Mind games breakdown – Hansen / McKenzie edition

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Seemingly-sleepy All Blacks coach Steve Hansen managed the national team to a well-comfortable win against the Ockers last night. There were a few work-ons, but these days everyone’s disappointed if there’s no work-ons, so champion work all around.

Like I tweeted, I thought Steve Hansen really dug deep on the pre-match mind games, with a cooly delivered two card trick that, all going to plan, would have had new Wallabies coach Ewan McKenzie rocking back and forth on the shower floor before he’d even started a game.

You can watch it here – let’s break it down bit by bit.

Reporter: *Near-inaudible question regarding timing of naming the team*
Hansen: “I think the better question is…”

Bam! Press conference taken over. The man with the toughest job in the country doesn’t have time to muck around with *questions*, he’s got to get inside his opposite’s head and get back to training and that, quick smart.


Hansen: “…is he feeling a bit mentally challenged because he doesn’t know what five-eighth he wants to play. …I’m imagining that when Robbie Deans…”


Blammo! “Doesn’t know what five-eighth he wants to play” is as organised as leaving the house without your phone or brain when it comes to picking an international rugby team, while the words ‘Robbie’ and ‘Deans’ are shorthand for ‘worst case scenario’ and as welcome as a Dom Harvey dick pic in the Wallabies camp. Related – I expect to hear more, much more, about Dingo in All Blacks pressers in the weeks ahead.


Hansen: “…wasn’t picking Quade Cooper he was saying ‘I’ll pick you Quade, I’ll pick you.’ Now, ah, our information is they’re going to pick the other bloke…”


Pow! This is Hemmingway-like – so much conveyed in such economical fashion. There’s (at least) three points here:

1. This little McKenzie / Cooper chat is indeed what everyone was imagining what was going on when Deans was coach, and McKenzie recalling Cooper was indeed one of the key arguments for restoring Wallaby X factor. Plan B had better be good, Ewan.


3. “The other bloke.” This says: “I don’t even know what this guy’s name is, and certainly can’t be arsed wikipedia-ing it.”


Hansen: “Now there’s only two reasons they wouldn’t want to tell them, one he’s not sure himself…”

Balooga! Can you say “You’ve waited an age for this chance, and now you’ve got the big job with the Qantas blazer and everything, you have no idea what you’re doing?” Bonus points for pausing a good two or three seconds before continuing, just to let that point sink in.


Hansen: “…or he doesn’t think they can handle the pressure of being out in public too early. Doesn’t bother us, don’t mind a hoot who they play.”


Zlott! indeed. Hansen wraps up this little elbow-in-the-ribs-using-words with a cold, hard truth – the All Blacks really couldn’t give a used jockstrap who the Wallabies field. On the XXXX side of the Tasman it’s new starts, rebuilding and the unknown, while the All Blacks have the luxury of choosing between world cup winners, or up-and-comers that look like they’d treat the Wallaby onslaught with all the ease of a Care Bear onslaught. Not easy to get a good night’s sleep with that hanging over you.


And after the never-in-doubt 47-29 win, Hansen finished the job he’d started mid week with: “But I think they’ve got the nucleus of a very good side and I think they’ve had a nucleus of a very good side for a long time.”

Ka-blam! Sorry Ewan, but Shag reckons changing coach hasn’t made the slightest bit of difference – you’ve got a bit to do to prove you’re not Dingo in disguise.

Magical not-much-mystery tour

In Australia, the dossier on the South Africans has got a lot of coverage, after being carefully couriered leaked to an eager Aussie media. The document seems to mainly prescribe:

a. short pitched bowling, and

b. sledging

…which makes you wonder if the jandal-lickers’ tactics have moved on since the days of Ian Chappell etc. It’s as innovate as wandering into the Aussie’s dressng room and shouting ‘everyone grow a moustache!’. Still, it should be a fantastic series for cricket lovers bored with watching Sri Lankan groundsmen moving covers about.

 Picture included mainly because of ‘how awesome is this?’

The All Blacks have been on a full on Scottish social media assault, instagramming the locals and digitally tweeting themselves hoarse. Gone are the days when All Blacks like Meads, Lochore or Murdoch would turn up in the mother country to glower at the press and organise a big pub fight before boarding the plane having not actually said *anything* over the two months’ tour.

The All Blacks’ end of year tour has fallen into a fairy comfortable routine now, we either do the ‘warm up by smashing a couple of easy beats, before playing Wales then England’ or the grand slam, which is pretty much the same thing. Australia and South Africa do the same, which must be pretty depressing for the about-to-play-the-Six-Nations locals. Imagine if some guys turned up and smashed us for a month just before we played the Rugby Championship. More depressing than being Clive Woodward I’d imagine.

I’ll leave you with Rod Stewart crying, probably the best sporting thing that actually happened this week:

“Guys, what happened to ‘let’s win it for Kevvy?'” with Kevin Mealamu

OPINION: So last week it was all “Kevin Mealamu, great man. Kevin Mealamu, 100 tests. Kevin Mealamu, let’s mark the milestone properly.”

What was that bullshit all about? Just some crap for the TV guys eh? Yeah definitely.

All your old mate Kevvy wanted on Saturday night was one win for me. Just one win. Don’t reckon that’s too much to ask when I’ve spent 100 tests getting kicked in the face to get you guys the ball. Instead, everyone shows up and plays like they’re drunk on cough medicine.

I mean, Richie and Mils got their silver hats during the world cup. That was awesome. My 100th match winds up being some bullshit draw in Aussie. Ten years time, no-one’s going to talk about Kevin Mealamu’s 100th match, they’ll be taking about drawing with some shit-arse team.

Sucks to be Kevvy eh. Thanks heaps.

It’s great to be an All Black and that, but you try sharing your spot with Horey. Nothing against the guy, but you imagine training, eating your breakfast and trying to get on and off the bus safely next to a guy like that. He just doesn’t seem that stable some mornings, eh. He’s got guns at home.

I’d like to see Richie concentrate on being Captain Wonderballs with someone half decent up his arse. Every other good openside over the last few years has been ‘disappeared’ pretty much eh. Who’s seen Marty Holah lately? Just pointing it out.

I wear black on the outisde ‘cos black is how I feel on the inside.

So we have a sponsor on the All Black jersey now. It’s actually remarkable that we’ve held out this long without but in true NZRFU / Eden Park hot dog style, now we’ve decided to cash in, we’ve done it in a shamelessly revenue-grabbing / shit on tradition manner. I’m sure (actually I have no idea) that AIG are a fine multinational insurance conglomerate, but do they belong on what’s arguably little old New Zealand’s national symbol? ‘No’ is the answer you’re looking for.

In fairness, I’m struggling to think of a sponsor the NZ ‘sporting’ ‘public’ would have been more accepting of. In my sportreview.net.nz fantasy land (a magical place where work never gets in the way of sitting around watching sport and sleeping, and couches are made of pies), the All Blacks run out with the Four Square guy on their chests, and not a fucked up Dick Frizzell one either. Somehow though, I doubt that friendly grocer could match AIG’s financial muscle.

Hadyn commissioned the below poorly photoshopped contribution to his black jersey rant at Public Address.




Public enemy number one

The biggest villain in NZ sport isn’t Eden Park hot dogs or Stephen Jones’ Twitter account. Not since we turned on that stupid Tiger Woods for the way he treated the always-cheerful Stevie Williams has NZ been as united in its scorn for an athlete. Office prophets of doom around the country who’d put the boot into Adams like they were starting a troublesome motorcycle, immediately got in behind Adams and turned their scorn-lasers on Ostapchuk.

sportreview.net.nz guide to things Kiwis have compared Nadzeya Ostapchuk to:

 Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel (h/t Public Address)
 A very masculine man.
 A fridge / freezer unit.

The situation now is that Ostapchuk has gone totally troppo in Belarus, refusing to hand over the medal and alleging Adams is ‘totally’ on drugs. NZ’s sporting media were quick to move from their previous ‘reporting the news’ responsibilities to ‘defending Valerie’s honour’ responsibilities, labelling the accusations a ‘pack of lies’ and labelling Ostapchuk ‘troppo’ so that Adams didn’t have to. Adams’ ‘4 more yrs lol’ texts to Ostapchuk went largely unreported.

In the national game, Steve ‘sleepy’ Hansen faced off against Robbie ‘no mates’ Deans for the first time in the opening Bledisloe. Deans is as popular as jandal snot in Australia for his coaching ‘record’ in Australia, making a list of All Blacks Australians love to hate. In fairness to Robbie, ‘rugby public hating the national coach’ has always been a key factor in New Zealand rugby, so he appears to be on the right track. On Saturday’s performance, Deans has lured the rusty All Blacks into a false sense of security of full blanket, milo and Coro levels. If Robbie was hoping to turn the tables on NZ at world cup time, he obviously missed the memo that tournament took place last year, and you have to question the advice he’s getting.

Henry: “Dickhead reffed 2007 quarter final”

NEWSDESK: Former All Black coach Graham Henry has revealed he became physically sick when he realised the IRB had appointed a dickhead to officiate the All Blacks 2007 world cup quarter final match against France. “Watching the tape, I counted 40 missed penalties, and that pass was a mile forward for the try. Dickhead. Even Raewyn thought so,” said Henry.

“If a bloke is that much of a dickhead, you’ve got to question his ability to ref a world cup quarter final.”

An IRB official who did not wish to be named, ruled out any behind the scenes dickhead-conspiracy. “Rugby prides itself as a sport in which everyone can participate, including dickheads. Wayne is living proof being a dickhead is no barrier to becoming an international referee.” Current All Black coach Steve Hansen refused to be drawn on Barnes, saying he’d prefer to concentrate on the dickheads his team were likely to face in the rugby championship.

Henry’s book (“What A Flamin’ Dickhead” – AKLGrammar Press, $35.99) presents more evidence on the Barnes-dickhead theory, including Barnes’ high-waisted shorts and running style.

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.

Walk in the park

My little walk through Victoria Park was stunning this AM

The Herald went big on Jeremy Wells‘ ‘Victoria Park as a cricket test venue’ proposal on Saturday with Steve Deane and Dylan Cleaver chipping in with editorials, and an epic ‘your views’ page. Let’s not mess this up – this is a fantastic proposal. We’re now a city with no central city sporting venue AT ALL (OK, Vector aside), and this proposal would bring crowds of happy, thirsty sports folk into the CBD without *too* much disruption and give test cricket a unique setting. The alternative options for test cricket (Eden Park, bloody ALBANY!) excite me as much as a ‘Danny Morrison, life coach’ audio book.

The Herald’s commentators berated the recently released city stadium discussion document for its very lack of vision – Auckland’s stadiums are beset by underinvestment, location and self interest issues and this document does little to sort that out. Set that against the example of the Gold Coast’s Skilled Park, a replica of Brisbane’s FANTASTIC Suncorp Stadium, only with one tier. When there’s demand for more capacity, they’ll simply build another tier on top, and she’ll be right, Bruce. As an Auckland sports fan and ratepayer, that’s the kind of vision I’d have liked to see in the vision document. In the absence of leadership from the city’s leaders, let’s help make Victoria Park happen.

Teh rugby
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the All Blacks’ two tests so far. The first one, cos the new look All Blacks, with a patented mix of youth ‘n’ experience WASTED the Irish, and looked bloody good. The second, because it was close, and we still won. Of course, as a former resident of the Republic, I was gutted for Ireland they couldn’t get over the line – but not *that* gutted. A key part of my personal arrogant All-Black-supporting folklore is that teams like Ireland and Scotland have never beaten us, so I took it in my stride. Still, I was unimpressed that with some NZ fans on Twitter ‘going for’ the Irish. I’m all for sportsmanship, but this is unacceptable. Support your world champion national team, we’ve been waiting to be able to say that for a while now, let’s make the most of it. Sound poo-covered jandal beatings all around.


For the All Blacks, everyone has played well, generally, but I’m most excited about Aaron Smith, the passing number nine. We’ve been down the ‘halfback as extra loose forward’ path for so long now – but with Marshall, Kelleher at half back, not to mention Andrew Hore, Ali Williams, the Franks, as well as arguably Conrad Smith, we’ve actually wound up with about 23 loose forwards on the park at a time. So, this return to simpler times where the half back actually clears the ball in a timely fashion is a welcome one and the backline looks better for the extra time and space. Next few years will be interesting when Smith and TJ ‘chosen one’ Perenara go head to head for the spot.

Oh, and three test-series. I like them, let’s have one every year.

You should really pick up this month’s Metro. Steve Braunais takes the most thoughtful look at the Blues’ season I’ve seen (great to see SB writing about sport again – still waiting for the football book!), and Donna Chisholm investigates concussion in our contact sports. The first thing I turn to though, is Duncan Greive‘s (of friend-of-sportreview Deadball, among other things) sport page – a pithy run through of things that matter and things you probably didn’t know. I’m very pleased to see Duncan contributing longer pieces, like the excellent Dylan Boucher piece a couple of issues back. Like I say, recommended.

Graham Henry should stop cackling around 2019

NEWSDESK: Rugby World Cup 2011 winning coach Graham Henry should cease cackling around the end of the decade, according to All Black doctor Deb Robinson. Henry, the first All Black coach to secure the William Webb Ellis trophy since 1987, used to be known for his stern manner and take-no-prisoners approach with journalists, but the ex-headmaster’s appearances now feature raucous laughter, grinning and winking, punctuated with dubious anecdotes, all of which are being lapped up by an adoring rugby public and media.

In a series of increasingly comedic outbursts, Henry told a Hawke’s Bay dinner audience how close he’d come to drinking wine and smoking marijuana in the south of France, described English rugby officials as ‘fucking arseholes’ at a corporate engagement and gave a powerpoint presentation on new All Black coach Steve Hansen’s farting and early morning ablutions to a South Canterbury high school rugby prizegiving.

Asked for comment, Henry said: “Tremendous. Just marvellous. Tremendous. Marvellous,” and laughed for five or six minutes before the line went dead.

All Blacks Doctor Deb Robinson said “Letting off steam when you’ve been under immense pressure is natural, and he should stop cackling when it feels right to him, even if that’s several years away. If the rugby public sees Graham wandering the streets laughing un-supervised, the best thing people can do is wrap him lightly but firmly in a blanket, put him in a Corporate Cab and send him to NZRFU HQ in Wellington.”

Asked if a tired and emotional ex-All Black coach with a microphone was a PR risk, NZRFU CEO Steve Tew said “Ted is a professional, and we trust his judgement. However, we would to see Ted transition public appearances from ‘public speaking’ and ‘interviews’ to a ‘trips to the dairy’ or ‘boat ramp’ space, but I’m sure we can come to an arrangement.”