Finals fever, or just fever

My semi final experience was like this, only without the company or the joy.
My semi final experience was like this, only without the company or joy.

Do you ever really enjoy an All Blacks RWC cup semi final? In fairness, alone in the dark of night is no way to enjoy a match of this magnitude. “What did you do at half-time?” asked partner-of-sportreview, when daylight emerged. “Just sat there and worried.”

The match had a touch of the 2011 final about it, with  pleading ‘this isn’t how it’s supposed to end’ thoughts hard up against the reality of a one or two point cushion.

Twitter didn’t help. Basically everyone that was up was having a meltdown of one form or another on their phones, the little kicks in behind mystifying armchair Steve Hansens up and down the land.

I watched it again when the family got up. Second time around was much, much more enjoyable, without the furious brainstorming about all the ways we’d lose. There was no nice-guy-Heyneke about the Boks’ tactics and they showed less enthusiasm for playing actual rugby than a house cat, but still pushed us right to the brink. It would have been a bloody travesty if they’d won it, but.

Diego Maradona reacts to Argentina's tournament exit.
Diego Maradona reacts to Argentina’s tournament exit.

Those crazy Aussies
Anyway. Here we are in Big Week, lining up against the jandal lickers. They got a black mark from the neutrals by making Argentina’s magnificent coach Daniel Hourcade shed tears all over his fetching knitwear at full time. Us taking on the Aussies  at Twickenham is a dream final, with the added bonus of offering an Antipodean up-yours to the Brit establishment, the rugby equivalent of Crowded House doing a jug skull at a Buckingham Palace cocktail function.

So, what have they got? Not many Australians would make the All Blacks’ run-on side, and the AB bench would probably make an actual bench of the Ocker’s substitutes without even having to duck into Bunnings. But – they’re the last ones to beat us, and they’ll cost New Zealand a lot of sleep this week.

Michael Cheika is being talked up as a combination of a chess grand master and  Bobby Heenan. This year’s Sydney defeat and the Eden Park wasting have been analysed to death, with mind games and conspiracy theories dominating talk back like a Grant Dalton interview. But it will be David Pocock with his Popeye biceps and willingness to put his head where it will be kicked off that’s the big worry. All the talk is of taking him out of the breakdown, but no-one’s talking up the sportreview method of sneaking a vodka into his Guinness when he’s in the bogs. Leave no stone un-turned fellas.

It’s like this – we should beat them. Ex-players and pundits alike are lining up to award us the cup already, but knockout rugby, kind of like inviting the First XV over to your parents place for a few quiets, never turns out how you expect.

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The All Black training base, as reported by NZ media.

All Black fan panic levels
Pretty bad. This isn’t a white-light-France-level panic, but a more nuanced panic, one you can savour like a Wellington craft beer fan taking on a steak and kidney and coriander stout. Superstitions and deals with the devil are being consummated around the land. We may have the Greatest Team Of All Time on our hands here, but no-one’s allowed to say it, lest Pocock and Cheika come storming up the Waitemata Harbour on the back of a winged Peter FitzSimons to break New Zealand hearts.

At least the build up will be over soon – the nature of a rugby tournament means there’s a whole lot of time to fill between the big matches. Craig Dowd, who broke the sacred ex-player fawning code  to predict an Australian win. Let’s hope that goes as well as Zinzan’s prediction. Much has been made of the Australians’ apparent refusal to mention the words ‘All Blacks’, while our policy of referring to the Wallabies only as ‘those fuckwits’ got nothing.

Roll on 7am Sunday morning, when we might actually start to enjoy this tournament.

Welcome to Worry Week, brought to you by France

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Now we have an angst main to go with a selection of angsty sides for the table. If  the All Blacks’ form being shakier than Clive Woodward’s grasp on reality wasn’t bad enough, now we’ve got you-know-who, you-know-where in the first knockout.

New Zealanders are jittery enough during rugby world cups without this kind of shit. Otherwise fully functional adults, many with gainful employment in the news media, cranked into talk of ‘omens’ and ‘Utu’ even before Ireland and France actually played each other. As if we needed more excuses to go on and on about our 2007 tournament exit, the action replay will send the not-getting-over-it into over-aroused overdrive with no-one likely to emerge from this week’s build up with much credit.

Meanwhile, France will sleep like babies. They know that someone has to play the villain, and will spend the week twirling their mustaches, shrugging and listening to Daft Punk. Probably. They’re happy for all the pressure to be with us, while masterminding putting us through torture for 80 minutes.

All Black mood board

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We probably didn’t need the panic button just yet, but it’s been firmly pushed none the less.

We appear to have the talent and experience to win it, but the question is, do we have the form? Take the BLACKCAPS, who didn’t have the strongest squad in CWC15, but had everyone firing before the tournament and through the pool matches. Painful as it is, remember who took that trophy home, the experienced old Aussies.

We have to hope this is a similar scenario, all those centurions and the coaching panel dream team have the know-how to get themselves through. I don’t buy the ‘holding back’ thingo, I reckon the chips just aren’t down yet. It’s inexplicable that this great team has simply forgotten how to play between wasting the Aussies at Eden Park and this tournament. Gregor Paul reckons we should just chill, and I largely agree.

Anyway team, Sunday morning, it won’t matter who kept the faith, who wrote who off, who pointed out you can never tell which French team will turn up on the day the most or who said ‘bring it on!’ in the most chipper manner. We’ll either be still in the tournament, or impatiently waiting to get through to Tony Veitch to demand Robbie Deans gets the top job.

Fuck. Fuck! I can’t handle it already.

Your sportreview.net.nz quarter final predictions, bearing in mind sportreview.net.nz is a notoriously poor tipster

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Welsh injury toll mounts by the hour.

South Africa v Wales – South Africa. They’ve sorted themselves out from being on the receiving end of a Japanese fairy tale to be among the favourites, while Wales are being forced to play Charlotte Church in the front row.

Ireland v Argentina – Argentina. Too big and too strong for the Irish, who have similar injury issues to Wales along with a long history of world cup quarter final heartbreak.

Australia v Scotland – Scotland. Just jokes! Australia’s challenge will be maintaining their momentum. There’s the odd chink, like their discipline, and their coach, who is overdue to do something flaky.

New Zealand v France – Us. I think we’re going to waste them.

Enduring images of the World Cup thus far
Teams desperately defending their lines. Australia did it for about three quarters of an hour against Wales, while the All Blacks did well to repel Tonga on a St James surface that was parting like the Red Sea. There’s been bugger all free-flowing back play to speak of.

Reporters haranguing fans outside stadiums. My favourite was the really, really shitfaced young New Zealander struggling manfully to articulate all the ways his national team had disappointed him by beating Namibia by only 44 points. People with cameras thrust in their faces are unlikely to offer much in the way of useable insight or even joined up sentences, so instead we get ‘colour’ by way of yelling, outlandish wigs and borderline xenophobic banter. It’s rubbish and I would like to see less of it please.

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Dead set priceless banter™.

The royal bloody family. You can’t turn on the telly without seeing Wills looking smug, Harry looking sick as a parrot and the Queen having everyone over for a pimms and a backslap when the national team should be in a Cardiff hotel room shitting their pants.

Rugby’s coming home, and potentially leaving again quite quickly

RWC15 is a mass of contradictions so far – we passed a law allowing the nation to chop piss in front of the rugby, then everyone went to the pub to drink flat whites. Man Of Few Words Steve Hansen is suddenly lighting up a press conferences with more one-liners than a night out with Stevie Nicks in the ’70s. The hosts have rolled out the welcome mat, then rolled over.

Everyone can enjoy this.
Everyone can enjoy this.

The early weeks of a world cup are like a Monkees album. There’s some classics all right, but plenty of filler too. Before it gets better, here’s what’s happened in the first fortnight:

Best game I
Wales v England. This was a six nations epic that had blood, guts, seventeen half backs on the field, and it will actually affect the outcome of the tournament. The hosts are as tentative as an Englishman trying to get a French waiters’ attention and have been about as successful. Wales had Gaelic fire and brimstone up their backsides and got the lollies – they will do well to repeat the trick with all their injuries, but having taken down their nemesis, they probably won’t care.

Hazza regretting bringing a security camera on a double date.
Hazza regretting bringing a security camera on a double date.

Best game II
Japan v South Africa, obviously. Eddie Jones is as popular in South Africa as Braai made of toejam, and his team’s late winner is one of the world cup’s greatest moments ever, obviously. The cherry blossoms performed a pretty credible Brumbies-circa-2004 impression to get home while South Africa, who looked as organised as Alan Donald running a quick single. They need to de-shambles themselves and fast.

Japan are proof that the top tier isn’t impregnable, and any country with massive corporations willing to chuck shedloads of wonga at a coach, foreign player dominated professional league and a world cup hosting gig coming up can play with the big boys. Those Pacific islands should get into that.

'Just promise me Eddie you won't come back and beat us with Japan one day.' 'Sure.'
‘Promise me Eddie you won’t come back and beat us with Japan one day.’ ‘Sure.’

Pool of Death update

England have a distinct whiff of dead meat about them, but I would keep an eye on Australia. They come into their big games looking as competent as Kevin Rudd, but have the chance to knock England out this weekend, promoting all those entertaining ‘who do you least like’ debates up and down NZ. Here’s a quick guide:

England – would be pretty funny if the hosts went out, their fans are unbearable, they’re tough at home so could hurt the All Blacks chances later in the tournament

Australia – they’re Australian

Wales are top, but Warren Gatland’s squad is so bare he’s is sizing up getting out the ear tape and running on himself, if he ever gets over his voice back after his post-England karaoke bender. With all the Big Clashes to come, there’s more late drama than an Earthquake Recovery minister trying to make a flight and a bigger fall out to come, team.

All Black panic level
Ooooooookay. So far. Beating Argentina comfortably in a tight-ish, physical world cup opener was a great result, but measured against our propensity to PANIC whenever we don’t WASTE TEAMS BY FIFTY POINTS, it was an utter failure.

When you play against minnows Namibia with a team with 13 changes in it, you shouldn’t read too much into it. So of course we all read too much into it. With  talk of injuries in the camp, the nation is lovingly running their finger all around the panic button, but hasn’t *quite* pushed it. Yet.

The Official Panic Button of the All Blacks.
The Official Panic Button of the All Blacks.

There’s some bright points – Sonny Bill is all of a sudden our form back, and Waisake Naholo is down to play Georgia, and could provide some much-needed X factor, among a back three that’s worryingly quiet. Even that’s OK, as long as they can start catching high balls at knockout time.

Richie and Dan, who we’ve put a lot of chips on, look the goods so far and our strength in depth looks, erm, deeper than most as long as everyone gets and stays fit. Playing this weird group with Argentina and not a lot else makes it harder to gauge where we’re at than plugging in a phone charger in the dark.

Can we win it, though? Shit yes. Even if NZ isn’t relaxed, the All Blacks seem to be. We should learn from those guys.

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

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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.

Top five rejected All Black RWC arrival promos

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The road to Twickenham is paved with sponsor enforced fan engagement sessions, pop-up promotional pain and selfie / signing session sleepiness, and AIG’s ABs have done nothing but since getting off the plane.

A back of the envelope calculation (researched off the news on the telly) has the All Blacks attending at least eight official functions or sponsors events in the two days since touching down, including an official welcome ceremony, a weird Q+A with JK at a pub, something to do with luxury goods outfit Bvulgari  and a haka™ thing launch.

Yes, it’s all part of the deal nowadays – commercial partners who write the cheques have compulsary-fun-athlete-time written into contracts, while World Rugby have a tournament to promote, what, using their top All Black talent. We can only hope the team will be largely left alone to play rugby after getting this carry on over with at the start of the trip. Pray we won’t be blaming this ‘welcome’ for the unthinkable in six week’s time.

Still, it could have been worse. A dossier of rejected sponsors’ proposals for still more promos has been implausibly slipped under sportreview.net.nz’s hotel room door. They’ve thankfully been left on the drawing board. For now.

  1. Dan and Richie and Ant and Dec – two of our greatest ever take on their toughest opponent in Simon Cowell. Can they bag an ambitious X Factor / World Cup double, or will Simon’s tight tees and uncompromising feedback make him England’s 16th man?
  2. Leadership and Loving with Steve Hansen – the All Black head coach brings you a dawn Bikram Yoga session and motivational team talk in Hyde Park, followed by gluten-free breakfast and natural healing with Waisake Naholo. Brought to you by Sanitarium, except for the non-Christian bits.
  3. Bro, You’ve Been Punked – Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam dress as Dickensian urchins and pick-pocket tourists in Charing Cross for a Mastercard viral. Anyone who gives chase and succeeds in catching the two professional athlete-scallywags get to keep their valuables.
  4. Heineken Highway To Hell – Competition winners pit their drinking game against a panel of angry ex-All Blacks in an aggressive and uncompromising all day pub crawl. Participants *must* chop their piss for the duration and comply with all of Richard Loe’s instructions or face 1970s-style back of the bus hazing. Kiwi rules on the pool table.
  5. Selfie Stick Survivor – the ultimate in fan engagement. Competition winner and All Black of their choice have 24 hours to commit a Clockwork Orange-style crime spree without being caught on CCTV. It’s a money can’t buy experience, and forever more, that fan and All Black will ‘have something on each other’.

Taranaki man’s RWC blame list nears completion

NEWS: New  Plymouth resident Mike Neckwrench feels his Rugby World Cup 2015 blame list is in ‘a really good place’, with most names penciled in six weeks out from the tournament.

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Mike Neckwrench of Taranaki spends much of his leisure time compiling rugby world cup blame lists and lives alone.

Neckwrench, who has prepared blame lists for every Rugby World Cup since 1995 when Laurie Mains topped the pile, began preparing his 2015 edition immediately after the final whistle at Eden Park in 2011. “Winning’s not an excuse to stand still. If you’re not reading the tea leaves, Ben Smith’s suddenly playing centre in the quarterfinal while you’re still distracted by leaving Andy Ellis at home. If I’m not prepared for every scenario, I’m not doing my job.”

Coaches, players, officials and Twickenham ground staff are in the mix – the final line-up will be inked in as the tournament kicks off, with the proviso that names can be added on an ad hoc basis to allow for injuries, loss of form or unforeseeable fuckwits.

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Neckwrench identified Wayne Barnes as a Potential dick early in 2006.

When it comes to IDing blame list potential, Neckwrench is content to play the long game, evidenced by adding Wayne Barnes to his 2007 list eighteen months before the tournament. “He’s a shit ref, and I could see the IRB lining him up to fuck us over some distance out.”

The lists themselves are kept on Excel spreadsheets in a computer folder simply labelled ‘Rugby Blame.’ “Sure, my 2011 list wasn’t needed, but importantly, it was set to go. Plus, I could just cut and paste Sonny Bill from 2011 to 2015, saving seconds,” said Neckwrench, who has ‘I told you so’ tattooed on both arms.

QUIZ: Can you tell a Young Adult Dystopian Novel from Kearnsey’s commentary?

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Pop quiz time – are the following quotes from:

A: A work of Young Adult fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world, or

B: Ex-Wallaby skipper and TV colour commentator Phil Kearns’ call from the New South Wales Warratahs v Otago Highlanders Super Rugby Semi Final?

“Am I the only one who sees the truth, the way that is right? All around me is dark. All around me is pain.”

“The Ruler may be all seeing and all powerful, but he’s been badly let down by the fourth official there. Absolute Barry Crocker.”

“I do my best to conform, to speak the words they will have me say but it  overwhelms me. Turn it up!”

“I stole a sausage. It’s hidden where They’ll never find.”

“The young run, run on fields of green, not knowing of how The Ruler owns their destiny. But I see all. From the comms box and the on the instant replay.”

“The Laws serve only the Ruler. Poor from him, boys will be gutted.”

“My voice is measured to avoid detection, but inside I scream. Only when I am safely inside the commentator’s bogs can I truly scream what must be heard.”

“Joubert, you’ve had a fucking nightmare.”

Answers: all Bs.

sportreview.net.nz 2014, um, review

As has been pointed out, this blog’s tenth year has not been an especially productive if you measure these things in terms of *posting* on the blog. Let’s up the word count with a mazy dribble through 2014.

Football
That was a Great world cup. Not only did we get pretty football and amazing goals, but it all seemed to be played in front of big, noisy crowds (not that noisy) in decent spirit, apart from the biting and that. It’s a shame FIFA lets us down again and again as an organisation, but somehow, they’re still running this game.

Game of the tournament was Brazil v Germany, for wonderful goals and the other-worldliness of it all, it was like seeing the fall of Rome in two 45 minutes halves. Goal of the tournament was the little Aussie battler Tim Cahill’s, what a strike. Performance of the tournament was any time Miguel Herrera was on the camera.

I don’t want to talk about Tottenham. Expecting a Tottenham manager with mixed results in the first season to be there for any length of time is like expecting loyalty from a domestic house cat. I’ve been hurt too many times before.

Oh, and this was the greatest thing to happen on the field in 2014:

Rugby
New Zealand is in the middle of another, yinnow, very special era. We’re kind of getting used to them. But are we happy? I have to say I didn’t watch as much rugby as in recent years, mainly kept it to the big Tests v South Africa and the Ockers and catching some of my Chiefs in the super rugby (I am extremely confident that next year is going to be our year again). Malaise? Laziness? I don’t know. There is nothing wrong with the game the national team is playing, we have more depth than seems fair to other nations, and are expertly coached.

Maybe it’s because you can’t hold a conversation about rugby in this country without WHAT ABOUT THE WORLD CUP hovering over you like a grim reaper. Enjoying rugby outside world cups seems pointless. Can we have more proper tours with three test series and matches against provinces please? Taking the game to the Chicago did not do it for me.

Maybe I should just relax and enjoy it. We really are spoiled in this country.

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I got down to Dunedin to see the Chiefs crap out to the Highlanders with a bunch of (fellow) idiots from Hamilton. This is a world class stadium that had a lot of atmosphere when half full, it must be amazing when packed. You’re so close you think someone is going to put liniment on you.

Cricket
How bonkers was 2014? From Corey Anderson knocking up a world’s fastest ODI ton on new year’s day to the prospect of the BLACKCAPS reaching all kinds of records and just quietly having the most successful-ever Test calendar year ever, it’s been one we’ll remember for a long time. Highlights:

Being at Eden Park for the ODI v India with 28,000 people, thanks to Auckland’s Indian community, who were amazing. Great taste of what a packed cricket stadium feels like ahead of the Big Tournament next year.

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The Test win at Eden Park, with Brendon McCullum’s double ton and an absolute rip snorter from Neil Wagner to get us over the line. Eden Park can feel AMAZING with a few thousand in too.

Seeing half of Wellington come in on that murky Tuesday morning to cheer the skipper on to 302. Privilege to be there.

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Just quietly, while the grassy banks of Seddon Park are still home for me, I am coming around to the charms of the Basin big time as New Zealand’s best Test ground. From the old-school main stand to the lovingly-and-expertly run museum (check out that book sale) to the fact so many of NZ’s most passionate cricket fans are Wellingtonians who are loud on the Twitter and turn up to see their teams. My head has been turned. See you on the third.

Again, I’d never expected to go to Bangladesh in my life, let alone twice, but that happened. It’s not for everyone, and living the sheltered life with the team meant you don’t really see the real city, but I loved it. That Chittagong storm was something to see with chest-rattling thunder and blinding lightning moving slowly and inevitably through the muggy night air to the ground before the rainstorm came. Biblical stuff.
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Winning a rare away Test series in the West Indies by coming back from a loss in the second and being deep in the crap in the third was remarkable, many players cite that series win as their highlight of the year.

The third Test v Pakistan in Sharjah will be remembered for the way the team paid tribute to Phil Hughes and then performed one of the most remarkable turnarounds you’ll ever see. You kind of want to wax lyrical but it doesn’t seem appropriate. It was nuts and made me very proud.

Elsewhere, the cricket from Australia has been compelling, with Mitch and his moustache, and this series against India shaping up nicely. And the tributes to Phil Hughes were moving and appropriate. This clip from his 50-over double hundred for Australia A shows you what an outrageous batsman he was, have a look at what we’ve lost:

The internet and that
I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be able to sit at work and do*ahem* work on one screen and have SKY Go and Tweetbot going on the other. I watched a lot of the football world cup like this, as well as some of the West Indies Test series, the Ashes and the current Australia v India series.

I loved #putoutyourbats, ’twas a very cricket way to pay tribute to Phil Hughes.

The Alternative Commentary Collective was funny and brilliant, and an example of using the internet to do new things, of which I approve. Will be great to see them back this year.

Watching sport with Twitter is kind of cool but kind of weird, you miss a lot when you’re trying to keep up with the conversation. That said, out of my cold, dead hands, etc. What’s the answer team?

Links on Friday

Get behind the scenes with the All Blacks – in the 80s! At the time, The Good, The Bad And The Rugby was a revelation, for presenting ‘All Blacks as people,’ at a time when they usually appeared in our living rooms either smashing Frenchmen in the face or advertising Jockeys. It was a simpler time of mullets n larfs n guitars and a bloody joy to watch.

In-depth analysis of world cup arm-folding better than it  sounds. Like a night out with John Terry, there’s a lot that can go wrong. GIF3b

And if you’re missing the world cup, here’s the New Yorker’s most memorable moments, complete with video.  And this is why Germany won.

I’m not entirely sure who Tom Brady is, but the bloke cannot get a high five from, well, anyone. Think he’s like an American Jimmy Cowan.

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?”.