No Winners

Is that true, what they say..there can be no winners?

On Saturday afternoon, the decision was made to cancel the scheduled round five Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders, set to be hosted at Forsythe Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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Media outlets cited the police as saying there were no official fears held for the safety of the venue, its patrons or the players. The decision to call the game off must therefore have been made over sentiment.
Commendable. There is no denying the depth of feeling flooding the nation given the events in Christchurch on Friday. As a consequence, we were all encouraged not to view, share or partake in the filth Tarrant posted online.
Good call. Who wants to see such grotesque violence anyway, despite the ghoulish nature many people have.

So, with one hand we are denying this freak of a human the platform he so desperately sought, yet it seems with the other we are giving him the and his actions the credence they so badly do not warrant.
I have always liked to think sports is impartial. Free of politics or the whims of society and it’s ever changing standards. Just a bunch of men and women and kids running, kicking, jumping, throwing and catching, using whatever level of athleticism required to undertake their chosen physical past time.
We have seen time again how people will always persist in drawing a llink between sport and the wider issues of the world and indeed more and more we see modern sports people wanting to use the platform they have through their game as a chance to weigh in with their opinions.

Cool. I am all for wider debate, for as many voices as possible in any given debate and for perceived role models, such as sports people, making the most of what is a privileged position. Think the statements by TJ Perenara around the rainbow issue as a prime example.
To me, it just seems calling a halt to a rugby game because of the actions of a nutter is out of place. The cricket test to be held at Hagley against the Bangladesh team, sure. There is no way that game could have proceeded. But a rugby game in a different city over twenty four hours later? Out respect for the victims? Really?
I sincerely doubt the victims and their families were giving any thought to any game. All cancelling the game has done is extend the reach of Brenton Tarrant’s actions, furthering his hateful message.

I will admit, there is an element of selfishness to what I say.
I was looking forward to the clash between the Crusaders and my Highlanders. We took them down last season and while I don’t think we were likely to this time around, we were in with a shot.
Under the roof in Dunedin, a big derby match, the night of sporting entertainment would have been a spectacle, the Zoo in action and students and fans reveling in the streets.
The type of spectacle we as New Zealanders are more used to seeing.

Just what the doctor would have ordered don’t you think?

As for the name of the rugby franchise from the Canterbury, Nelson?Tasman region?
I for one, no fan of PC excesses, think it may be time for a change…

 

Bounce of the Ball

All Blacks give way to Black Caps as the kids turn blue and brown.

Yesterday was the first attack of the beach for the season.
The sun was shining, the day was warm if a little windy, the kids paddled and swam, dug and scampered, all as their dad failed yet again to prove himself provider, coming home with an empty chilly bin.
A big day of the first summer hit out. Consequently everyone was a little frazzled by the evening, not to mention a little red in patches. Even my own flexibility let me down, clear pink delineations marked on my skin where my hands fail to reach.

With a couple of late beers in me it was all I could do to keep one eye on the cricket test between Pakistan and the Black Caps. Not the biggest fan of the game, I do admit to being a bit of a tragic, fond of the longer version. Too long for me after a day in the sun, wind and sand, fruitlessly casting fish food out into the surprisingly warm waters of the Hokianga.  I went to bed not longer after the crew, my minds eye beginning to focus on the All Black’s vs Ireland.

That game came with a lot of hype and pretty much, it delivered.
Perhaps the AB’s were below par but if that was the case, it took an outstanding Irish effort to drive it home. They were belligerent, fired up, accurate and skilled. Everything the All Blacks weren’t.
The Irish defense was outstanding and they targeted our key players brilliantly, shutting down our play before we could gain any momentum. Pressure by the opposition resulted in mistakes by the All Blacks, which of course results in more pressure.
New Zealand were far from their clinical best, some players were off with a prime example being Captain Kieron Read. A poor start at scrum time didn’t help either, against a well coached and well drilled team.

We were beaten at the breakdown. I think right there was the winning of the game for the Irish, with players like C.J Stander and Peter O’Mahony nothing short of brilliant. Gone are the days where not throwing bodies into the ruck is an effective defensive measure. Fanning out flat across the field is one thing, but letting a team like Ireland get on a roll with repeat possession is quite another.
The All Blacks kicked a lot of ball early and I can’t help thing this might be under instruction. However, without the ball it is difficult to get into the game and for large periods of the game our back line in particular, looked bereft of ideas.

Where is the strong man? The hit-up man who will just tuck the ball under one powerful arm and just go, straight and hard? Yes, as a unit and individuals, the All Blacks made mistakes, individual errors and some poor calls. We were soundly beaten by the quintessential better team on the day. Ok, fair calls, but where was the man to wrestle the decision making around, to change tact, to put his hand up, or better yet a couple of guys like that?
We weren’t tidy enough, we weren’t mongrel enough and for whatever reason we didn’t seem to want to attack like we are known for.
Oh well, bugger. Well done the Irish, they won because they were better.

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There was one, if only one, really good thing I was able to take away from the game.
The kick off time.
On the couch, cup of tea, a blanket despite another beautiful Hokianga dawn and the kids starting to stir, making their fuzzy ways into the living room. Pretty much perfect.
8am New Zealand time is as about as perfect a kickoff time as you are gonna get for family entertainment in the weekend. If it was a local game, maybe not of course, but still a whole lot better than 7:30pm on a cold winter evening.

The kids didn’t last long though. Once Dad starts yelling at the television, they find better things to do. Even when we haven’t left the home, I still have the ability to embarrass my kids. Just part of my job.

In closing, Naholo in on the right wing, with Smith returning to fullback. Laumape in the midfield, or to at least come of the bench in tandem with the Lienart-Brown’s of the world and Mackenzie. We had no punch, lacked that little extra our bench normally provides and run Squire in the wide channels instead of Read. Seen that guy in full flight?
I could go on all day but I won’t
The sun is shining.

Frantic Fan

I was nervous leading up to the weekend. Now I am petrified.

A 20 year old rookie that can’t tackle in the younger Barrett, for a proven test performer and the only player that has looked to challenge out wide, Naholo.

A player dropped after two seasons of nothing, Savea, to provide what…more of the same?
Ioane went missing last weekend and now will not be given a chance to atone. Instead, replaced by a player, in Savea, that has been missing for quite some time.

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J. Barrett has potential, I think anyone and everyone can see that…but he is no better as the last line defense than Dagg, possibly worse.

Maybe he will be asked, on debut, to kick the goals. He has the skills in that department, but what a big ask that would be. I saw Jordy Barrett as a potential future AB, was surprised he made the squad. He wouldn’t have made my selection criteria though have a young man like that around during a time like this is no bad thing. Playing him though..?

He under-performed in the big clashes this season, namely against the Chiefs and BIL. I wish him luck. this is a make or break opportunity as they say and you have to give the coach and selection panel credit for backing not only the player, but themselves.
I wish Laumape luck too. At least he fits the game plan and will be part of a full compliment of teammates…he has a lot to prove and this weekend is more his chance than last. Defensive frailties aside, he is one of only two backs that have shown any thrust or ability to get overt the game line in a black jumper this series.

The other one was dropped.

There has been much talk about Cruden having no effect of the bench and yes, his option to kick late in the game was poor. But he does offer a different dynamic to B. Barrett and one that maybe the incumbent could take a look at.

Cruden takes on the line more, runs at the defense, something Barrett has not done this series. He needs to. It is as if he is looking for the cross-kick option first and foremost, trying desperately to negate the in your face defense of the Lions. Outside him he has had firstly SBW and now Laumape, two players who are going to draw defenders. Surely that leaves the occasional opportunity for Barrett to expose even the slightest of gaps he is normally so explosive at exploiting.

Up front we can match them but good to see Kaino back. His go forward and brutal physicality was missing last weekend, through no fault of his own.

Selections suggest the game plan hasn’t changed and now, even if we wanted t our our attack, I don’t think we have the personnel to achieve it…
In Hansen we trust.
Now Eden Park…hate them. Just bloody hate them.
C’MON the ALL BLACKS!!!!!!!!!
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What dreams are made of

Here’s that rain again. Inspiring sure, but not today…okay.

Not today because there are things on that could do without it. The rain will advantage others, or so it is said by those supposedly in the know.

Not today because this is the weather that should have me in the mood to write. The thing is, today, I am tired.

I woke up in a panic. Two things can stress me when I wake. The phone, and not knowing where the fuck I am.

A ringing phone stresses me because, more often than not, it means my dear wife will have to organise her shambolic morning head into some form of order and shuffle out the door at some ungodly hour. And boom, there goes my time off!

But let’s be honest, that doesn’t bother me as much as it troubles the Wee-Man. Arlo can be quite put out doing the crusty eyed roll over thing, only to discover the nipples he is clamoring for, are covered in curly, graying hair.

Ram some food in his gob and he is all good. A Wee-Man after my own heart. Though naturally, he captured my heart right at the outset.

The bigun’s will have an indoors day; reading, movies and whatever. All good until the noise escalates, as it will, and then it might be gumboots and raincoats.

Personally, I am going to need to get out and about at some stage. This is going to be one of those can’t sit still days. The pacing will begin soon, something my damaged knee will not enjoy, but is going to have to put up with. Neighbours new to us might pop down tonight, because we have Sky, and they will be enlightened about the fervor with which I follow my rugby…Claire will goad me with ‘It’s just a game’, the kids will tune in for the Haka, then lose interest, not batting an eyelid as I jump about yelling at the television.

Hopefully I won’t be so tired then.

Crawling into your daughters bed at whatever hour, beckoned by the warbled cry of ‘Daddy I need you’ tends to throw your slumber into chaos.

Unusually, it was Kenny calling out, our eldest. At nearly twelve, she is and always has been, the soundest of our charges. Not like her to wake in the night at all, let alone be driven from her sleep by her dreams. Kenny is the one that snuggles beneath the duvet, no matter the temperature.

A cozy snuggle with one of my crew is always welcomed and in Kenny’s case, the activity comes complete with a sprawling queen-sized bed. Sure, it is too soft for me and my back takes days to straighten properly again, but it is better than fighting that feeling you are about to plunge into a darkened abyss.

She is wearing her mothers shoes. She fits her wet weather gear. The same blonde sheen in her hair. Damn near the same height.

At a glance, one of those out of the corner of the eye moments you get when either I am entering a room or she is, Kenny looks just like her mother. Especially from the back. It is a realisation I have come to recently and it petrifies me.

Nearly 12. Not a child any more, still a kid. Not a women, not even a teen. Not a kid? Hell, I don’t know, but whatever it is, I am scared.

Scared because she has mentioned ‘cramping’. Scared because there are sports bra/crop top thingies in the washing I hang out despite the threat of rain.

I am frightened. She is growing up and I am beginning to wonder if I can grow with her, or will her Dad be left behind. Kenny is not going to mature into the world that I did. Things have changed. For the better or worse I do not yet know, but I fear it is the latter.

And just when does a Father stop snuggling? When is it a bit off for me to be crawling into Kennady’s bed, pulling her close and giving her the ‘there’ theres’? Is it ever going to be the wrong thing? Is it too late already…

I would hope I can cuddle, snuggle, kiss and tickle and giggle and roll around playing silly buggers with my daughters right up to the age they out-muscle me. Then I will pull the pin, the shame would be too great.

Is there a point where that behaviour is frowned upon? Do I even need to care, or do I care, about what the ‘norm’ might be? About what ‘society’ dictates?

In truth, the moment any frolicking and wrestling and general tomfoolery will come to an end is when the subject matter, namely Kenny, frowns down on her silly old Dad, no longer wanting to participate.

Perhaps that day is overdue. Perhaps it is a long time coming. When it does eventuate, I think I will be sad.

Briefly, to those that think the All Blacks will be troubled because it is raining…HA!

Good luck with that theory. We have a tight five that will man up, ball handlers across the park that will back their skill level regardless, a playing surface that can take it, a ball on a string wizard in Barrett-provided he gets the time and space-and the stamina to go the distance and beyond if required.

I, for one, am supremely confident.

Bring on the rain.

 

Roar

There is a tension in the house and it is my fault.

How much of how you are feeling reflects on how your kids are feeling, do you think?

I reckon your attitudes, feelings, emotional output, has a huge and powerful effect on how the children feel about their day.

A girl like Kennady, sensitive all her life, excessively so at times, is old enough to have a bit of a sense about that sort of thing, one that goes beyond a feeling, a vibe she may be picking up on. She has learnt to recognise the signals that I display.

She knows.

Hazel is a bit more blase, a bit more wrapped up in her own thing. Hazel has always had her own take on what is going on around her and at the moment, there is nothing different about her reaction to me and my edge. That will change. In slightly less than 24 hours from now she is going to be just as fired up as I am. Or at least she will make out she is, for the sake of her old man.

Esme doesn’t get it and I can only hope that in time, Arlo will. The Wee-Man, the prodigy.

Claire gets it. Claire hates it.

She hates the nervous tension, the pacing, the yelling and the excited-ness and the explosive displays of emotion; from anger to shock to joy. There will be joy. Elation.

Victory.

What the Highlanders did signaled it. The way tomorrow night will be, before and after.

It has started now, already. Started early in the week, was exacerbated by the selection announcement and now I can barely keep a lid on it.

The Lions.

C’mon the All Blacks!!

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