My friend told me, “Now I have to work, you’re kind of on your own from here.” In other words, If you get caught, I don’t know you. The three rules he gave me were no autographs, no personal photos, and no cheering.
From the ‘fark that’ files – downhill urban mountain biking:
Watching Ronaldo was like watching a river flowing, lightning flashing, or a herd of bulls stampeding across the plains. It was profound and beautiful, insomuch as it was a natural occurrence. Ronaldo was a phenomenon, and he inspired the requisite human awe.
Road cycling and peacocking go hand in hand, as mainly middle aged white guys want to make it clear to passersby they’ve dropped shitloads of wonga on their rides and lycra – but if you’re a proper Tour de France rider forced to wear a team uniform by The Man, how do you stand out? New York Times investigates.
The new face of international diplomacy. Euro wrecker Boris Johnson drops his shoulder into the middle of an opponent’s gentleman’s area, while playing football. Best comedy foreign minister since Winston.
Long read – Premier League rivalries unraveled.
Includes Arsenal’s underhand and wholly immoral inclusion in top flight football then and forever more, and ones that spring up then fade, like Liverpool and Chelsea in the late 2000s. Some rivalries you don’t want, like when Spurs depressingly played Wimbledon something like 16 times in a week in 1999, and some are just weird, like our ‘title rivalry with Leicester City in 2016’. Tremendous pics and layout here too.
2015 was all about heroes, wasn’t it. The cricket! The rugby! Bloody hell we are spoiled. Kiss my arse 2007, here’s sportreview.net.nz’s year in review.
At half time in the final, I caught myself thinking ‘so this is what it’s like to feel comfortable in a RWC final. That was obviously a total amateur move as Australia roared back at us, as they were always going to do, but it worked out OK. It only took about three weeks before I got Grant Nisbett screaming ‘BEAUDEN BARRETT’ out of my head.
After the slow start, the tournament was an absolute ripper, with France (casual, stylish demolition), South Africa (three-weeks-on-an-all-burrito-diet-level-squeaky-bum-time) and Australia (DAN CARTER REDEMPTION) beaten and now becoming one warm memory of nerves, early starts and triumph. New Zealand was great, generally with everyone good-naturedly panicking together in our lounges, the pubs and on Twitter.
With all those greats retiring there’s a lot of holes to fill, and next year’s Super Rugby will be loads of fun as Twitter attempts to find replacements. Of course all this year’s feel-goodery will be gone pretty much 15 minutes into a scratchy start against Wales, but that’s all part of the fun innit.
Elsewhere, the Highlanders took the Super Rugby title in style, denying the poor old Hurricanes a title – this was as brilliant for the southerners as it was devastating for the ‘canes fans, who must take a fair amount of gut wrenching anguish with their razzle dazzle.
And we lost Jonah and Jerry and Norm. While not technically immortal, All Blacks are meant to live to ripe old ages in this country, so this didn’t seem possible, or indeed fair.
Like Sanjay said on Twitter the other day, most days this year I’ve been dreaming of Grant Elliott hitting that six and berserk-ing his bat around so violently I was afraid Dan Vettori would be injured before the final.
The achievement is no less remarkable a few months later. I mean shit, we had:
A double century in a quarter final
The top wicket taker in the tournament, a guy who everyone thought was too Test-orientated to be picked a few months out
The best captain, who broke the world’s scariest bowler in the semi final
A bowling spell of 7 wickets that dismantled the game’s inventors and had everyone annoyed we even had to have a tea break
Nerves of steel at crunch time, against Australia and South Africa in particular
This was the year when 400 became the new 300 and while we lost the series to England, I don’t think ODI cricket is ever going to be the same. Stephen Fleming used to talk about advancing a Test, we have just advanced the sport. And done it without being dicks.
OK, so we missed the chance to win at Lord’s this year and went down to Australia in the long anticipated series, showing how hard it is to keep getting results in international cricket, especially away from home. The consistent thing is the tremendous fight and ability to claw ourselves back into games we showed against India last year and Sri Lanka earlier this year, as we fought back into the Australian series. Of course we’re going to have to do it without B Mac from next year, but all the pieces are in place to succeed – we’ve given ourselves every chance to keep doing things no other NZ team has done before.
I liked the pink ball Test, but there’s a few things to fix, the main one being the lolly hour in the last session where a side slogging in the field all day suddenly gets a rocket up their bum and wickets start tumbling. In the big bat era, anything that gives the bowlers a boost is welcome, but it needs to be available throughout the day/s, not just the last hour.
Still, the big crowds and TV audiences will be what counts most for those making the decisions, so expect pink balls on show at Seddon Park or Hagley sometime soon.
Hug it out
You can draw many parallels between the BLACKCAPS and the All Blacks’ cultures. Basically, the winning formula seems to be:
A derring-do captain that people listen to when they speak
A coach who lets players get on with it and backs players with extended runs in the team. But can be steely when required. And top support staff
A desire to win, and in style
Team culture that’s a open, supportive and even a little bit new age-y, for New Zealand
You can do a lot if you’re free to do what you do best. This game, when Luke Ronchi and Grant Elliott came together at 93-5 and walked off with a total of 360 sticks in the mind – you’d expect a limp to 170 from there, but instead we got a punishing, giddy counter attack. Same for That Cardiff Quarterfinal, history be damned, we wasted them.
I am a cricket player again, for the first time in roughly twelve years. Our team, Mairangi Vice, is not troubling the upper reaches of the Bays Big Bash but geez it’s a lot of fun. It’s fair to say the spirit is more willing than the flesh with more injuries than Darren Anderton among the team, but that old feeling of the ball coming out of the middle or getting one to shape away is familiar, welcome and hard to beat. The body will get a good rest over the break (ahem) and we’ll be back into it next year. Buying all the gear was fun too.
Tottenham fans are in that ‘can we actually get excited now?’ phase – yes we have a manager with vision, all these young players looking right at home and we’re getting results, but we’ve been burned before. Personally I wouldn’t be too upset about a Europa League exit to give us a decent run at the champions league spots / the league. The Internet came up with the too-clever insult ‘Spursy’ this year, which I found kind of devastating. Let’s hope we’re not Spursy for once.
This geeky great white hope could have had pretty much any job he wanted, and to choose Liverpool, the quintessential under-achievers with over-expectations, says both ‘I was into football before it was cool’ and ‘I am a bit mad’. Fair play to him.
Make sure you get all over The Spinoff’s steroided-up sports section – it’s the internet equivalent of a Barcelona-style team goal with 30 stroked passes leading to a stonking finish, with Scotty Stevenson in the editor’s seat and friend-of-sportreview Calum Henderson contributing. Hopefully Spinoff supremo Duncan Grieve will find time among running the most impressive actual-writing site in NZ to write some sport, ‘cos he’s ace at it. Well played.
Anyone who says football is faster now obviously hasn’t seen Marco Tardelli take down Gianni Rivera two seconds after kick off. Yellow card.
A major part of my job is to lie (sorry, Mom). I have to use deception to manipulate two, sometimes three, defenders guarding me. It’s a 90-minute game of chess. If I know we don’t have the ball in a threatening spot, I’ll often sacrifice my positioning for a little while so I can soften up the defenders for later.
Couple of Tottenham links to get Our Year underway – here’s Harry Kane with a casual run and edge of the box screamer in first pre-season run. sportreview.net.nz reaction – “Woof,” and “that’s great but please can we have another striker to go with him? Thanks.”
When I was eight, and still dreaming of a career in the baggy green, I would burst into tears whenever I got out. Fortunately, I outgrow the habit by the age of 10. Watto, even at the age of 34, greets every dismissal as if still in the throes of that impending juvenile trauma. He bristles with purpose, but it’s a purpose with no team solidarity; his sporting will is entirely self-centred.