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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

[Sport/General] Finally, the rugby story

Good day ladies and gents.

Welcome to my first blog-from-home (actually, I’m writing this at work and then I’ll email it home and post it from there). There’s going to be another post soon, I promise. No seriously. This is taking longer than usual though because my broadband hasn’t been installed yet. Yeah, I know, I’m a troglodyte, but it will be here on Monday.


It takes five (5) working days to connect to Telecom’s Jetstream “broadband” system (“broadband” because it’s only 256kbps). What (in the vernacular du jour) is up with that?! I bet they just have to press a button. “Sorry Sir, it takes five working days to press that button”.

Wanna hear about me meeting the NZ Māori team? Well most you regular readers would have heard about it already (because I’ve been telling everyone in earshot or anyone who even looks at me for more than a second).

I flew up on Tuesday (last week) for a reception being thrown for the team by the Minister of Māori Affairs, Parakura Horomia (who has the best handshake I have ever…um…shook?). The reception was to honour the Māori team both past and present and to name the squad that would play the Lions. I did the rounds with pen, notebook and BOP jersey in hand.

I spoke to Wayne Ormond (pictured in a previous post) and got his signature on my Bay jersey. I congratulated him on a good game against the Lions (for the Bay). He mumbled thanks and seemed happier signing autographs than talking. “Weird” I thought until I spoke to more players.

Sean Hohneck was the same. He went to school in Waiuku with my partner and so I thought there would be an “in” for a casual conversation (just a short back and forth, Christ, I’m not asking him out or anything). But again weird, embarrassed mumbling. Later I spoke to a few people about this and they said that players often get really insular and are unsure of how to talk to someone who isn’t part of the rugby fraternity (or a journalist).

Carlos Spencer was a bit better. When I mentioned that he had an awesome game for the Lomu 15 he kind of froze a little. I got his autograph for my brother-in-law Scott, who is giant Carlos fan.

I met Marty (robbed of an All Black jersey) Holah in the loo. I didn’t talk to him though because how awkward would that conversation be?

After the naming of the squad the players did an impromptu haka. I ripped open my bag and scrambled for my camera which refused to turn on when I got it out and so I missed a great photo opportunity. I did get them singing a waiata later. I found out that the team had learned the words only two days beforehand and that Rua Tipoki and Piri Weepu were the originators of the actions.

You see that’s what separates the NZ Māori from all other teams: culture. Not Māori culture as such but the familial sense that you got from these guys. At dinner they were goofing around like brothers with Matiu Te Pou as a father figure, highly respected. More on this later.

I was also part of a select group that accompanied the Minister and the team to dinner. We had to drop our stuff at the hotel first and so when we got there (Hamilton’s Lone Star restaurant) the only seats available were with the team. They were ploughing into plates full of ribs that were dotted round the table. The guy next to us (Stu Foster) passed us the plate and said help yourself. So we did.

After a while we were stuffed and waitress came round and collected the plates. She came back and said “you guys ready to order?” A giant pile of ribs in an entrée to an All Black. The boys all ordered giant slabs of meat (steak and pork, no chicken). I got mussels.

One thing that surprised me was that the players were drinking. So much so that at one point they had to designate a sober driver (well done boys).

If you want to drink like a B&I Lions beating rugby player here are your options.

  • New Zealand red wine (Shiraz)
  • Montieths Radler (that’s the “green” one that tastes like Lemon and Lime)
  • Budweiser (actually only Carl Hayman was drinking this. Don’t ask why, I don’t know).
  • Milkshakes (seriously they were drinking red wine and milkshakes).

When the food came Daniel Braid got a hunk of roast pork larger in diameter than a CD and a good inch and a half thick. He ate it all. That is probably one of the reasons that they are so damn big.

I could barely see Sean Hohneck through the clouds, Corey Flynn shoulders were roughly two metres across and Carl Hayman was just massive. When I shook Jonno Gibbes’ hand, it enveloped my own making it all the more stupid when I got his autograph.

Was it me who inspired them to victory? I like to think that it was. Sure it was Mat Te Pou’s last game as coach (after 11 years of being the most successful coach in NZ modern rugby history). But in the huddle I’m sure you could hear Gibbes during the game yelling:

“Come on guys do it for that skinny little white kid who was at our table the other night. You know the one who’s book we signed. He obviously had some sort of disease, remember how small and frail he was? Do it for him!”

And they did. Thrashing (which is a small piece of hyperbole, but please permit me) the Lions 19-13. A small part of me wanted Jonno Gibbes or Marty Holah to come off so that Wayne Ormond could run on, but I didn’t mind after Jonno’s giant tackle that has been replayed so often since the match.

Read Dom’s piece about the All Black selection below cause I can’t be bothered writing about it now (which means I probably will eventually).

I spent most of Tuesday night talking to manager of the NZ Māori who said he had been there for five years. I spoke about the new NPC structure and all the other stuff I complain about here. He generally agreed. This shocked me; does this mean my rants are right? Probably not, I think I impressed him though.

He agreed that the American NFL system is the best and said it was widely acknowledged. Matt Te Pou apparently even met with NFL officials a few years back to try and get some idea on how they run things. He was against the salary cap though opting instead for market forces to drive player salaries and he didn’t believe that it would spread the talent across the provinces.

When I said that the middle of the new NPC structure looked just like a money making venture. He said yes of course it is; you can’t stop the richer teams from getting richer. Of course he’s right. Teams like Canterbury and Auckland will make heaps more money than Manawatu and Tasman (the new Marlborough/Nelson Bays). But, and this was his most important point, those four games that Manawatu (I’m just using them as an example don’t get angry) play at home in the new NPC will net them more money than they would’ve made in an entire season in the old Second Division. He said “put the big provinces in there and the money will roll in”. What he means is that if Auckland plays Manawatu (at Manawatu) then not only will a big bunch of locals go to the game, but a few Auckland supporters will come down as well and spend some money.

Man this guy was smart. He introduced me to the coaching staff (hongis all round*) including Matt Te Pou. They are all really good guys and they were all very smart. It was this attitude and culture that made this team special. It was almost the atmosphere that you expect from a club rugby side. Very jovial, everyone smiling, even the occasional outburst of song. At one table some of the guys were playing cards. I’m not sure how the All Blacks do things but I can’t see it being like this. I saw the All Black coaching staff having a late dinner after the BOP game and they didn’t look anything like these guys, uptight and grumpy looking.

*A quick side story about an ex-workmate of mine. We went to a hui and there was a round of introductions. One of the delegates, a very large guy, came over to introduce himself. He went to hongi my workmate, who, I should point out is not from New Zealand. As the guy leaned in my workmate gave him a peck on the cheek. He sure wasn’t expecting that.

We left the Lone Star at about 10.30ish (because of a 7am flight back the next day) and they were still there drinking (they didn’t have to get up and train the next day). Here’s a funny story. I like watching TV before I go to sleep (ask my partner, she’ll tell you how annoying it is). So I switched of the lights and jumped into bed, I was watching some crap on TV3 so I changed the channel. Or at least I thought I did. With the lights out I couldn’t see the remote so I just pressed what I figured was the right button, it wasn’t. The TV began to screen the in-house video which, at that time of night, was porn. With embarrassing hotel bills and slaps from my girlfriend racing through my mind I frantically pressed buttons on the remote and succeeded in turning the TV off. Visiting the Novotel Tainui soon? I suggest first orienting oneself with the remote before watching television.

On our ludicrously early flight out (by the way I refer to myself and the communications director I was travelling with) was the lovely Irene van Dyk, goal-shoot for my beloved BOP Magic. She had also been our flight up and I had taken the opportunity to get a signature (for my Mum who couldn’t get to the final because it got moved to poxy Southland). In contrast to the rugby players van Dyk was very chatty and just lovely. I guy I know through the 48hours competition works for the National Bank doing promotions and he said he’s met a lot of netballers and that they are all really nice and chatty, but that the All Blacks that he’s met were as I described.

Irene remembered us and said a cheery (especially for 6.30am) “Hello again”. I like to think that my words of encouragement spurred her and the Magic to victory over the Sting.

Suffer Sting, Suffer!

Oh I forgot to mention. We bumped into some of the Balmy Army and were told that this is fact a misnomer. The Balmy Army follows cricket NOT rugby. Also it was the name given to the English cricket supporters by the Aussies. Makes more sense now doesn’t it? Any how, these guys were very nice and very chatty. I suggest if you see of the Army you say hello and make them feel welcome, they love their rugby just as much as we do and do enjoy a bit of a laugh. Don’t be a dick (after all they are spending their money here).

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