We can be heroes – 2015 in review

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.

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The BLACKCAPS watch the RWC final, Trent Boult with the blankie there. Photo: @BLACKCAPS.

The rugby
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.

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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.

The cricket 

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.

Balls, inspector
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.

The potential common thread here is the High Performance Sport NZ accelerator coaching course Mike Hesson and Steve Hansen took together in 2009 – this is some super work from HPSNZ, hopefully fellow course attendee Janine Southby can work the same trick.

Playing again
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.
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Buying all the gear was fun too.

The football
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.

sportreview most read posts

  1. Welcome to worry week, brought to you by France
  2. Rugby’s coming home and potentially leaving again quite quickly
  3. Who ruled the world?
  4. FIFA scandal who’s who
  5. The summer ODIs went bat shit

Elsewhere
This year I enjoyed spending more family time, had a career change and didn’t write on this blog very much. Ahem. The book I enjoyed the most was The Goldfinch, and I’m astonished by the quality and quantity coming from Duncan’s The Spinoff. The songs I listened to the most were (Dad rock alert!) Steely Dan’s Dirty Work and Reelin’ In The Years (the solo!) and Over And Over by Fleetwood Mac, whose concert was ace.

Promise to write more next year team, hope you enjoyed what there was and thanks for reading. Hope you get a nice break and all your eating, drinking and doing feck-all needs are well fulfilled.

Cupping the cup – RWC 15 preview

We’re almost there – rugby fans who’ve not put a boot through the 40″ in frustration at a build up more dreary than a family holiday to Stationery Warehouse will have actual rugby to digest in less that 24 hours time.

Fans of ‘stats’ and ‘facts’ have had plenty of chances to scratch that itch elsewhere. sportreview.net.nz presents a RWC 15 guide to the All Blacks’ opposition, and a pointer to the potential pain the nation’s about to experience together.

Australia

It's the World in Union - everyone enjoys Australian defeat.
It’s the World in Union – everyone enjoys Australian defeat.

World cup history
Twice winners, but the last time was ’99 and it’s been more barren than a post-Matt Dunning Koru lounge buffet since. The golden generation of Eales, Gregan, Larkham, Horan etc are long since retired, the recent coaching change circus and playing roster rabble are having a hard time measuring up.

Can they win it?
Technically yes, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Cheika era is flattering to deceive. He’s developed a big old forward pack and some fair backline talent, but their ability to actually win when it counts seems as likely as a Tony Abbott comeback.

How bad would they be to lose to?
Four more years bad. They’ll be tough all right, but on current form and depth, we should smash them like a kebab on the way home from the pub.

sportreview.net.nz stat attack

Four Gregans.

Four Gregans.

 

England

CARPARK_3110738b
England fans. What a pack of dorks.

World cup history
Winners in 2003 with a forward pack carved from granite, the complicated Johnny Wilkinson and not a lot else. Bit of a mixed bag apart from that, best known for providing comedy opposition to Jonah Lomu’s early start to the ‘get the Union Jack off our flag’ movement in 1995.

Can they win it? 
Bloody probably. Twickers with its hooray Henrys and indomitable bloody roar is their Eden Park, and they get to play all their tough matches there. Everyone’s openly hoping they don’t make it out of the Group Of Death, but that seems unlikely.

How bad would they be to lose to?
Awful. With fans and sponsors starting the usual / irritating ‘bantz’ about the Haka early doors, by the time we actually get to play them in a knock out match in about nine weeks time the tension will be unbearable. Every All Blacks fan takes each loss to England during their life time as an extremely personal insult. To do so in the world cup would basically End Of Days.

sportreview.net.nz stat attack

Woodward

Two youthful Clive Woodwards.

France

French rugby fans all look like this and are extremely annoying.
French rugby fans all look like this and are extremely annoying.

World cup history
Thrice finalists, never won it. All Blacks fans who’ve sucessfully repressed the memories will be interested to learn the French knocked us out of the tournament gloriously in ’99, and in treacherous fashion in ’07.

Can they win it? 
They’re as crazy as a crocodile locked in your desk drawer, and you wouldn’t want to open it to find out. Look, people around the country will spend the next month telling each other that the French are unpredictable, so sportreview.net.nz is unlikely to figure it out here and now.

How bad would they be to lose to?
The absolute worst. Mike Hosking long form interview on scout.co.nz bad.

sportreview.net.nz stat attack

Laporte

Six Bernard Laportes.

South Africa

South Africa - famous the world over for its rugby passion.
South Africa – famous the world over for its rugby passion.

World cup history
Twice winners, they’re always tough and more than happy to run through brick walls to get through. Then again, they’ve had their fair share of quarter final exits and look best when they stick to grinding it out and relying on a deadly kicker to get the lollies.

Can they win it? 
Yes. But it seems unlikely. They’ll be at the business end like a japanese executive ignoring the last drinks call in a karaoke bar, but it seems there’s more likely options elsewhere this time around.

How bad would they be to lose to?
They’re arguably our greatest rivals and encounters tend more fiery than Gareth Morgan versus a cat. It could be worse, much worse.

sportreview.net.nz stat attack

Os

One Os du Rant.

Everyone else

An old codger talks to his pint and his imaginary dragon. Bless.
An old codger talks to his pint and his imaginary dragon.

World cup history
 Some of the most memorable games involve those outside the big teams above, like Samoa’s defeats of Wales and Ireland taking down Australia at Eden Park last time, but there’s been some match ups more one sided than hamburger v tofu along the way.

Can they win it?
No. Wales and Ireland seem the most likely to spring surprises and will be tough quarter finals opponents, but most teams outside the ones above will be very happy to get out of the group. Rugby, which is run by old boys clubs, is a game where the old boys clubs are most likely to achieve, unsurprisingly.

How bad would they be to lose to?
A small part of every New Zealander would not begrudge Wales a world cup win. Same goes for Ireland, but seeing as we’ve never lost to them and this is the world bloody cup, it would be bad. Really bad. If the All Blacks are eliminated by anyone else, expect our national sport to be Lacrosse when 2019 rolls around.

sportreview.net.nz stat attack

Tualigi

Five Alesana Tuilagis.

Ten years of sportreview.net.nz: Etc

This week marks the ten year anniversary of this blog making the internet worse. Cue a series of unprecedented navel gazing posts – thanks for reading, team.  Ten years: Banners / NEWSDESK / Cartoons / Links on Friday

Thanks for bearing with the ten year posts team, I know it’s been a hard slog. And thanks again for reading. It’s always a thrill to know that a few people enjoy reading the site and get a laugh out of it. As always, the aim of the site is:

I love sport, and I love New Zealand. We Kiwis support our sports people admirably, but take it all a bit seriously. I just want to inject a little humour. Relax, it won’t hurt a bit.

Also thanks to the other sports bloggers, who are a little thinner on the ground now as say five or six years ago (Twitter has a lot to answer for here). The likes of Graeme , JRod, the Beige Brigade (one of the finest fan-lead organisations in the world)’s Paul Ford, Hadyn (the Dropkicks!), Duncan Grieve‘s lamented DeadBall and all the others I’ve missed. It was a lot of fun being part of a group of (mostly) guys who gave a lot of fucks about sport, on the field, but also about the issues around it, the creep of commercialisation and where where the sporting organisations were taking their sports.

The site has evolved over the years from a pretty straight links-blog-with-a-little-comment to the cartoons, to the links on Friday, to the satire, to the ‘analytical‘ stuff to what it is now. Yes, I know the site is not updated as frequently as its heyday, and that pragmatically, with my job, I’m not as actively annoying.  Hopefully that’s balanced out a little, where possible, with some behind-the-scences stuff from the BLACKCAPS. Here’s when I went to Bangladesh and, um, here’s that other time I went to Bangladesh. Ahem.

Some of the posts I’ve enjoyed writing the most are from my own sporting experiences – as someone that spent most of my OE trying to visit sports events, the sportreview.net.nz top 12 stadiums post was a great place to record all that (top three are Waikato Stadium, Eden Park and White Hart Lane, spoiler fans). There’s also my two attempts to cover myself in glory and lager at the 1999 Cricket World Cup in Cardiff as the BLACKCAPS beat the Aussies, and the All Blacks v Italy pool match in Huddersfield that ended with an un-sanctioned meet and greet with the team in a Leeds nightclub, also in ’99. You may also enjoy this write up of playing cricket in a friendly fixture / piss up in Wexford, Ireland.

1999, what a year! Making friends with Glen Osbourne in Huddersfield.

Scoreboard 200608

1999, what a year! Celebrating wasting the Ockers in Cardiff.
Some other stuff that you may enjoy are the sportreview podcast – start with this French test preview. Try also Sport’s top five Fight Club duos and the Top ten tragic moments in New Zealand Sport.

I’m still taking Stalkipedia entries, you know.

I enjoyed the site the most during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the one we bloody won. Reminisce on the semi-final,  the final, Stephen Donald’s recall and those bloody jerseys.

If you’re having a look through the site, start with the Greatest Hits.

I think that’s about it. I think the site can be summed up best by ‘caring about sport’ and ‘having fun’, and I trust that if you’ve found your way here you do one, or the other, or both.  Good on you, sport needs more like you.  Righto.

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That Bangladesh bat-signing shambles in full.

Ten years of sportreview.net.nz: NEWSDESK

This week marks the ten year anniversary of this blog making the internet worse. Cue a series of unprecedented navel gazing posts – thanks for reading, team. 

Ten years: Banners / NEWSDESK

Read all articles, which are worse than these, tagged NEWSDESK.

24 June 2011: Stephen Donald resting up on Kapiti Coast beach

NEWSDESK: Former All Black Stephen Donald has made himself at home on a Kapiti Coast beach. Donald, who was dropped from the All Black training squad this week, was discovered by Peka Peka Beach resident Gladys Coronation, who was out walking her dogs. “I thought I was seeing things, it’s pretty unusual to see an All Black in this neck of the woods. He seems content, but he’s just… sitting there.”

Coronation contacted the Department of Conservation, who are advising that people should remain at least ten metres away from Stephen Donald at all times, and that dogs should be kept on a leash. “Donald could deliver a vicious peck if he feels threatened. Best case scenario is that he eventually swims back out to sea,” said a DOC spokesperson.

The residents of Peka Peka beach have taken Stephen Donald into their hearts, and are taking it in turns to stand guard. “I’d love to throw a blanket on him and say ‘Just forget about fucking up in Hong Kong, bro’ but you have to let him be. You just have to let him be,” said local hardcase Gavin McEyebrow.

17 September 2007: French to All Blacks – ‘We will steal your girlfriends’

NEWSDESK: French efforts to win the World Cup are moving from the playing field to the bedroom, launching a campaign to distract the All Blacks by stealing their girlfriends. Experts believe the players’ unrelenting focus on World Cup preparations, not sweet nothings whispered in ears, could leave them exposed to a brigade of oily French marauders.

Alarm bells are ringing in the All Blacks’ camp at the potentially disastrous consequences sudden, unexpected heartbreak could have on the campaign. Despite smelling mainly of garlic, onions and cheap aftershave, French men are renowned for their sensitivity to a woman’s physical and emotional desires, compared with our Kiwi fellas’ grunting emotional unavailability. Tactics at the French gits’ disposal include admiring the starry lights of Paris by night, getting caught in the rain and seeking shelter in a cafe, browsing second hand bookshops wearing a beret, and speaking French, the language of love.

The All Blacks are now playing catch up, learning key romantic French phases like “Ici, ayez une chemise de polo d’Adidas, je l’a obtenue libre” (Here, have an Adidas polo shirt, I got it free), “Là où sont mes chaussettes propres?” (Where are my clean socks?), and “La jeune mariée d’emballement est sur le câble ce soir, bébé” (Runaway Bride is on cable tonight, baby).

17 April 2007: England lose, un-invent cricket. World Cup thrown into chaos

NEWSDESK: In a bold move, England un-invented Cricket following their crushing nine wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa. Former ECB Chairman David Morgan told reporters “Our supporters have long faced taunts about England inventing the game, but being crap at it. Well, sod you lot quite frankly, we can ruddy well un-invent it. That is all.” When pressed further while leaving the press conference, a clearly tired and emotional Morgan blurted “You Aussies think you’re so smart – well stick this up your jacksie, Trev.” before being quickly lead away.

Chartered accountant Micheal Vaughan said “Obviously we’ll take full responsibility for ending Cricket forever – that’s life. Batting first after winning the toss wasn’t the best move, but hindsight’s 20/20 isn’t it? We just have to make the best of it.” Yorkshire plumber Andrew Flintoff: “Well the lads are pretty disappointed at how its worked out, but we mustn’t grumble, we’d had a good innings. We’ll always have fond memories of 2005, and that WAS a tremendous piss-up afterwards.”

7 September 2011: All Black selectors get drunk, select backline

NEWSDESK: All Black selectors confirmed they were “pretty wasted” when selecting the team to face Tonga. Forwards coach Steve Hansen told a packed press conference: “We had a few selection headaches, so Smithy brought a box of Woody’s. It all kicked on from there.”

A lightly kebab-stained team sheet revealed the surprise combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu, and the inclusion of Isaia Toeava. “I was as surprised as anyone to see Kahui on the wing. Lucky Kronic has been banned, it could have been Mils at centre!” said Hansen.

23 April 2009: Tua / Cameron fight moves to nightclub car park

NEWSDESK: Top Kiwi heavyweights David Tua and Shane Cameron will go toe to toe in the car park of Hamilton’s Troppoz night spot in November. Originally scheduled for Waikato Stadium, then Mystery Creek, the 12 round fight now takes place in a roped off section of the 60 car capacity parking facility. “We’ve hosted a number of fights in our car park” said proprietor Greg Baartowel. “Ohaupo 2nd XV versus the cops in ’93 springs to mind.”

New Zealand’s newest boxing venue is pulling out all the stops to give fight fans their money’s worth. Corporate seating will be offered in a row of thoroughly valeted V8s ringside (“Patrons can specify Holden or Ford”), while general admission punters will get great views from temporarily erected trestle tables. ‘Mountain Man’ Shane Cameron will enter the ring from behind the bar, while David Tua and entourage will emerge from the disabled toilets. Baartowel is keen to emphasise the fight will be a family friendly event. “Like the cricket, if any kids want to get in the ring and have a fight between rounds, they can do so” he said.

29 May, 2007: Dunedin’s stadium debate resolved with formation of ‘Tagotown


NEWSDESK: She’s a hard road finding the perfect city, but the people of ‘Tagotown agree they’ve come pretty close. New Zealand’s newest city has risen from the ashes of the intense debate between the region’s rugby folk and the usual gang of lefty whinging soft cocks. The pro-stadium faction took matters into their own hands and erected a wall between the former Dunedin and their new home, ‘Tagotown. The wall runs from east to west through the the Octogon, and is comprised of worn out tackle bags and couches, many of which have been set on fire.

Wall foreman Steve Hotten laid out some of the city’s founding principles in an oration to the ‘Tagotown people upon the wall’s completion. “It’s pretty farkin simple. Number one – we’re building a stadium. Number two – we support Otago. There’s no number three. If you wanna wear bone carvings, go to Dunedin.”

Unpopular posts

22 September 2010: Delhi officials concede Otago scarfie interior design firm were poor choice

“Athletes bringing a synchronised swimmer back to their room may want to leave the light off, but that’s standard practice where we’re from.”

22 June 2012: Weepu eats Cruden

“When the lights came on, everyone was like ‘where’s Aaron?’. Yeah, you always regret eating a team mate, I’m gutted for him. Hopefully the boys can dig deep on Saturday night and win it for Aaron,” said Weepu.”

29 August 2007: Red faces all round as cylinder contains body parts, not turf

“I got some funny looks going into all those cemeteries with a shovel and saw, let me tell you. What a turn-up, eh?”.

What goes on tour

This October and early November just gone, I was in Bangladesh with the BLACKCAPS. My job at NZC is digital and communication advisor – mainly, I’m behind a laptop, so getting to go away with the team was a real honour and a thrill. Leaving NZ for almost five weeks was very exciting, but I had butterflies weeks out from leaving. It would be (by far) the longest period of time I’d spend apart from my partner and two young kids (I’d miss them awfully) and the first time I’d been to the subcontinent.

If you’ve travelled to this part of the world before you’ll laugh at me, but I had some serious culture shock. THE ROADS WERE INSANE. Travelling with a minder from Chittagong airport to the stadium along the river road on day two was more mind expanding than a night out with Keith Richards. I was trying to take in how everyone lives here, struggling to play it cool while buses, vans, cars, tuk-tuks, bikes, mopeds and rickshaws performed passable Michael Shumacher impressions around our van. If you wanted to train an athlete’s peripheral vision you could do worse than put them in a car in Bangladesh and get them to drive. I was glad to meet up with the team.

Bangladesh is hot. Chittagong was brutal at times with a dry heat, while Dhaka was humid, fuggy and energy-sapping. I soon understood why the team are followed around by chilly bins full of ice and water. Gordon Penney, the BLACKCAPS video analyst and I got out the baseball gloves and a ball at training one day and threw it around for about 15 minutes, and I was done – soaked in sweat and in need of air con. I’m (obviously) no athlete, but seeing how hard the guys train and play in the heat, and hearing tales of them losing 3-4kg during an innings, I got a small understanding. It impressed me no end how hard the substitute fielders work for the guys on the field in this weather, constantly ferrying drinks and gloves out to the middle, and around the ground to fine leg. They also put in some serious bowling practise and running during the innings break, which you don’t see on the telly.

During the matches I’d spend one session with the team while colleagues in NZ took the Twitter duties, then spend the rest of the time in the press box writing my match report and tweeting. With 160 million people in the country, there is a lot of media in Bangladesh – the press boxes were full, noisy and everyone was very friendly. I have to admit I was the ‘lone clapper’ in the press box a couple of times, when the guys got centuries or wickets. Unprofessional city (!).

The stadiums were amazing, dedicated cricket grounds with great facilities for the team and spectators. Often the media box was at the opposite end of the ground to the dressing room, so I’d trek around past the crowd. I’d have all my BLACKCAPS gear on and got quite a few cheers and waves, which took a bit of getting used to – again, everyone was very friendly. Fatullah, the venue for the third ODI, was PACKED and VERY NOISY, not to mention a little intimidating.

This tour was unusual in that after Chittagong, we stayed in Dhaka in the same hotel for almost a month, as the match in Sylhet was moved to Dhaka, normally the team moves around every few days. We’d travel to matches, training and everywhere on a team bus, with armed escorts front and rear. The hotels were great, and we were very well looked after by a group of minders. I got sick once, just fever and chills, for three days – but I managed to avoid going ‘full gastro’, which was what I was expecting.

Bangladesh was quite the experience – it goes without saying it’s a world away from home but again, we were well looked after by our minders and my opposite at Bangladesh Cricket, Rabeed Imam.  Leaving the tour, I felt like a bit of a lightweight – I was going home to the family, fair weather and flat whites, while the team went on to Sri Lanka, before coming home for the full home series and then on to Bangladesh again and the West Indies. Cricket means a long time on the road to say the least.

I was honoured to be (a small) part of the team, having breakfast, travelling on the bus, being in the team huddles before training, seeing how hard they work and hearing team talks in the dressing room. It helped me get to know the team and management, understand what we were trying to do and helped me do my job. Without labouring this, they are a fine group of guys and a credit to their country. Like I say, it was an honour.

Check out more photos at blackcaps.co.nz.

Here’s all the crap I used to do my job.

Photos – you can click on them to make them bigger:

2013-10-09 09.26.01

BLACKCAPS manager Mike Sandle hanging the NZ and NZC flags outside the dressing room in Chittagong, he does this before every match.

2013-10-10 11.24.20

(Some of the) Bangladesh press corp in Chittagong, with Cricinfo’s Mohammad Isam far right.

2013-10-07 13.23.36

Comforting to know.

2013-10-10 10.25.13

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Ronald Cardwell in Chittagong – check out his website.

2013-10-14 07.30.05

Somewhat misguidedly, Hotel Agrabad in Chittagong wanted my autograph.

2013-10-14 16.07.37

At the end of each press conference, the done thing was for the TV cameras to turn around and film the press.

2013-10-18 09.55.08

Aktar (left) and Abul, our bag men. You couldn’t meet more dedicated and hardworking guys, they are legends among all teams that tour Bangladesh.

2013-11-03 19.12.39

The view from the bus of the motorcade out of Fatullah, with gun jeep in the centre.

Team New Zealand

Gratuitous team photo Test edition.

IMG_3036

Gratuitous team photo limited overs edition.

sportreview.net.nz update

Some news. In March, I am joining New Zealand Cricket as Digital and Comms Advisor, leaving my current role at Telecom*. Somehow I’ve managed to combine what I do professionally with one of my great pleasures and passions – I’m thrilled.

Common sense says everyone’s least favourite satirical NZ sport blog needs to change in some fashion, especially when it comes to cricket. I’m still figuring out how that’s all going to work.

Because this seems like a significant moment in the almost-ten year history of the site, I will recap. Readers will know that sportreview.net.nz was and is about about having fun, not being cruel**. Constructive, not scatter gun. Remember, sportreview.net.nz’s raison d’etre is this:

“We Kiwis support our sports people admirably, but take it all a bit seriously. I just want to inject a little humor. Relax, it won’t hurt a bit.”

I do this site simply for the enjoyment of writing it and to hopefully entertain you along the way. And so, dear readers, please bear with me while I find the right way to do this.

 

*And now, at last, I can start working on the satirical telecommunications blog I’ve been longing to do. I joke.

**Clive Woodward did cop it, in fairness. Let those without sin, etc.

Championes

This feels unusual. The Chiefs’ normal role in the scheme of things is starting slow, get our act together mid-way through, knock over the NZ teams heading for the play-offs, then have a bitter, nothing in it, game with the Hurricanes. Which we usually lose.

Which is why the sight of our guys dancing around the Waikato Stadium turf in triumph is a bit of a shock. The 2012 Chiefs had a new coach, lots of new faces and supposedly lacked horse power in the pack, who’d struggle to get ball to the backline, who were full of good looking razzle dazzle, but unproven as a combination.

IMAG0116
The office-worker-rugby-guy’s version of a MySpace self portrait

Turns out that was all bollocks. Rennie, Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry have created:

a) a forward pack that smashed the fearsome Crusaders in Napier early on, and turned over most everyone that came their way since (except for the *ahem* Crusaders in the last but one round)

b) a backline that survived Kahui’s season ending injury, with the new guys performing just as capably as the super stars, and super stars Williams and Cruden reaching new levels of, ah, super stardom, and

c) a team culture that from the outside (and on the Twitter) seems like family. Watch the team song, and AWESOME haka – it’s more feel good than Winnie The Pooh meeting ET

The Chiefs were consistent (pretty much) all season. Bouncing back from the thrashing by the Reds away was significant to me. They’d been flying high until then, and that was the point where the Chiefs of old’s wheels would have fallen off – but they didn’t, surviving even some late-season wobbles against the Crusaders and Hurricanes to secure the home finals spot. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a rugby match less than the one versus the Crusaders. They’re the Jason Voorhees of semi-final rugby – no matter how many times you chop their head off and throw them in the lake, they’re likely to be back two minutes later to jump out of a wardrobe armed with a meat cleaver.

But the Chiefs hung on, and rode their luck to get the home final. Despite some good work in the first half, the frequent-flyer Sharks had no answer to the Chiefs’ pack, and the backs did enough in the slippery conditions to take their first trophy, and becoming the third NZ team to win the title (I’m magnanimously not inserting a big Hurricanes-troll at this point).

Rennie has done OK for his first season to say the least. Even though we’re saying goodbye to some key players, the team is more youthful than McDonalds counter staff for the most part. Retallick, Tameifuna, Kerr-Barlow and Cane (who’s seemingly played more for the All Blacks than the Chiefs) are all at the very start of their careers, while Cruden, who seems to have been around forever, is actually only just old enough to shave. There’s no doubt we’ll miss Sonny Bill, both for his distracting presence on the field and the bums he puts on seats. It’d be great if he’s genuine about wanting to come back.

Still best rugby stadium in NZ cc @chiefsrugby

It’s a good time to be from the Waikato. I made it to two matches this year – the basketball-on-grass match versus the Blues at Albany, and the late competition match versus the Crusaders. Waikato Stadium is a pit of facepaint, flags, Waikato Draught gear and cowbells – hard to take if you support the opposition, but magic if you’re from round our way. The stadium is the right size to sell out regularly, and is just bloody LOUD – it’s a huge advantage to us, and it looked like a Hamilton-as-Rio cow cocky carnival last night.

And so, just after our netballers won NZ’s first transtasman netball trophy, the Chiefs are on top of super rugby for the first time. The only way it could have been any sweeter would have meant Stephen Donald somehow kicking the final points, but *cough* this’ll do. I hope it’s the first of a few more.

Weepu eats Cruden

NEWSDESK: The All Blacks injury crisis deepened today when it emerged out of form half back Piri Weepu ate starting first five Aaron Cruden. “It’s a worry,” said Steve Hansen. “Dan’s hamstring strain, along with Aaron being in Piri’s stomach leaves us short, so we’ve called up Beauden Barrett. Piri himself could even cover first five once his heartburn settles down.”

Weepu told reporters he ate Cruden at a Hamilton Cinema, where it was ‘pretty dark.’ “When the lights came on, everyone was like ‘where’s Aaron?’. Yeah, you always regret eating a team mate, I’m gutted for him. Hopefully the boys can dig deep on Saturday night and win it for Aaron,” said Weepu.

Dave Rennie said being eaten was obviously a career setback for Cruden, and could limit his impact on the remainder of the Chiefs campaign. The eating is not without precedent, it was long rumoured that Colin Meads ate Keith Murdoch after the 1972 Grand Slam tour, until Murdoch was found un-eaten in the Australian outback years later.