a beer. Keen to get involved? There’s an FAQ after the jump…

Continue reading “Cross post: Guide to Cricket this summer”

Auckland’s pubs line up for the World Cup

Bluestone Room it was for England v Sweden at 7am. After negociating Auckland’s parking spots, we were in for 6.50am to order a ‘Beckham Big Breakfast’, an ‘Ericsson 4-4-2 omelet’, and a bottomless cup of warm brown liquid proffered under the description ‘coffee’. It was halftime before I saw my food, but otherwise they did an OK job, and no dodgy DJs at this hour. It’s fascinating to see people’s approach for these early games, from important looking guys in suits drinking pints, to backpacker types drinking pints like it was 7 in the evening. It’s hardly the town square in Hamburg, but it’s nice to watch with a crowd.
– This morning I got a text at 2.30am from a dodgy England fan in The Paddington, telling me he was tucking into his first Stella. Apparently there were 150 people there drinking piss at 3.00am of a Monday, and the atmosphere was electric. That is good action, and looks to be the nominated venue for England v Portugal – but I’ve got my own football to play the next day! Our forefathers died in the war so we can have these dilemmas.

I didn’t recognise you without your chainsaw…

Possum turned up at Eden Park on Saturday night. Normally busy threatening Waikato Stadium with his chainsaw from the relative safety of a cherry picker bucket, he appeared in the South Stand in the second half to mingle with his public.

It was like the Pope turning up in a Dublin bar, within seconds he was offered a beer (which he took in a flash), had shook everyone’s hand, and posed for photos (You’re Possum! I love you!) with his fans. And then he was gone.

In this day and age of professional rugby, where the Blues have a (feckin)Pirate running around Eden Park (because the market research says you just gotta have a mascot, the target demographic LOVES mascots), it’s nice to know crazed fans like Possum are around.

Now Waikato just need to go back to the two-man-pantomine-horse-style Mooloo, then I’ll be happy.

Being there – Chiefs v Crusaders

First, if you’re fool-hardy enough to attempt driving to Hamilton for a 7.30 kick off, leave central Auckland earlier than 4.45.Second, when you get to the general Rugby Park area at 7.20 wile driving, looking for a park and talking on the phone simultaneously, stressing out will help exactly no-one.

Third, park in the Whitiora Bible Chapel.

Fourth, Ticketmaster are utterly incompetent. By the time I reached the (single) pick up point, there was a massive queue with at least a couple of hundred people missing all the game at that point.

Fifth, after Dad’s heroics in the queue it was a huge relief to get to our seats, with Girl, Mum and Dad and N+J safely in tow. We were in the new (Brian Perry) stand, with its great sightlines, and typically easy access to booze and deep fried food. I was driving to the Mount for the weekend, afterwards, so only two Waikatos for me.

Sixth, we were lucky enough to sit behind a bunch of guys that were PISSED, and kept us entertained through the match by a) throwing bourbon and coke on each other b) loads of top class swearing c) spending long periods of the match in the bar d) falling asleep. I though they were going to be annoying but they turned out harmless enough, and like I said to the others, ‘hey, we’ve all been there’. Being shitfaced at the rubgy is as kiwi as thinking Greg Chappell is a wanker.

Seventh (I can’t be fucked counting any more) – It was a great game to be at. I’ve seen a few Canterbury v Waikato matches recently (including the stormer in the 2002 NPC where Waikato beat the All Blacks) and this one was right up there with them. The Crusaders were very, very good, and I think we did tremendous to keep up and almost nick it. Their defense was everywhere and took all the Chiefs could throw at it – though I would have liked to see Luaki have a go more with a had of steam up, instead of running off that stupid half step thing he does.

The Waikato defense was also impressive, save the first ten minutes (and I wasn’t even in the ground at that stage, so it doesn’t count), with Gibbes and Tuitupou
making huge hits. Still, the Crusaders showed in the final five minutes when the Chiefs had two huge chances to nick it why they’re champions – we cracked under the pressure, and threw that crucial last lineout in crooked. It’s like we were beaten by the Crusaders’ very reputation.

Other things:
– Can we have less ‘We Will Rock You’ played on the sound system? We get it. And playing the Feelers’ (shit band) “Stand up and be counted” when we went behind was a dick move, but I hate music being played at sport grounds in general.
– The Chiefs cheerleaders are HOT this year.
– McCaw and Holah are both huge.
– I saw Graham Henry and Brian Lohore under the stand looking very relaxed and smiling and nodding to punters afterwards while they waited for the crowd to piss off so they could go home. Could you imagine this happening in any other country?