Friday, April 30, 2010

Three's red faces

So Paula Bennett isn't corrupt after all. But the other woman in the picture has done a snow-job on TV3 - read on:

More light has been shed on the meeting between Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and the solo parent who has taken a privacy complaint against her.

Tonight 3 News can reveal some of the emails our first story was based on, which indicated that monetary compensation was under discussion.

Now the solo parent who wrote them says money wasn't talked about, and admits she made those details up.

Ms Bennett and her press secretary met with Natasha Fuller and Ms Fuller's grandmother in Cambridge on Wednesday.

The meeting was arranged by the Privacy Commissioner and tonight 3 News can reveal the Facebook messages Ms Fuller sent to a friend about the meeting.

Before it, Ms Fuller’s emails show she was talking about money:

“Don’t no about millions but few thousands:-)... She needs me to drop my case and tell everyone how lovely she is ha ha.

“I don’t want to drop [my case] but they cut my payments right back...So be hard not to take a payout at this point as I also don't like media they mean.”

The Minister has forcefully denied that any financial settlement was ever discussed before or at the meeting with fuller.

After the meeting Ms Fuller claimed:

“Things went really well she wasn't that scary... I dropped the tears a few times and she felt sorry for me - wont put me back in the media and get me hurt again and willing to talk settlement.

“I’ve got a tough choice to make have two days to come up with what I want as a payment I don’t want to sound greedy but its hard to put price on what iv been through.”

3 News spoke to Ms Fuller today and asked her to explain the contents of the emails.

She said she was “lying and joking” and that even thought the discussions were quite detailed - this was just “part of her personality”.

So, 3News got taken in by a beneficiary with a history of grandstanding, and in the process defamed the Social Development Minister. We wonder what a jury in a defamation case would make of that. This is incredibly bad journalism from 3News, and heads should roll.

Heads should roll at The Standard too. "Eddie" blogged about this earlier in the day saying

But her attempt to bribe Natasha Fuller into silence overrides those issues, for now.

Eddie reckons it's all 3News' fault, and isn't going to apologise to anyone; quelle surprise! The only person to emerge from this sordid saga with any credit or dignity is - Paula Bennett; which is exactly as it should be!!

Hoist by his own petard

Regular readers (both of you) will be only too aware that we don't have a lot of time for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and its intrepid Head Pirate, Paul Watson. So we were not at all displeased when we read this in the Herald:

Japanese reports say the country's coast guard has obtained an arrest warrant for the leader of the Sea Shepherd environmentalist group for interfering with Japan's annual whale hunt.

Kyodo News agency reported today that the arrest warrant was for Paul Watson, founder and president of Sea Shepherd, on suspicion of assault and obstruction of business.

Watson, a Canadian, captains one of the Sea Shepherd ships that disrupts Japan's annual whaling activities in the Antarctic.

Catching Watson may prove problematic, but if the Japanese can take him into custody, getting a conviction should be a doddle. Watson will be convicted by his very own words - statements like:

  • Captain Paul Watson responded to the Canadian Naval spokesperson at the time by saying:

    “Since World War II, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has boarded more ships, rammed more ships, engaged in more high seas confrontations and sunk more ships than the Canadian Navy. They are hardly in a position to presume to judge what we are competent or capable of doing.”

  • "There's nothing wrong with being a terrorist as long as you win."

  • "We should never feel like we're going too far in breaking the law, because whatever laws you break to liberate animals or to protect the environment are very insignificant."

  • "That fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture, and we all justify violence if it's for what we believe in ."

    - Paul Watson, speaking at the Animal Rights 2002 convention.

  • "Guilty, guilty, guilty and proud of it!" - Paul Waton, July 3, 2009 on the conviction of two Sea Shepherd crew in Canada for illegal interference with the seal hunt.
So, let's hope that the Japanese do indeed get presented with an opportunity to legally apprehend Captain Paul Watson. You can guarantee though that the media coverage of any arrest and trial will be slanted though, when you reflect on these words:

People say I manipulate the media,' says Watson, who speaks calmly with an undertone of anger and lofty scorn for anyone who doubts or opposes him. 'Well, duh. We live in a media culture so why on earth wouldn't I? What we do is provide the media with the kind of stories they can't resist, even if they really try, and this is how we bring attention to what's happening to the whales, the seals, the sharks and the other marine conservation campaigns we're involved in. The oceans are dying in our lifetime and it's not for want of laws and regulations. The problem is enforcement. Governments are not enforcing the laws, so we have to.'

And therein lies the truth for Sea Shepherd; that the end justifies the means. Of course the fact that Sea Shepherd has arbitarilly selected what "the end" is is largely irrelevant. We're sure that Captain Paul Watson would never want the truth to get in the way of a good story!

PS - anyone heard anything about Pete the (alleged) Pirate Bethune lately?

This Sporting Life - 30 April 2010

After all the "storms" last week, it's been a far quieter week sports-wise.

Tiger's back on the PGA Tour again, this time in public at Quail Hollow in North Carolina, rather than the cloistered surroundings of Augusta National. He's well off the pace after the first round, but that's hardly surprising if the latest revelations that he bedded around 120 women during his marriage have any substance!

The Super 14 is getting down to the sharp end, and there's the very real prospect that there will be NO NZ teams in the play-offs unless the Crusaders can win on the road in Safferland. We'd love to think that the 'Canes would make it, but they are reliant on too many other results, and we don't like their chances.

The FIFA World Cup is getting ever-closer, and the All Whites are in camp to begin their preparation. How d'ya reckon they are going to do? Can they get beyond the group stage? Can they win a match? All will be revealed soon.

And the Black Caps are in the West Indies for the ICC World T20. Does this competition have any status or significance? They play Sri Lanka tomorrow mornng at 5am NZ time, and given that we've been waking obscenely early lately, we'll probably have a look; failing that, there's always MySky!

OK - that's our thoughts; the floor is yours ...


From SageNZ at No Minister, the latest acronym:

Brown Is Gone On Thursday

Amen to that we say; amen to that!

Naughty Paula? Or media beat-up?

Campbell Live broke a story last night alleging that Social Development minister Paula Bennett had paid "hush money" to a beneficiary. It wasn't just any beneficiary either; it was "celebrity beneficiary" Natasha Fuller. This story from the Herald LAST NIGHT details the story:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has denied she offered money to a beneficiary who laid a privacy complaint against her.

It was reported tonight that Ms Bennett yesterday met Natasha Fuller, the solo mother who was at the centre of a controversy last year after she talked about her inadequate study grant, then saw details of her benefits released by Ms Bennett.

3News said it had emails which showed the meeting had taken place. It reported a monetary settlement was discussed and the idea of Fuller dropping the complaint was floated.

Ms Bennett denied she had offered Ms Fuller money to make the complaint go away.

"Absolutely not. Not in any form, not in any type of conversation, not face to face, not in writing," she said when asked about it by a TV3 reporter.

So what's going on here? Has Our Paula screwed up? Or is this just a beat-up?

We'd lean towards the latter. Neither the Herald nor the Stuff website carries the story on their respective front pages this morning, and you have to dig to find it. Stuff reports that Bennett met Fuller on the recommendation of the Privacy Commissioner.

So who to believe? Bennett's denials of wrongdoing are pretty categorical. Ms Fuller claims to have had to move house, change her phone number and receive counselling as a result of last year's revelations. We wonder though if she still voices her opinions on the TradeMe forums.

We repeat; we reckon that this is more than likely a beat-up. But we'll say this; if Paula Bennett has offerred hush money to Natasha Fuller, she needs to have the book thrown at her by John Key, and with some degree of force.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

We will remember them

Hayden Madsen, Dan Gregory and Ben Carson - three fine, young New Zealanders who met their maker far too soon. Laurence Binyon's immortal words have seldom been so fitting:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Arohanui - we will indeed remember them.

Brown's gaffe

Oh Gordon! As if having Labour ranking THIRD in the polls just a week out from the UK election isn't bad enough, Gordon Brown has stuffed up big-time. The Herald reports:

Britain's bedraggled Prime Minister Gordon Brown walked into a political train wreck Wednesday after forgetting to turn off his microphone.

He described a loyal Labour voter as a bigot for asking about immigration, blamed advisers for a "disaster" ahead of next week's election, then rushed back to the voter's house to beg her forgiveness.

All the country could do was look on - in shock, amazement and sometimes glee - as the painful, riveting drama played out over television and radio for hours. The debacle created a massive setback for Brown on the eve of the last TV debate ahead of the May 6 vote.

Grandmother Gillian Duffy, 66, met with Brown at a campaign stop in the northern town of Rochdale and questioned him about the influx of eastern European immigrants who have come to Britain.

Right; that's the scene set - here comes the good bit:

Brown brushed the question aside and explained that Britons were also working in eastern Europe, leaving in his car in a hurry and forgetting to turn off his microphone.

"That was a disaster, they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It's just ridiculous," Brown is heard saying.

Asked what Duffy had said to upset him, Brown told the aide: "Everything. She's just a sort of bigoted woman."

Oh dear. To make matters worse, Mrs Duffy is a long-time LABOUR supporter - read on:

Duffy, a retired widow who had worked with handicapped children and whose family had all voted for Labour, had questioned Brown on taxes, university fees, immigration and Britain's record deficit of 152.84 ($323) billion pounds.

Brown's gaffe was immediately broadcast and he was then grilled about it on a televised radio show. Slumped over with his head in his hand, Brown said he realized he had made a mistake and regretted the remarks.

"He's an educated person, why has he come out with words like that?" Duffy said. "He's calling an ordinary woman who's just come up and asked questions ... a bigot."

Gordon Brown looks to have just dug an enormous hole for himself, and with so little time left until polling day, it's looking likely that Labour is gone. Surely Brown cannot survive this blunder.

But wait; isn't Chris Carter over there at the moment. Surely Labour's Shadow Minsiter for Own Goals could help Brown with his PR nightmare, given that he's had a few of his own. Sure, he couldn't use the "they're picking on me because I'm gay " defence (as far as we know!), but maybe he could try "they're picking on me because I'm Brown"!

Then again, Brown may have already had some advice from Carter, in which case this spectacular fall from grace makes perfect sense ...

UPDATE: And just as seems to happen with just about everything these days, the Facebook page for the momentous event is already in place and attracting fans! And you can watch a video of the incident and the fallout right here.

Hat-tip for the picture: The Inquiring Mind

Giteau 1; Walsh nil

It reads like the old British football results on the radio from days gone by - Matt Giteau 1; Steve Walsh nil. But that's exactly the outcome after a couple of interesting days in Australian rugby.

We blogged on Tuesday abount discontent at the Brumbies in having Walsh appointed to this weekend's match against the Reds. Walsh had, from all reports, a shocker in Sydney at the weekend. They wanted him stood down, and they've got their wish. Walsh has been dropped from the match, and New Zealander Chris Pollock appointed. The Herald reported yesterday:

Steve Walsh has been stood down from refereeing a second consecutive game involving the Brumbies to prevent their critical Super 14 rugby match against the Reds on Saturday turning into a circus, his boss says.

Both sides need to win to remain in contention for the semifinals and Sanzar referees manager Lyndon Bray said today the controversy raised by the Brumbies over Walsh's refereeing when they lost 12-19 to the Waratahs last weekend in Sydney had potentially created an untenable environment for a referee.

And this morning the Herald reports on the penalty handed down to Matt Giteau for his role in the saga:

Brumbies first five-eighths Matt Giteau was fined A$5000 ($6300) late last night as the fallout continued from his team's Super 14 loss to the Waratahs.

But he escaped suspension when a Sanzar judicial panel in Australia held a telephone conference to consider his stinging criticism of referee Steve Walsh.

Giteau is one of the highest-paid players in the Super 14, so the A$5000 fine will be but a pittance, given that his actions achieved their aim. And of course it would be remiss of us not to mention that the Brumbies have form in the "player power" department, as David Nucifora will remember. Maybe it's got something to do with being based in the same city as the Australian Parliament ...

Our money's on Parekura

The news is out; five Maori male MP's are having their own Biggest Loser contest - the Dom-Post reports:

The battle to become Parliament's biggest loser is on.

Five political heavyweights on the Maori affairs select committee have devised their own "Biggest Loser" two-month weight-loss competition.

The MPs held a secret weigh-in at Parliament's gym and each has staked $20 to win the challenge.

Labour list MP Kelvin Davis described how the dial rapidly spun in all directions when his colleague Parekura Horomia mounted the scales at the weigh-in.

"It was as far as the needle could stretch. It went off the scale and back around again and it was a case of the best guess. We came up with a figure of 155kg."

The lack of a precise weight reading for Mr Horomia would be factored in at the final weigh-in.

Mr Davis tipped the scales at 113kg.

Others taking part in the weigh-in are the Maori Party's Hone Harawira, a fighting-fit 107kg, National's Tau Henare, tipping the scales at 104kg, and Labour's Mita Ririnui, at 100kg.

"Parekura is doing it because he just wants to define his six-pack a little bit more," Mr Davis said.

We'll follow this event with interest, but our early money would be on Matua Parekura, given that he has the most to lose. But full marks to these guys; whilst obesity is far from limited to Maori, it is a significant Maori health issue.

As is diabetes. Tau Henare recently revealed on Facebook that he has been diagnosed with diabetes, and has some significant lifestyle changes to make. Good on him for doing that under the public spotlight.

Doubtless the Flabby Five will get a fair whack of teasing from their colleagues in the House, and from people like us. That's par for the course. But beyond the mirth we wish each of them well; we know how hard weight loss is to achieve - kia kaha guys!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taxing tobacco

Parliament has just moved into extraordinary urgency, a very rare move. The motivation is simple; to pass the Excise and Excise-Equivalent Duties Tables (Tobacco Products) Amendment Bill. Stuff reports:

In a shock move, the Government has this evening taken parliament in to extraordinary urgency to pass a bill increasing tobacco excise tax by more than 30 percent over two years.

The Government expects the Bill will be passed into law tonight.

"The move will put the price of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco up enough to save hundreds of lives," said Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia.

The bill pushes the excise tax on tobacco up in three steps over two years. It is proposed that the excise on cigarettes will rise immediately by 10 per cent with a further 10 per cent increase next January and a third increase of 10 per cent in January 2012.

Also proposed is a 24 per cent increase in the excise tax on loose tobacco followed by the same 10 per cent increases in 2011 and 2012 as for cigarettes.

"We know that putting up the price is a powerful tool to reduce smoking," Mrs Turia said.

"It forces people to cut back, but more importantly it provides a strong incentive for smokers to quit and helps dissuade young people from ever starting to smoke."

Mrs Turia said the changes represented a huge investment in the future of the country.

Helping smokers to quit was a priority of the Government and one of their health targets.

When passed into legislation tonight, the price increases will take immediate effect.

We have no problem whatsoever with this piece of legislation. We detest smoking. Our mother smoked 40+ per day from as long ago as we can remember until her death from a respiratory disease. Even now, things we moved from her home seven years ago still reek of stale cigarette smoke. We've never smoked ourselves, but goodness only knows what damage was done to our lungs during our childhood.

We would stop short however of seeking a complete ban on smoking. That would be an infringement on peoples' rights. However let the users of tobacco products pay more for that right, and let the additional revenue be used to offset the cost of smoking, both in social and in particularly in health terms.

It seems that this Bill will receive widespread support. Tariana Turia should be applauded for bringing this Bill before the House, given the prevalence of smoking and smoking-related illness amongst Maori. Bring it on!

Scammer gets scammed

We had a bit of a chuckle when we read this story on Stuff:

A "greedy" Christchurch woman who stole almost half a million dollars from her employer and gave it to a Nigerian scamster has been sent to jail for two years and four months.

Jacqueline Louise de Berri, 48, a credit controller at the Christchurch Airport branch of the Hertz rental car company, was taken in by a so-called "Nigerian scam", but used company money rather than her own to pay the fraudsters.

Oh, those Nigerian scammers eh! What a blight they are on the landscape. Anyway, read on:

De Berri wired $452,000 from Hertz's account to various Spanish bank accounts after receiving a fax indicating that an engineer, Alan M Jackson, had died, and had left an unclaimed US$14.8 million (NZ$21.3m) inheritance.

A Spanish "solicitor" said he was looking for Jackson's relatives to dispose of the money.

De Berri thought she was a cousin of Jackson and after several emails between the pair, she was asked to forward €1000.

Court documents showed she transferred NZ$3520 to a Spanish bank account, and then, a week later, $19,449. Over the next five months she made 10 further transfers, with amounts ranging up to $70,055.

The police summary of facts said when de Berri was confronted, she "freely admitted" she had transferred the sums "hoping that on payment of the US$14.8m she would be able to repay the money".

De Berri was described as "very embarrassed", and had apologised to the company.

Oh dear! But you'd have to ask yourself - what was Hertz doing employing a credit controller who didn't know that Nigerian scams were a sure-fire money loser? It's one thing to fritter away one's own dosh, but to scam your employer to cover a scam is a bit - ummm - scam-like, don't you think?

Temporary New Zealanders

From the Temporary New Zealanders file - this from Stuff:

A motorcyclist has been clocked speeding at an estimated 200 kilometres an hour on the Kapiti Coast this morning.

The motorcyclist was spotted by police around 9.30am on State Highway 1, near Otaki.

It was heading south towards Wellington at an estimated speed of 200kmh, a Kapiti police spokesman said.

Police did not stop the rider, but were trying to find the person.

What a pillock! Among other things, this fool completely undermines the campaign by genuine motorcyclists not to have their ACC levies hiked. And we know the roads around there pretty well; weekday daytime they are busy roads, with a lot of trucks and vans around. We hope that the police do indeed catch this nutter, and throw the book at him.

Scientific polling

Internet polling is, dependant on your viewpoint, either wholly scientific, or not very scientific at all. We reckon that it's about as scientific as climate science!

With that in mind, we've put up a poll at Keeping Stock. It's semi-serious, although we've enabled the ability to vote for more than one option; we reckon that there's one that most people will want to choose as well as their primary vote!

You've got a week to vote, but don't leave it too late; as they say "vote early and vote often"!! We'll blog progress as it happens. Underneath the veneer of mirth however, we're deadly serious about the ETS; we don't want it, and we don't think that New Zealand needs to lead the world. You may share that view; you may not, so let's crunch some numbers. That's what scientific polling is all about.

Phil's change of heart

Phil Goff must have felt the heat since he declared on The Nation on Saturday that he supports a top tax rate of 38% - the Herald reports:

Labour leader Phil Goff says his party would raise the threshold at which the top personal tax rate applied - to above $100,000.

The pledge comes on top of strong indications from Mr Goff that Labour would restore the top tax rate to 38 per cent if it was returned to Government at next year's election.

The 38 per cent top rate kicks in now at income over $70,000 but National is expected to cut the rate to 33 per cent in the May 20 Budget.

When Mr Goff was pressed on TV3's The Nation he said he was comfortable with the 38 per cent level. Yesterday he moderated the high-tax message by saying it would apply to fewer people - to income over $100,000.

He also said it might not be a rise in tax - it might be phased in.

"It might not be a rise in tax" - does anyone else feel a Tui billboard coming? But seriously (and we are - sometimes!), we have two questions for Mr Goff:

  • What are the respective percentages of income earners earning $70k and $100k and over?
  • How do these compare with the percentage of New Zealanders earning over $60k in 1999, when Michael Cullen upped the top tax rate?
We still wouldn't trust Labour as far as we could throw them; which with our bung shoulder isn't very far! C'mon Phil - Axe the Tax mate!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Follow their lead John

Australia has shelved its Emissions Trading Scheme until at least 2013 - read on:

THE Rudd government has shelved its emissions trading scheme for at least three years in a bid to defuse Tony Abbott's "great big new tax" attack in this year's election campaign.

The cabinet's strategic priorities and budget committee has removed the scheme from the four-year forward estimates, a decision that saves $2.5 billion because household and industry compensation would have exceeded the revenue generated by the scheme in its early years.

The Herald understands the government has decided not to start the scheme before 2013 at the earliest, hoping that by then it will have gained support from the Coalition and international efforts to combat climate change will have become clearer.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand, plans to introduce our own ETS proceed at breakneck speed. We reckon that it's time now to pull the pin - while we still can.

So how about it Mr Key? In most other regards we support the government you lead. But we reckon that you and Nick Smith have got this one wrong. Why the haste? Surely, now that Australia has deferred its scheme, we should do likewise. We say this because you were dead right in 2008 with the comment we've reproduced below.

Mr Key - please don't let this be the issue which undermines your government - please!

Hat-tip (for the picture): John Ansell

One man's meat ...

One man's meat, so they say, is another man's poison. And the meat (or poison, if you will) today is rain.

Over at Homepaddock, Ele bemoans the heavy rain in the south over the last 48 hours. She says:

While we’re still enjoying a steady drizzle in North Otago, Southlanders are facing floods.

If only Mother Nature was a little more moderate with her largesse – rain is good, but you can have too much of a good thing when it comes in large amounts in a relatively short time.

Whilst the floods haven't been good news for Southland, it seems that the worst is over. And it's good to hear that North Otago has had some rain. Ele has regularly reminded us of their plight down there, in the non-irrigated areas, at least.

We'd gladly take 50mm of Southland's deluge. Here in W(h)anganui, we've had but 14mm of rain this month; less than 20% of the April average. March was drier than normal as well, and to complicate matters, we've had a fair dose of winds from the west over the last four to six weeks, which further parch the ground, especially on the sandy ground near the coast where we reside.

We don't have a farm to use as a weather barometer, so we rely on our local, non-irrigated golf course. Over the last few rounds, it has dried out significantly, and is in urgent need of a really good dousing. It's not quite a drought yet, although we understand that our near neighbour, South Taranaki either has been or is about to be declared a drought area.

We're forecast to get rain this afternoon, but we were supposed to get rain in the middle of last week and over the weekend, and it eluded us. We'll believe it when the puddles start forming!

So if you're down south, and you're sick of the rain, blow it up our way! You can be sure that we'll appreciate it, and once we've had enough, we'll pass it on to Barnsley Bill and his mates in the parched Far North.

The Anzac Day tragedy

The Dom-Post's editorial today is devoted to the Air Force's Anzac Day tragedy - it begins:

The deaths of two air force pilots and a crewman in a helicopter crash on Sunday is the cruellest of ironies. Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory and helicopter crewman Corporal Ben Carson were flying from Ohakea airbase to Wellington for Anzac Day commemorations when their Iroquois helicopter crashed into a steep, scrubby gully above State Highway 1 near Pukerua Bay.

With two other helicopters they were due to fly over the Wellington Cenotaph, the Titahi Bay Cenotaph, the National War Memorial and the Ataturk Memorial. A fourth member of the crew suffered serious chest and leg injuries but is expected to make a full recovery.

The crash is a reminder that those who serve in the armed forces do so at considerable personal risk. Since the Boer War more than 30,000 servicemen and women have lost their lives in the service of New Zealand. Many, many more have been injured.

Indeed. We have a number of friends with family members in the various arms of the Defence Force. And we were talking yesterday with a friend who has a very close family morning in 3 Squadron at Ohakea. The sense of loss there is extreme, especially following two other recent fatalities.

And the leader writer comments on the closeness of the NZDF as preparations for a military funeral are made:

The funerals will be held this week. Mourners will include not just family and friends but probably the prime minister, who has cancelled a visit to Bahrain and Kuwait to attend. That is appropriate.

As Defence chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae said "We're a small defence force and we know those people. The prime minister knows them. I know them. We fly with them all of the time. They're part of our family."

They're part of a wider family too. All New Zealanders have reason to be grateful to those who carry on the proud Anzac tradition.

We do indeed. It's easy to downplay the role of the NZDF given our reduced combat capacity, but the service that NZDF members provide both in New Zealand and abroad is vital.

And we agree that it is totally appropriate that John Key has cut short his trip to the Middle East to attend the funeral. There has already been criticism of his motives from the left; we would argue that criticism would be more valid had he decided to continue with his trip, and deputise the mourning to others in government.

But this is not about politics. To do so dishonours the memory of Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory and helicopter crewman Corporal Ben Carson; three young men who put serving their country and its people above self. We will remember them.

Wellingtonians agree!

What is it with that Steve Walsh fellow eh? Stuff reports:

The Brumbies have panned referee Steve Walsh's performance and called for his axing from Saturday night's crucial Super 14 clash with red-hot Queensland.

Still upset about Walsh's controversial handling of the 19-12 loss to NSW, Wallabies playmaker Matt Giteau felt it was pointless for the Brumbies to line up at Canberra Stadium if the Sydney-based New Zealander was officiating.

Brumbies coach Andy Friend today remained hopeful Walsh would be dropped from the pivotal match by SANZAR referees convenor Lyndon Bray following the weekly review of officials on Tuesday

"We'll wait and see whether he's the referee," Friend said in Canberra.

"They have a review tomorrow and they have got a promotion and relegation system and hopefully you would like to see that in place and working.

"That's up to the selectors to give their view and we can only deal with what we see and I thought the first 30 minutes it wasn't a very even contest."

It's understood the ACT-based outfit completed a scathing report of the refereeing at ANZ Stadium last Saturday night where they were unhappy with numerous areas, especially a disallowed try to Adam Ashley-Cooper and countless scrum resets and penalties.

Brumbies skipper Stephen Hoiles and Walsh had some heated verbal exchanges during the match.

Fans of Welli ngton rugby will sympathise with the Brumbies. The memories of the 2001 Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury still linger, and Walsh has been involved in too many controversial Wellington or Hurricanes matches. Seldom have the Wellington teams been on the receiving end of his benificence.

The ARU took a punt in giving Walsh a contract for S14 rugby this season after his very public falling out with the NZRU over alleged off-field conduct. That punt seems to have backfired.

Walsh had the potential to be the best referee in world rugby. Somehow though, he seemed obsessed with being the star turn, the #1 man on the field. When we refereed rugby many years ago, we were taught that the referee should be #31; there's a huge difference in mindset.

It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in refereeing appointments for the remaining round-robin matches. We just hope against hope that with the Hurricanes needing to win every match to even have a chance of making the playoffs, they don't run up against Walsh. Even Stu Dickenson would be preferable, and that's saying something!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The pain of being Eric Watson

We were going to blog about this yesterday, but it didn't seem to be the right content for Anzac Day. We're glad we didn't, because it's given us a bit more time to get a bit more steamed up about Eric Watson.

The HoS yesterday reported thus:

They can rebuild him - multi-million-dollar businessman Eric Watson has had eight large screws inserted in his back as he recovers from a skiing accident.

A source close to Watson said he was in constant pain after having the screws inserted during almost six hours of surgery but was moving around and trying to stay positive.

We have no sympathy whatsoever for Eric Watson. There are hundreds of people who trusted him and Mark Hotchin with their lifes' savings. Those are the people who will be feeling genuine pain. Their hopes of a decent retirement have been dashed, whilst Watson can swan around the world, his asset base intact.

We're not generally vindictive. But this case has brought out the worst in us, and we apologise to anyone who is offended by our attitude. We won't resile from our criticism of Watson however. We hope that from now on, every time he gets a shooting pain in his back, he remembers the pain which he has caused to Hanover investors. Who knows; there may even be an epihany of sorts, and he might yet develop a conscience. We won't hold our breath though.

DISCLAIMER: Neither me, myself nor I has ever invested money with Hanover, Allied Finance or any related company, nor to our best knowledge has anyone in our whanau. Nor are we ever likely to.

The Warriors

We had really looked forward to the Warriors game against the Storm yesterday. And there was some magnificent rugby league played - by one team.

The Warriors were awful. Yes, they're missing players. Yes, this was probably an unwinnable match, given the emotion which the Storm played on last night. But no amount of excuses can hide the fact that last night, the Warriors were crap.

There's only one consolation, although it's a small one. All those Aussie commentators who predicted that the Warriors would finish last in the NRL this season will have to eat their words!

And the Herald's league writer Steve Deane provides this memorable quip:

"Stop feeling sorry for them," Luck complained to referee Gavin Badger after a rash of early decisions went the Storm's way. The way the Warriors played, Badger might well have retorted "you too".

Crocodile tears

Wethinks Roberta Williams is crying crocodile tears for her late husband - have a read of this:

Carl Williams was fatally bashed by a ''maggot'' who robbed the former gangland figure's daughter of her father, Williams's former wife, Roberta, says.

Ms Williams said the pair's nine-year-old daughter, Dhakota, had spoken to her father on the day of his death as part of a routine daily call.

''I've never tried to excuse or justify Carl's behaviour and have always maintained that the real casualties of the underworld wars are the children on both sides,'' she told New Idea magazine in a paid interview.

''I always had a bad gut feeling. He dropped his guard and when he did, a maggot robbed my daughter of her dad. Somebody has to pay for that. My kids are victims. They always were.''

We think that Ms Williams should choose her words a bit more carefully. Carl Williams may have been murdered in prison, but what put him in there in the first place? He was a two-bit crook who got too big for his boots. He didn't have the guts to kill people himself, so he arranged for others to do his dirty work for him.

We doubt that Ms Williams complained about living the high life when he then-husband was the supposed gangland king. We doubt that she ever tried to talk him into getting a real job. And we doubt that she was blissfully unaware of where all the money was coming from.

Then again, we note that she made her comments to New Idea magazine. We guess a girl can't look a gift cheque in the mouth!

Where Phil stands

Phil Goff made an appearance on TV3's The Nation on Saturday. Among other things, he confirmed that:

  • Labour will NOT roll back any increase in GST - whatever happened to Axe the Tax, we wonder?
  • Labour will restore the top personal tax rate to 38%
  • Labour will be happy to work with Winston Peters if, God forbid, he returns to Parliament in the 2011 election
All we can do is commend Phil Goff. He has drawn a clear line in the sand between Labour and National. He's happy to spend precious taxpayer dollars campaigning against something which he doesn't plan to address. He has obviously had a lesson in Politics of Envy 101 from Michael Cullen in that he plans to penalise those who DARE to earn at the top tax rate.

And here's the slammer; Phil Goff will give Winston Peters his Ministerial limousine back. Prior to the last election, John Key categorically ruled out working with the Snake-Oil Salesman from St Mary's Bay; we liked that. But we know now that a vote for Labour is a vote for Winston Peters.

Thanks Phil; it's good to know where you stand.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thanks Matt

It's not often we have cause to thank Matt McCarten. But today we do - read on:

The romanticism of a mythical Gallipoli coming-of-age only came about decades later, when the children who had grow up without fathers wanted to make sense of their needless deaths.

Now Anzac Day has become where we pretend we've changed. Don't believe me? On Anzac Day do we remember the last time we fought as a unit with our transtasman cousins?

The last time was when we invaded Vietnam where we killed innocent people and even lost a few of our soldiers doing it.

Lest we forget? It wouldn't even occur to most of us today to remember our brutal actions in Vietnam, let alone Afghanistan.

We all accept that Gallipoli was a disaster caused by our self-imposed subservience to the notion of being part of Britain's Empire. But in nearly a century we haven't changed.

This week Green MP Keith Locke sought in Parliament a referendum on whether our head of state should be a New Zealand citizen.

It was defeated at the first reading. It seems our Parliament still wants to fawn over an English monarch as our sovereign.

We somehow hang on to the same constitutional set up we had when we invaded Gallipoli on Britain's behalf.

Our boys lying in their graves at Gallipoli would, I'm sure, see the black humour if we were to tell ourselves that their sacrifice made New Zealand realise we can no longer be beholden to a foreign imperial farce.

Why are we so grateful to McCarten then? Well, today of all days, he's reminded us why we were so pleased that Keith Locke's Head of State Bill was defeated on Wednesday. He's also reminded us why we so despise the looney left which Keith Locke and his likes represent.

Thanks a lot Matt. Just remember, you only have the freedom to voice your minority opinions because a legion of brave men preceded you. Today, we WILL remember THEM.

Anzac Day tragedy

The Air Force has suffered another tragedy today. The timing of the crash of an Iriquois helicopter en route to Anzac Day commemorations in Wellington is especially poignant. The Ohakea base staff, a number of whom live in Wanganui wil be devastated by a second fatal accident in little more than three months.

We extend our deepest sympathy and our prayers to all those affected by this accident.
Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui; arohanui.

Christian Music Sunday - 25/4/2010

As it's Anzac Day today as well as Sunday, we decided to link the two. Instead of a contemporary Christian song, we've reverted to a much-loved hymn. Just as Binyon's poem will be heard around the globe today, so will the words of Henry Lye's 1847 hymn Abide With Me.

We were spoiled for choice today. We had everything from brass band and pipe band renditions to the London Community Gospel Choir leading communal singing at Wembley Stadium; Abide With Me is the traditional hymn of England's FA Cup final. But the version we finally chose is a choral version; it's the choir of King's College, Cambridge, and the lyrics are there for added reflection.

May this be a comfort for all who mourn today.

Lest We Forget - 25 April 2010

Blogging will be light this morning, given that it is Anzac Day. There'll just be this post, and our usual Sunday music post - with a twist. We've timed this one to coincide with Dawn Parades across New Zealand.

Turn the clock back to 25 April 1915 - the Allied forces launched an attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, with catastrophic results for both sides. The ANZAC troops landed at the beach now known as Anzac Cove, and with its narrow beach and steep terrain, they were easy pickings for the Turkish troops on that first day.

But the battle for Gallipoli didn't end there. The Allies dug in for several months before the final evacuation in December 1915. The casualty rate was appalling; 87,000 Turks and 44,000 British and French, including 8700 Australians and 2721 New Zealanders died at Gallipoli. The wounded numbered in the hundreds of thousands; up to 160,000 Turks and up to about 100,000 British allies, including 20,000 Australians and nearly 5000 New Zealanders. It is their deaths we remember today, along with those who laid down their lives in subsequent conflicts.

War, as we said yesterday is evil, and it is futile. But it is sometimes necessary. We can only imagine how different history may have been but for the resolve of the Allies in 1914 to 1918. Likewise, how different would life be for us today had Hitler or Hirohito prevailed. Today gives us an opportunity to reflect with gratitude to those who served, and especially to those who perished.

And around the world today, the words of the fourth verse of Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen will be recited. This verse is more commonly known as The Ode, and has particular poignance for us; it was recited at the funerals of both our grandfather (Gallipoli veteran) and our father (2NZEF - WW2). The words are familiar, but we reproduce them today in memory of those who served, and those who did not return - lest we forget:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

John Minto; Public Enemy #1

We were appalled when we read John Minto's blog on Stuff late yesterday. We'll go into the reasons why shortly but first, have a read of this:

I won't be wearing a red poppy this Anzac Day. It's not that I don't respect New Zealand soldiers who fought and died in battles overseas and neither is it because I don't respect the welfare work of the Returned Services Association, which is funded in part from poppy sales.

And neither is it because Veterans Affairs Minister Judith Collins made nasty gratuitous comments attacking peace activists for selling white peace poppies in association with Anzac Day.

My concern is that the red poppy and Anzac Day itself has become associated so closely with World War I. The Gallipoli landing on April 25, 1915, marks the day and almost 100 years on we are still encouraged to see this war as an honourable battle of blood, death and sacrifice. We will once more be lectured on Anzac Day with predictable speeches from our political leaders who will tell us that those whose lives were lost "died for the freedoms we enjoy today".

It's not true. This is the Great Lie from the Great War. It's a phrase which has meaning for World War II but has nothing to do with the mindless, jingoistic madness which led a generation of young New Zealanders to be decimated on the far side of the world. World War I was a clash of empires where war fever was whipped up by the political elites on both sides and young men in their millions fought to the death.

New Zealand did the madness better than most. Per head of population we sent more people to fight than any other country. Nowhere in human history has a greater number of soldiers travelled a greater distance to fight a war. It could be something to be proud of if it related to the fight against fascism in World War II but not when it is applied to the imperialist battles on the beaches of Gallipoli and the trenches in Belgium and northern France.

Two of my great-uncles died in the Great War on the battlefields of Europe and I think it's deeply disrespectful to them to say, as we do each Anzac Day, that their deaths were for some greater good.

I recall when the last British veteran from World War I died a few years back he commented to the effect that the war was wrong and the lives of those who fought and died were wasted. He was right.

Anzac Day should not be a day to glorify the deaths of those whose lives were thrown away by "patriotic" politicians and incompetent officers. We owe it to those who died to teach young New Zealanders that, in the words of one British politician, "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel". George Bush and Tony Blair are just the last in a long line of politicians who lied and used patriotic sentiment to whip up war fever on behalf of their big corporates.

We won't be hearing that at Anzac Day. Somehow the impact of the Great War was so profound here that even 100 years on we still need the comfort of the Great Lie.

It seems it's also still too soon for this country to honour those who campaigned and struggled to prevent New Zealanders wasting their lives in that conflict. When New Zealand schoolchildren know the name Archibald Baxter as well as they know the name Gallipoli then we will know we have done our fallen soldiers their greatest honour.

We are outraged at this piece of trash from Minto, and equally outraged that Stuff saw fit to allow its publication two days short of Anzac Day. It is a piece of pure, unadulterated crap (excuse our language), which is why we have published it in its entirety. It deserves to be exposed to the widest possible audience so that the world knows just what kind of person John Minto is.

Our grandfather was a Gallipoli veteran. He returned from the war with gunshot wounds and tuberculosis, a disease which was rife in the cold, damp trenches. He was a fine man. We have a magnificent photograph of him in uniform taken before he left for the Great war. The man who returned to New Zealand was a shell of the man who left. Minto's comments are an affront to those men who bravely went of to fight for King and Country, and to their survivors.

War is inherently evil. The waste of human life is senseless. But sometimes, it is necessary. We suspect that John Minto has studied the Great War extensively, but that he has also studied it with an ideological bias. He has reached the conclusion that suits his left-wing, pacifist worldview.

It is ironic though that Minto ridicules the notion of our soldiers having fought for freedom. Without that freedom, would he be able to express the opinions that he has? Somehow, we doubt it. And it's that hypocrisy on his part that makes this article all the more galling.

Regular readers will understand that we have little time for John Minto, especially after his cowardly attacks towards Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer over the last two summers. But he has, in our opinion hit a new low with this untimely, slanted attack. Are we over-reacting? We'd love to know what you think.

In the meantime, we salute the bravery of all those who fought to make the world a better place, and we mourn for those who did not return. We WILL remember them.

Fran on Watson et al

Fran O'Sullivan must have read the Mike Colman piece we blogged about earlier this morning. She's written about Eric Watson this morning, and though her language isn't quite as direct as Colman's, there's no hiding the sentiment - she begins:

Hanover Finance investors will no doubt be reflecting that while multi-millionaire and party boy Eric Watson is holed up in his expensive clinic pumped full of the best drugs other people's money can buy, many of them are struggling to ward off the pain of major financial losses.

The bitter cracks flying around the internet yesterday would have left Watson in no doubt as to Kiwi investors' bitter feelings over the injuries he suffered while skiing.

"Lucky he didn't have a spine to break"; "Which Hanover investor pushed him?"; "He has broken the backs of many old people with the collapse of Hanover" - were just some of the more palatable comments on National Business Review's website.

Many of the "get well" messages Herald readers were invited to "send to Eric" were similarly tart. "Get an honest job, instead of wasting your time skiing. Repay your debts"; "What's Eric Watson doing enjoying a skiing holiday overseas, when he's left such a mess through his dodgy finance company in this country, leaving many honest and hardworking people's lives shattered?"

Others saw it as karmic; "what goes round comes round".

Schadenfreude was displayed in spades. To Watson this will probably just be more water off the duck's back.

But the avalanche of ill-feeling his accident has inspired sends a signal that the $5 billion collapse of NZ's finance company sector produced a boil that still needs to be publicly lanced.

She's dead right with that last comment. The collapse of so many finance companies, and the losses suffered by so many mum and dad investors is a festering sore in need of invasive surgery. There's a build-up of pus below the surface that needs to be released.

And after taking the line that further investigation is needed with regard to the whole finance company money-go-round, O'Sullivan goes Colman-like again with an extraordinary attack on Watson and Hotchin - check this out:

According to the Herald reporters, Watson was "candid" about flak over the fall-out.

"Oh I think Mark's [co-founder Mark Hotchin] taken most of that [flak]," he said.

"Compared with what's come out since Hanover, Hanover's probably done a better job than most finance companies at least giving people the chance to recover their money through the Allied Farmers share price performance, which over time might be quite positive."

Many of Watson's investors will have a different view to journalists as to what constitutes candour.

He has managed to walk away from the collapse of Hanover Finance with plenty of readies to fuel his business endeavours.

His investors haven't. Yet he has offered no in-depth explanation to either them - let alone journalists - over what happened.

Nor any sensible words that might constitute even a smidgen of remorse or an apology.

When the company was in dire straits he was partying it up elsewhere, celebrating his 50th birthday in Turkey with the Eurotrash crowd. Meanwhile, Hotchin spent $30 million building a palatial spread on Auckland's Paritai Drive. This behaviour is obscene.

We agree 100%. Not only have Watson and Hotchin's public displays of wealth been obscene; they have been grossly offensive to the investors who are forced day by day to endure them, whilst looking at the holes in the banks accounts. Where is the remorse? Where are the apologies? Neh; shysters like Watson and Hotchin don't do "sorry" do they.

This is an excellent piece from Fran O'Sullivan, and we hope that Eric Watson gets to view it on his laptop in the Zurich clinic (private AND expensive) where he is recuperating. Not that it will change anything; Watson, Hotchin and their likes clearly believe that they are untouchable. We'd almost go as far as to label them "public enemy #1", but we've already given someone else that accolade today, as you will read soon ...

"I hate their guts"

There's been no end of comment in the Australian media about the Melbourne Storm's salary cap rort. But no-one has spoken with the candour and raw passion of Mike Colman at Brisbane's Courier-Mail. After sympathising with David Gallop he writes:

The sad thing about what happened on Thursday is that people who owe so much to the game of rugby league insist on screwing it up.

Whether it is by getting drunk, disrespecting women, taking drugs or rorting the rules of the game, the ones who would be three, four or more rungs down the ladder of life if it wasn't for rugby league, are the ones who seem hellbent on destroying the game.

And if ever there was an organisation that owed its soul to rugby league, it was the Melbourne Storm.

The club has been on financial life support for years, but the ones paying the bills - and doing it legally and above board - have refused to let it die. They must be wishing they hadn't bothered. I know I do.

Right now I hate the Storm. I hate their guts.

Sheesh; that's pretty powerful stuff. But it's almost impossible to disagree with Colman as he expounds his argument - read on:

I know that not everyone associated with the club is guilty of anything, but I can't help that. In the heat of the moment they are all tarred with the same brush. When I look at their emblem I feel sick.

When I think of how much I enjoyed watching their wonderful players in action, I feel like I've been taken for a sucker.

Some of those players should have been playing for other clubs. Clubs like Cronulla or Canberra or the Warriors - clubs that have struggled to keep up with the play in recent seasons.

Some of them should have been playing for Manly and Parramatta, the clubs that the filthy cheating Storm robbed of the premiership in 2007 and 2009.

One or two might even have ended up at the Broncos, the team the Storm beat in the last minute of the 2008 preliminary final fielding players who were being paid under the table.

I hate the fact that the people who never wanted the Storm in Melbourne - the AFL supporters who laughed and scoffed at rugby league - can now sit back in their Collingwood and St Kilda scarves and say, "See? We told you. That game is rotten to the core."

This is a league story written by a reporter who wears his leaguie heart on his sleeve. But Colman's most venomous lines are reserved for one man - former Storm CEO Brian Waldron. Colman continues:

I really hate that Brian Waldron bloke, who came over from AFL and within five minutes was calling rugby league "our game". The one who tried to tell David Gallop and everyone else how to do their job.

The one who called the NRL judiciary cheats.

The one who allegedly cooked the books at the Storm, left others to clean up his disgusting mess and headed off to rugby union.

If it wasn't insulting to AFL people I'd say he was a plant, sent in to destroy the opposition.

And whilst Colman condemns the Storm, its cheating and its former CEO, he sees light at the end of the tunnel - he concludes:

Of course this latest fall from grace won't destroy rugby league.

The game is too resilient - and too good - for that.

If it destroys anything, it will be the Melbourne Storm and right now a lot of people must be thinking that isn't such a bad thing.

They'll be saying the Victorians never wanted it in the first place so why persevere now?

Well, I'll tell you why.

Last week I heard a Melbourne Storm supporter on the radio. He was saying how much the club meant to him and how much fun it was to be part of a small but dedicated band of Storm faithful.

He said how they got together with the players after matches; how there was a family atmosphere and how there was never any trouble at the games.

He said they felt like pioneers in a brave new world.

I'm thinking if I'm feeling sick right now, that bloke must be despondent.

But it's because of people like him - not the five and possibly more Storm officials involved in the rorting - that the club, or some form of it, must survive.

It's because of people like him that it will survive.

Rugby league has been through this before and has come out the other side.

It has happened so many times that you can almost get used to it.

Ask David Gallop.

This is, in our always-humble opinion, one of the more outstanding pieces of sports journalism we've read in quite some time. Colman spares the object of his ire nothing; he calls things as he sees them. In a world where so many people are afraid to say what they really think any more, his candour is refreshing. Mike Colman has had the guts to write what many, many people are privately thinking. Well done that man!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Great stuff

Isn't it great to see more communities saying "enough" to the gangs? Well, we reckon it is, and we also reckon that Michael Laws can take much of the credit for the change in attitude. Stuff reports on the latest victory in the war against gangs:

A blot on the Dunedin landscape was mopped up today, with the seizure by the Crown of the city's Mongrel Mob headquarters.

The gang house in Corstorphine had long been an unwanted local landmark in the hillside suburb. It boasted a large gang banner, which cast a baleful glare over a busy nearby park. Schools, shops and the St Clair golf club are close by.

The seizure was the latest move in a Dunedin police crackdown on the gang which has already seen several prominent members, including chapter president James Rata Stevenson, arrested.

"We hope today's events will go some way to contributing to a safer community in Corstorphine, a suburb where incidents of violence and intimidation have featured from time to time,'' District Crime Services Manager, Detective Inspector Steve McGregor, said.

We propose a huge vote of thanks to the Dunedin police for what they have done today in dealing to the gangs, in this case the Mongrel Mob. We really believe that the passage of the Gang Insignia Bill (recently upheld by the Court) marked a turning point. It showed that councils and police can work together to rid communities of a commen enemy, and that has to be good news.

We hope that the good folk of Corstorphine will rest easier in their beds tonight knowing that the local Mob's pad has been neutralised. There's a long way to go until the war is won, but every battle victory should be celebrated.

There is no place for criminal gangs in New Zealand. The laws to render gangs ineffective are there, as the Dunedin police showed today.

The Clare Glare

Both Kiwiblog and Gotcha referred to it as a "death stare". We are, of course, referring to that piercing look delivered by Clare Curran on Wednesday as Gerry Brownlee lampooned Labour's brand survey.

To her credit, Clare Curran 'fessed up to it on Kiwiblog:

  1. Clare Curran (6) Says:
    April 22nd, 2010 at 9:39 am

    It’s known as the “Clare glare” DPF. Few have survived it.

Perhaps she should have left the last four words off though; does anyone else remember Erin Leigh?
This exchange from Question Time on 22 November 2007 and this story from the NZ Herald might give Ms Curran cause for reflection.

But we digress. The Clare Glare has now been immortalised on Facebook, as such momentous things are. Feel free to join the action, and show your appreciation of this memorable peice of political theatre. And who knows; you might be looking at the future face of the Labour Party.

This Sporting Life - 23/4/2010

WARNING: This is a Melbourne Storm-free zone!

We've already got two threads running on the Storm, so you're welcome to discuss that situation at either of those. Let's stick to on-the-field stuff here.

It's getting near the end of both the S14 and the English Premiership, and we are looking like having backed also-rans in both. The mighty Arsenal cannot realistically win the Premiership; not after capitulating to Wigan last wekend. Our fervent hope is that Spurs will complete a treble, and knock over The Scum this weekend, even though that will mean that Chequebook Chelsea wins the title. If that happens, Spurs will join the other London clubs in the Champions' League next year; a subtle shift in the powerbase of English football.

It's getting near the end of the round-robin in Super 14 as well. The Chiefs and the Highlanders are gone for this season, and the Blues and Hurricanes have to win well each week from now on. The Hurricanes should beat the Highlanders tomorrow night (then again, we ARE talking about the Hurricanes here!), but the Blues will have the work cut out to beat the Sharks in Durbs-by-the Sea. We'll be keeping a keen eye on the Reds vs Stormers clash; the Reds have been the surprise packet this season. But the really big match comes next weekend; the Bulls versus the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld. The winner of that match gets the inside running for a home semi and final.

As for the Warriors; well, they're playing that team from melbourne that w ecan't mention here, so anything could happen!

OK - the ball's in your court ...