World cup wave of emotion

This edition of ‘Ending a Nation’s World Cup Heartbreak’ is starting to read like some kind of sick Hollywood script. Carter OUT! McCaw INJURED! Plucky would-be redemption-guy Slade OUT! Arguably-should-have-been-there-in-the-first-place-guy Gear IN! Old pro Mils CRYING! Jane ON THE PISS! Donald WHITEBAITING! It’s a huge change from the ‘sleep walk through pool games / lose / everyone argue a lot’ scripts we normally get, but it is no good for the nation’s nerves or sense of proportion, team.


The most impressive thing for me about Cruden, Donald and Gear coming into the squad is that they’re fit and ready to go. Faced with sporting rejection and with many, many high class rugby matches to watch, is sure would have spent the last few weeks on the couch, enjoying a diet of pistachio nuts, beer and crying.

The hero of this particular script is, of course, Piri Weepu, the pint size and width Hurricanes half back that does it all – goal kicking, backup first-fiving, beard leadership and dragging boozing team mates out of north shore boozers. He’s an unlikely candidate for world cup saviour in fairness, having suffered a horrific leg injury this time last year, refuelled a lot over the off season and been one of the absolutely positively stroppy Hurriances. The All Blacks haven’t tried the folk hero approach since ’95 with Jonah Lomu – it’s going well so far, but as all Warriors fans know, banking on a wave of emotion to get you there is a risky strategy at times.

Even so, despite going into a semi final with the dastardly Australians with the country’s 43rd pick first five on the bench, I feel strangely calm, in a ‘really quite drunk, but unconcerned’ fashion. Fact remains that even with Slade Cruden, not Carter, we still have backline the envy of any team – even could play between Weepu and Nonu and appear competent*. I am also heartened by the clichés being rolled out about the All Blacks being stronger as a group for having our star player in the stands and our captain on one leg. If we win this world cup, it will be as a group that’s been tested and triumphed – not as arrogant favourites that fucked it up. It’s worth a try, hey?

The thing I love most about Dan Carter is he always looks half asleep. Running straight through a Wallaby defence. Goal kicking. Hanging out on someone’s wall. Farting about wearing only a pair of jocks. Tormenting the Lions. He always seems so relaxed, he’s kind of like your brother’s dodgy mate you suspect smoked a joint before showing up at the 21st. In a country where most males use Marc Ellis as template for manhood, Dan from Southbridge is pretty comfortable being himself, a shit hot rugby player, an obviously loved and respected member of the All Blacks, or an underwear model. Whatever. And so last Tuesday, he did a remarkable job of addressing a hysterical media pack who’d made his groin front page and lead-the-bulletin news. Suddenly he was guidance councillor to a nation, telling us to get over, um, him. It’s debatable whether signing Dan up for a further four years is good for NZ rugby long term, but there’s no doubt the man himself is all class. Heal well, fella.

Of course, in all the semi final excitement, let’s not forget the tournament’s minnows – I would like to pay tribute by publishing one of Haydn’s photos of Troy from Tampa, who didn’t let a little detail like a BROKEN NOSE he got playing rugby stop him coming to New Zealand, wearing an appalling hat and getting farkin’ wasted. Here’s to you, minnows, you have showed us how to enjoy rugby again. Let’s hope we remember that over the next couple of weeks.


* Total lie

Partying like it’s 1999

This post is my entry in Hadyn’s Field Theory: Rugby World Cup stories competition.  I’m unsure what category ‘smart arse behaves immaturely at world cup’ fits into, but here we go. I *did* warn him my entry would be largely about getting shitfaced.

This was the 1999 world cup of John Hart, new jersies and All Black front-row painted jumbo jets, not to mention hubris, over-confidence and pride before a fall. I was living in London at the time and had the ‘pool pack’ of tickets for NZ v Tonga in Bristol, the match versus England at Twickenham and NZ v Italy up at Huddersfield. We were a group of five chaps, mostly from Hamilton, all fans of rugby, travelling, drinking and average behavior. The match against Italy was a jumping off point for a couple of days away in northern cities.

Our bus from London took us along some of the most boring, scenery-free motorways known to man to Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. Alfred McAlpine Stadium is a charming stadium, situated in the middle of a charming business park – you sit nice and close to the action, and we cheered and carried on as the All Blacks racked up 101 points to poor old Italy’s 3. Cullen, Lomu and Osborne ran riot – even Dylan Mika got on the scoresheet. It was arguably the peak of the All Blacks’ 1999 campaign – next up was a lackluster quarter final against Scotland and THAT match versus the French. Anyway. Rugby is not really the point of *this* story.

Our little group moved straight out of the stadium to the business park tavern to watch Wales v Samoa on the telly. This was the accumulation period, in cricket terms, where a solid base of fizzy lager pints was laid down, while cheering the Samoans on to their second win world cup win against the Welsh. We weren’t feeling much pain at full time, and it was just a quick stagger to the bus to the train station, stopping only for a quick photo-op with a passing Glen Osborne.

The blogger with Glen Osborne. Companion’s identify concealed to protect the drunk.

I soon found myself wandering alone around a Huddersfield train platform, having lost my companions for a while – they were in the station McDonalds loading up before the night ahead, they told me much later (Cheers! You bastards). Having regrouped, we boarded a train bound for Leeds. This being the UK, it was dark when we got there, and we were soon slipping down Leedside streets fruitlessly looking for a pub – on the way we spotted a huge, flash-looking bus outside a flash hotel. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if that was the All Blacks’ team bus?”someone said. Cue Twilight Zone theme.

We ended up in the Leeds equivalent of a Lone Star, thoughtfully offering a two-for-one happy hour, where more accumulation ensued. From there it was on to a dodgy nightclub, an upstairs, no-windowed affair. Our group was busy being loud witty in a fashion you can only be after 16 pints of lager, when we noticed a group of improbably wide-shouldered guys in matching polo shirts and pleated pants making their way in – it was only the bloody All Blacks! Imagine their surprise, having carefully chosen accommodation away from Huddersfield and getting out to a wee nightclub to unwind away from the glare of a rugby mad public, to see us in our All Black gears with a slurry welcome.

We bowled over to the group of seven or eight players, seemingly lead by Josh Kronfeld and Jeff Wilson, to say g’day. Kronfeld was the friendliest, happy to pose for photos and accept any drinks on offer. Wilson was happy to talk, but seemed to have trouble relaxing, weirdly answering any questions as talking to a post match interviewer. I made a great faux pas, asking Greg Feek, who towered over me by about seven feet, who he was. “Greg Feek,” he said helpfully but sternly, before stalking away.

I was pretty impressed with some of the All Blacks players’ own accumulation, considering this was the middle of the world cup. If you remember, John Hart took the team away to the south of France (the next day, as it turns out) for  ‘frolicking in the surf’ photo ops before heading to Scotland for the quarter final. I can’t remember if we left first, or them, but we were soon on our way – I remember thinking “Won’t it be great when we get home to New Zealand, we can say we were on the piss with the All Blacks when they won the 1999 world cup!” Ahem.

From there, we were back to Leeds station, to get the last train to Manchester, where we were staying. Just to add to the surreality of it all, we found ourselves sharing the lift up to our hotel rooms with Begbie himself, Robert Carlisle, and two lady-friends. “You’re Robert Carlisle!” I said. “No I’m not,” he said. It bloody was, you know.

This was the first of a three-day tour up north – from Manchester we went to Newcastle (“Hey, we’re over here from New Zealand, do you know our long lost cousin – his name is Alan Shearer?”) then Edinburgh (“I know, let’s spend the day in this ancient city having a head-to-head drinking championship of the world!”). It was a lot of fun. More fun than the rugby.

Where are you, Briscoes lady?

There was a time in New Zealand when you simply didn’t wear an All Blacks jersey, because you hadn’t played for them. It was one of those charmingly hard-nosed NZ rugby traditions of days gone by, like supporting the team without being ordered to by a sponsor, and turning up to watch matches in stadiums.

But now, three weeks out from the Big Fucking Tournament, we’re bitching about buying stuff. Every New Zealander’s god-given right to load the kids into the car, drive them to the mall, spend the day wandering about aimlessly before slamming a set of All Blacks jerseys on the credit card and eating McDonalds in the car, is in jeopardy. adidas are public enemy numero uno, gouging the nation and receiving the patented John Campbell invasion-of-body-space INTERVIEW TECHNIQUE he reserves for SCUMBAGS like Mark Hotchin.

Still, at least we’re all PR experts now. Where once we talked about line out throws and the make up of the back three, now we sit on our couches discussing sporting executives’ crisis communication techniques. On the face of it, adidas have been impressively evil, RAPING hard working Kiwis’ wallets, blocking online jersey orders and cancelling supporter parties left, right and centre. But this ‘investing in grass-roots rugby’ line – it’s true. adidas are NZ rugby’s main backers – the NZRFU is deep in debt, trying to run rugby and hang on to our players in the face of overseas cash. If adidas pulled out of NZ, there would be a real scramble in recessionary times to find a replacement – with respect, do you think Canterbury of NZ could match adidas’ cash?

A group of Kiwi rugby fans queue at the local Rebel Sport

Who knows – maybe this is all a shadowy PR plan to unite the country before the world cup. NZFRU and adidas collude to play villain in the week without an All Blacks tri-nation test, the country rises as one to bond through bitching and moaning, before the Briscoes Lady appears on all channels at 6.23 PM to announce a price drop and refund and we turn our attention to bringing the cup home.The NZRFU gets a united country, while adidas take a brief PR hit, before resuming being a massive fucking multinational that makes shitloads of cash with a number of teams.

So – wear an old jersey, buy a new one and burn it, make an indignant Facebook page. It won’t make any difference and anyway – no-one is holding a stapler to your head and forcing you to buy one. As @hadyngreen points out, you’ll have to wear it underneath a jacket at the game anyway. As you were.

As for the rugby itself (remember that?), it went pretty bloody well, with Quade Cooper paying a one man tribute to Carlos Spencer’s patented ‘getting found out under pressure’ moves at Carlos’ home ground. The main talking point seemed to be queueing for trains. It’s only right of course, that we can all walk straight out of major sporting events into an empty train, maintained at the perfect temperature, without waiting in a queue, that drops us off to our place of residence, via a quick trip to the drive through. Ahem. Maybe our overseas visitors, who are used to waiting in queues for rugby, football and public transport can provide some perspective when they get here. It went very smoothly, from what I can see – let’s get on with it.

Bogans: Eden Park ready for the world cup

NEWSDESK: Auckland bogans today gave Eden Park’s world cup dress rehearsal their seal of approval. West Auckland man Daryl Flannelette reported a thoroughly enjoyable experience at the All Blacks vs Wallabies match from what he can remember, telling reporters “It’s by the waterfront eh? No? It’s still good. Bro, I was pretty wasted.”

West Auckland man Carl ‘Metal’ Saxon praised event security’s diligence, who found and confiscated his bourbon-injected watermelon, but missed the six ‘Turbo Tequila’ shots he’d concealed in a bodily cavity (“Sucked in!” said Saxon). The east and west stands’ temporary seating gave the park a special feeling, which Saxon enhanced with several ‘Kronic’ cigarettes he was able to enjoy without detection. Food and drink at the ground was labelled ‘adequate’ from a bogan perspective, but both bogans we spoke to admitted they were recklessly inebriated before entering the ground, and believe eating is cheating when drinking alcohol.

The only down point was one Mount Eden resident charging fans $25 to urinate on his driveway pre-match. “I’ve been pissing on that guy’s driveway for free for years,” said Flannelette. “Twenty five bucks! I’ll be back mid-week to get my money’s worth.”

Bogans did not share media concern over Auckland’s public transport. “Mate, I was worried all those people queuing for trains would wreck my buzz, but I was able to hotwire a car in Cricket Ave in minutes, and was inside Showgirls half an hour after the final whistle,” said Flannelette. Saxon eliminated the transport issue altogether by spending the night at the ground, reporting the concrete in the west stand concourse was “smooth” and “surprisingly warm”.

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.

Some residents were concerned about Donald’s well-being and wanted DOC to intervene – the DOC spokesperson said staff were investigating long-term intervention plans if needed, but there was not a lot they could do. “There are no facilities in New Zealand that can care for Stephen Donald long term.”

The only other recording of an All Black living on a beach in New Zealand was Alan Hewson’s stint living at Southland’s Oreti Beach in 1985.

Millions of voices tweeting out in terror – then silence

The NZRFU HQ is on a secret mission to turn the dreadlock holiday Hurricanes into the Crusaders in the hope of being good at rugby and that. They picked the right man for the job – Mark Hammett, who comes from the Robbie Deans ‘what the fuck are you looking at? school of media relations is so embedded in Crusaders culture that his stools look a little bit like Grizz Wylie.

First job is the clear-out. All Blacks Nonu, an eye-liner-ed maverick that won’t listen to The Man, and Hore, a disappointing captain despite the ginger beard and that, are out. Dumping two current All Blacks is as bold a move as putting up a really, really cringey sign right beside your main airport, but it’s no surprise, the indications were were there all along if people had been paying attention:

More players are expected to go – hilariously, the enigmatic tweeter Corey Jane seems pretty disappointed not to be included in the first cut, and has been flouncing on and off Twitter in protest, when flouncing around a rugby field properly might be a better move. Throwing out All Blacks like a Dublin nightclub bouncer is a new thing for super rugby in New Zealand – all eyes will be on Hammett next year, if he hasn’t been made All Black coach by then.

Still, the latest challenge to the Hurricane’s title challenge is’s attempt to bring the team down from within. They’ve imported their very own Stephen Jones lite, Mark Reason, to provide some fist thumping, claret slurping, yorkshire pudding farting, jolly hockey sticks rhetoric to really set the cat among the grouse. This week, he aimed both barrels at Hammett and the wayward Hurricanes:

Nonu’s propensity for yellow cards and dissent is not acceptable. Hore’s drinking is not acceptable. Weepu coming back from injury overweight is not acceptable. Jane tweeting dissent is not acceptable.

Reason, who mysteriously googles very poorly and probably looks like an injured Piri Weepu, is obviously taking his ‘wind everyone up’ brief seriously, but he’s trying too hard. Outraging New Zealand rugby fans is  easier than locating a dickhead in Australia – we’re unhappy when we win, let alone when we lose. Most people’s abiding memory of winning the 1987 world cup is being upset at that dork waving behind David Kirk. Word on the twitter street is that Reason is only starting to rev the Land Rover, and will be full steam ahead trolling the rugby public by the time the world cup comes around. Thanks,, that’s just what we need.

Defending the Donald

Stephen Donald is the Marmite of NZ rugby – tasty to some, black death to others. His career’s misfortune is that he’s been forced to step into Dan Carter’s massive jockey’s billboard shaped shadow and attempt to pick up where the sleepy looking greatest first five ever leaves off. Not an easy thing to do.

There’s a line in Nick Hornby’s fantastic Fever Pitch about Tony Adams “struggling manfully with his limitations”. This is Donald to a tee, he just doesn’t LOOK like the most natural rugby player, all elbows and knee, excruciatingly mouthing “Focus… follow through…” as he lines up another scatter-gun shot at goal. And yet, he’s capable of moments of brilliancein the 2009 season, he was magnificent, all kick and regathers, surging runs through the middle, consistent goal kicking… but then he went and played for the All Blacks, personally taking the blame for losing the unbeaten record in the last minutes of the Hong Kong test.

Now, he’s as popular with All Blacks fans as Richie McCaw’s ankle injury. While not yet at full Philpott level, he couldn’t be less loved if he’d run Shrek the sheep over with his tractor. That’s why I was so pleased on Saturday night when he steered the Chiefs home (alright, in wobbly fashion) to a win over the Blues. So pleased, I tweeted the crap out of it:

Very pleased. And a bit drunk.

Donald looked delighted afterwards, and I was delighted for him. No, I don’t think he’s an ideal Carter backup either (the Herald is obviously jittery), but he’s what we’ve got until someone else steps up (when Slade’s jaw is fixed maybe?). Fuck it anyway, he’s first five for My Team – and he’s done a bloody good job for us. Screw you guys. I’ll be over the moon when Stephen ‘Beaver’ Donald is free to be what he truly is: a really good super rugby first five, without the pressure of being All Black backup, before taking the money and running to England, where he’ll win three or four Heineken Cups no doubt. Don’t listen to ’em Stephen.

Hot cliché on cliché action

This was a match that truly lived up to the clichés. The Dark Horses, plucky little New Zealand, punching above their weight and making the most of their meagre resources, up against South Africa, the supremely organised team that, faced with a pressure situation, become as effective as wet single ply in the face of a heavy curry house session the night previous. And choke.

The Black Caps showed they were prepared to win ugly; make no mistake, this was an ugly win, possibly up to full Ricky level on the Ugly-ometer:

Ugly scales up from L-R

For this match, made the rare effort to actually review some sport, sacrificing time that could have been spent unconscious to stay awake and watch the entire Black Caps innings. Taylor and Ryder played it safe to get us a reasonable total, but traditional one day tactics dictate the  ‘accumulation’ period usually lasts between overs 18 and 35. New Zealand’s accumulation period may be still going – it was an innings best described as ‘gelatinous’, but, on a pitch more dry and dusty than 48 hours in a Koru Lounge with Phil Goff, it would do. Then this happened:

In the cricketing equivalent of that Australian schoolkid chucking that bully about, the Black Caps surrounded Du Plessis, who’d just run out the competent De Villiers like schoolboys around a well worn copy of Playboy to let him know he’d fucked up, if he hadn’t worked it out already. The ensuing fracas lead to fines and bad examples for youngsters watching. Let’s have a look at the Black Caps’ crimes in slow motion:

Stryris and Vettori attempt to manoeuvre Du Plessis into training ground set-piece move ‘Black Cap sandwich’. 12th man Kyle Mills, who was just passing by, helpfully offers the South African a drink. Of choke-a-cola.
Du Plessis shoves Mills, in the process setting the game back years in the vital USA market, because nothing looks as ‘wussy’ as when cricketers fight, not even cyclists. Vettori tries to rescue the situation by telling Du Plessis to use his bat at least.
A garden gnome (in red) tries to restore order.
Styris and Du Plessis are nominated to kiss and make up on behalf of the sides by their captains, and play resumes.

Did the Safas choke? Well, a little bit. Maybe. But, they came up against a New Zealand team that discovered their self belief down the back of the couch, and used it to turn the heat on South Africa like Gordon Ramsay with a knife in each hand and sand in his undies; Stephen Fleming would have been proud.

For choking students, this match closely resembled the All Blacks’ loss to France in the 1999 rugby world cup semi final – decent team, handy lead, a few signs of life from the opposition, then folding like a cheap card table. Hard to take for the Proteas and to be honest, Kiwi sports fans should wait for the All Blacks’ next world cup performance (which is happening soon I hear) before throwing too much shit their way.

I was very pleased for Jacob Oram, who took some vital wickets and a stonking catch – he showed exactly how much we’ve missed him over the years, and how people who’ve criticised his place in the team are cocks.

Like much of the country I imagine, I went to bed after the first innings and awoke to a big surprise, roughly equivalent to a horse’s head in the bed. Considering our form going into this tournament, and the stumbles along the way, we can be very pleased with making the semis, especially as we knocked over a proper big team in the quarters to get there. Sri Lanka at home will be tough, but fuck it. Bring it on.

If you’ve made it this far, here’s more quarter final coverage, that’s better than what you’ve just read, to be honest:

The C-word – (check out the awesome comment on this post!)

Andy Bull’s Guardian sport blog

The Outside Edge – still pinching myself

Filling the basin

Sportzfreak and the Beige One have blogged on Fill The Basin, Sunday afternoon’s benefit match for viictims of the Canterbury earthquake. Here’s my thoughts:

How much fun was it? Cricket is the perfect sport for This Kind Of Thing, not too much physical exertion for the oldies, and lots of space in between the action for farking about. Plus Adam Parore got hit with a bouncer while being a cock. That was a highlight.

Some of these guys could still be playing for the Black Caps. The Greatbach / Astle partnership in particular was as smooth and brutal as a gang fight in a butter factory. That said, the years haven’t been kind to Gavin Larsen’s bowling. Nor Sir Richard’s, who doesn’t play a lot these days, unlike Ewan Chatfield, who still turns out for his club “if they haven’t got enough players.” Bless. Tana Umaga, though, that guy could play for the Black Caps *now*. As could bloody Marc Ellis.

You there! This is what your hair looks like!
Subtle Rexona product placement.

Our PM smiled and waved a bat at Shane Warne’s friendly bowling, but good god; as a nation, we need to improve our banter. Ben Hurley struggled manfully to lift the standard, but John Key – is “Liz says Hi” the best you can do? It’s hardly “I can smell the uranium on your breath” is it? It doesn’t even make sense. Warne showed us how it was done with an offhand and off color crack about the TradeMe prize winner’s wife – the crowd went quiet as they tried to work it out. Warne’s a great sport, we couldn’t have asked for a better heavily botox-ed pantomime villain for this event. He needs to bowl his underarms a bit straighter though.

The whole day, complete with the perfect venue and rugby and Hobbit luminaries, was a raging success, not to mention a tribute to Stephen Fleming’s mana, determination and political and organisational skill. Surely there’s a role for him somewhere in the national setup in the near future?

One grumble – the TAB made their beachhead in the nation’s living rooms even bigger with their guy Mark Stafford doing much of the TV interviewing. He may be able to ask softball questions OK, but do you want or accept Goldstein or the Marlboro Man doing the same? I don’t, and I don’t see the difference.

Delhi officials concede Otago scarfie interior design firm were poor choice

This is the excerpt of your first post template…

NEWSDESK: Commonwealth Games officials have admitted contracting Otago University student interior design firm Yardglass, Cistern and Crack to decorate Athlete’s Village may have been the wrong move. “I don’t know what kind of squalor these ‘students’ live in, but this is unholy. I can understand a few baked beans on a ceiling, but in every room? That growth I encountered in a lavatory is making it hard for me to sleep,” said Hon. Michael Fennell of the organising committee.

A spokesman for Yardglass, Cistern and Crack said the athlete’s village design was consistent with their earlier work. “We need a bit of perspective – no-one’s shat in anyone’s bed yet.” The spokesman pointed to several years experience decorating student flats in Dunedin with a 65% bond refund strike rate as well as innovations like astroturf carpeting, longdrop toilet conversions and a fridge in the lounge.

“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.”

YC&C admitted cultural differences and the fact games officials thought their architectural model was something someone had spilled had lead to confusion, and promised emergency remedial work immediately. An engineer was later seen heading to the athlete’s village with an industrial roll of Glad Wrap.

Fresh concerns emerged last last night about a related Otago events management company’s plans for the opening ceremony titled ‘Slumdog 500’, involving a number of barely road worthy vehicles, drunk driving and civil unrest.