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.

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.

Trolling through the issues

There’s a new dawn in Auckland. It’s not a second harbour crossing made up of trained dolphins ferrying commuters to the city on their backs (sounds cheap Mr Joyce!), or a ‘no arseholes’ rule in the Viaduct, set to transform the area into Tuesday night Invercargill main street within a week.

No, it’s the return of the prodigal son, world cup winner John ‘mad butcher’ Kirwan, back from Italy and Japan and, much to Twitter and headline writers’ amusement – the abyss.


The best thing for Kirwan is there’s no matches for almost a year – the feelgood factor the Blues could generate by not actually playing rugby could well last until twenty minutes into their first match in 2013.

I hope JK goes well – but posts like these and comments like these it’s clear the Warriors, who announced a series of youth programme and community initiatives last week are miles ahead in the having-your-shit-together metric. Except for on the field. No-one has their shit together there.

In rugby-teams-that-are actually-playing news, the sportreview-approved Chiefs go into Friday night’s big ‘clash’ as underdogs, thanks to the Crusaders’ cheating ways. In a DAMMING EXPOSE,’s EPIC TROLL Mark Reason details all the ways the Crusaders have CHEATED their way to seven titles, including:

Waiting in the car park before games to influence referees by beating them up.
‘Signalling’ at Bridge

If the Chiefs do overcome the CHEATING Crusaders and go on to win the title, the Chiefs players would no doubt run into the chicks from the Magic, who’d still be downtown on the daiquiris after winning the ANZ Netball Championship. If the Chiefs and the Magic were to go full-Mad Monday together, it could result in a generation of Waikato sporting superstars that would dominate the national sporting scene for decades to come.’s postion is: this must happen.

Epic troll is epic.

Sonny and Chur

The Black Caps’ West Indian tours has been somewhat challenging so far. Difficult country to tour. Upheaval in the coaching staff. Multiple injuries. A mixture of jaded old pros and inexperienced youngsters. If the guys aren’t careful, it has all the hallmarks of going full Cairns / Paroroe / Turner.

 The Black Caps arrive in the West Indies looking forward to playing some decent cricket.
 Ross Taylor receives the latest injury report from medical staff.
 Brendon McCallum answers the cry for back up.
 John Wright sits the boys down for a bit of a motivational talk.

As I write this, the Black Caps are putting together a decent bowling performance to win the third one-dayer. The West Indies are no one-man team, but Chris Gayle is the key. He can cheerfully take our attack to bits and make it look depressingly easy. We need to get him and get him early – on paper, there’s no reason why our patched-up team can’t beat the West Indies, even at home. Of course, things written on bits of paper are faily meaningless when you’re being carted to all parts of the ground, and have to share your sweltering hotel room with an overly-enthusiastic calypso band. Let’s hope our guys can push on from here.

Back home, there’s now two options for central Auckland test cricket venues. This new one is a stone’s throw from the old one, part of proposed development for the tank farm. There’s no doubt the concept photos are spectacular, and its right-beside-the-water-ness would give Auckland a central city sporting venue at last. It would be great if the Victoria Park and Waterfront groups can work together to make sure this happens in some fashion, and the test-cricket-in-Albany plan is sent to, well, Albany forever.

Last thing on cricket – Mark Boucher has been forced to retire from cricket due to a nasty, nasty injury. Great shame for him, and he’ll be missed by South Africa – but I’ll remember him mainly for this tremendous sledging effort against Zimbabwe.

The sporting media loved the Sonny Bill story, as they got to report reports from those ‘in the know’ – New Zealand rugby’s number one ‘in the know’ sources are the guy who runs the mini doughnut stand outside Eden Park, and Murray Deaker’s postie. They had Sonny Bill going to Japan to play for a corporation renowned for having shitloads of cash and a shithouse rugby team – and they were right. Rugby’s worst kept secret since ‘Stu Wilson is a bit of a twat’ was revealed at a press conference that reached turning-up-to-work-naked levels of awkwardness.

Touchingly, Sonny Bill seemed genuinely sad to be leaving the Chiefs and the All Blacks. Less touchingly, he’s still going. Suddenly he’s all about handshakes and loyalty, when up til now, all appearances indicate he’s mostly interested in negotiating deals for heaps of wonga. It’s a bloody shame, he seems to have fitted in really well at the Chiefs – and things will change on both sides after a year away in Japan and Sydney. I’ve got no idea if we’ll see him back, we’ll see, and we’ll see if it seems to matter as much as it does now. If he really cared about the team and his team mates he says he does now, he might have put that first.

 Still best rugby stadium in NZ cc @chiefsrugby
I took sportreview jr to the rugger on Friday night at Waikato Stadium. Highly recommended, $12 for adults and $5 for kids, with a bouncy castle and little giveaways for the up and comers. Shame about the result, but.

In the tour, Bradley Wiggins is in yellow, and appears comfortable on the bike, and jumpy like a cat in a bag full of dogs off it, sweating at cameramen and anonymous losers on Twitter alike. Wiggins is cool-as-fuck, Paul Weller on a bike, all mod sideburns and Jimmy-from-Quadrophenia accent.

The Tour De France seems to be presenting no problem for Wiggins, but the mechanical doping rumours won’t go away.

He’s also the leader and beneficiary of the best managed, organised and funded cycling organisation in the world that, after winning Olympic medals galore decided to produce a Tour winner, and it looks like they may have one. I’m nervous for him, his broken collarbone exit from last year’s tour is fresh in my mind, and I think it’s preying on his too. Hang in there Wiggo.

NSFW language, unless your place of work is Team Sky at the Tour De France, in which case it’s fuckin’ game on.

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.

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.

What drove Sione out of Hamilton?

As a youth in Hamilton, often encountered youth gangs in Garden Place of a Friday night and thought “I wish I could drive to Auckland tonight, the Yuppies up there wouldn’t be all punching shit out of my knees right now.”  Early Saturday morning Sione Lauaki had the same thought, but failed the all important ‘get to Auckland’ part of the plan, which was unlucky, as he’s a  man with form when it comes to letting down the fans, but usually when he’s playing rugby or punching them in the face. So, what drove Sione out of Hamilton?

Maybe he was looking for some action. Hamilton’s nightlife options traditionally taper off shortly after lunchtime, and you can understand wanting to leave a city that can’t decide if it’s happening, if it’s more than you expect, if it’s ON, or whether it’s “Hamilton – ‘gis a fucking dollar and what the fuck are you looking at, mate?”.

A Hamilton youth protest, demanding equal council facilities for up and coming Heavy Metal bands as skateboarders
Or was Sione driving out of Hamilton as a solidarity chest thump for the Waipa Delta, the steam boat driven out of the tranquil brown waters of the Waikato River and forced to work for its keep in the Auckland Harbor ferrying ungrateful Yuppies about and having its foredeck wee-ed on like Matthew Ridge’s shoes?
The Waipa Delta in happier days – RWC organisers should note nothing says Party Central like a carvery, free Waikato Draught and a spew over the side
Or was the big smoke calling, the big smoke where ‘teh’ social media craze is creating an industry of experts not seen since the leaky homes expert boom. Like the Kids from Fame taking over a cafeteria with their dancing, you can’t walk the streets of Auckland move for social media experts forcing their friendship on you and threatening ROI.

You don’t GET these kind of personal in your online face experiences in Hamilton, where Broadband generally means a poofters’ gumboot.

Giapo, where you can ‘tweet’ about your ‘ice cream’ and upload it to the ‘pavement’ if you’re drunk enough
These are all plausible reasons (ahem – Ed), but can reveal Sione was driven out of the fountain city by the cruel mocking of a fountain. This is a man deeply, deeply insecure about his hair. Exhibit A:

The Founders Theater fountain has spoken to many young Hamilton men as they relieve themselves in its waters after a night out, but mercifully, their memories are generally wiped the next day. If you’re a pro rugby player struggling with form, fitness and 13 JD and cokes, and a fountain talks to you, you’re best to zip up and move on, not get in your car and flee. There’s no escaping the fountain, bro.

Hail to the Chiefs


Early Sunday, my Chiefs will take on the Bulls to play for the Super 14 title this year.

It’s fair to say I’ve fallen out of love with the S14 recently, the extra teams making it an un-neccesarily long slog (have rugby administrators never head of ‘fast game’s a good game? This goes for the Tri-Nations too). But the Chiefs’ run to the final has bought me right back. After Friday’s semi final win in the fog, I may even have got over excited.

With first up losses to the Crusaders, Warratahs and Sharks it seemed like another underachieving season loomed before a long string of wins (including a narrow loss to the Bulls in Pretoria, portend fans) put us back in contention. Top of the table in fact. To take the semi spot, and make the final we had to beat the Hurricanes (twice) and the Brumbies – and we did, by 8, 3 and 4 points. Winning close ones that count is totally un-Chiefs like. It’s been absorbing and nailbiting. Not to mention bloody *brilliant*.

So now the final and the Bulls in their lair. And a pretty bloody scary lair it is too, going by the rabid fans the cameras pan across (yes, I know about people in glass houses and that). The Chiefs’ last three matches have been in Hamilton, at night, and in the wet. How we cope with being in South Africa, dry, and in broad daylight will be the test. Forget that Sivi’s out, we’ve had injuries all season and still done the job. This team has a great forward pack, a magic back three and a willingness to attack from anywhere. It’s  all orchestrated by Stephen Donald, our next All Black first five (until the other one is fit), who’s done more than anyone to get us there.

Finals are a cliche lover’s dream – we all know it’s 80 minutes of Rugby, anyone can take it on the day and full credit to everyone concerned. Go on you Chiefs, I hope you bloody do them.

Thanks to Naly for the photo.

Being there: Chiefs v Blues, Super 14

Friday, I was at Eden Park for the Cricket, but if this is Saturday, it must be Rugby.


Last year’s Super 14 was the testing ground for ‘Look, Ma, no All Blacks!’. This year we’re testing the Experimental Law Variations (or something). The players all looked like they’d been in the gym. There were some really big hits.

They’ll need to be fit, cos the new rules make the game FAST. There was lots of sevens-style chasing after the ball slowly, forcing the opposition to cover you all the way back.

There was a lot of kicking. The forwards spent much of the game wandering around the half way line like a Zombie hoard while the full backs and wingers played force back over their heads.

The Chiefs have a great team – Mils, Sivivatu, Anesi, Kahui, Donald, Leonard, Messam, Gibbes, Luaki, and Willis… that’s a really solid spine, with some real experience tucked in there. The only thing we’re missing is a couple of massive, hairy props, which is strange, as Waikato teams are usually renowned for its great hairy props.

Eden Park seems to be taking the threat of cinemas seriously in it’s bid to retain the title “Biggest, evilest rip-off merchant of the year, Food and Drink”. I’ll review the items one by one.

– Chips – these are OK. Still. Four bucks.
– Battered Hot Dog – Horrible, pitiful, pitiful amount of sauce, and a round stick. A round stick just seems wrong.
– Fish and Chips – I’d rather have gravel and chips than pay $8.50 for fish and chips at a rugby ground.
– Calamari and Chips – No way. Just… no way.
– Soft drink / water – Jesus, don’t leave yourselves short, will you?

Overall, it was a fun, low key night out, and Eden Park is not a bad place to be of a balmy February evening. The Blues will do well this year, and it’s only early days for the Chiefs. It did make me feel I need to make the most of what’s left of this summer, though.