Saturday, July 31, 2010

Updated - The battle for the Bledisloe




New Zealand 49; Australia 28

A convincing win for the All Blacks, and it's now eight straight wins for Ted Henry, and eight straight losses for Aussie Bob. Seven tries to three was a pretty convincing margin and a fair reflection of the All Blacks' all-round dominance. It's a third straight bonus point victory, and barring a major turnaround in form, the Tri-Nations is pretty much done and dusted. We'll have a decent look at the match in the morning, but the bed is beckoning now!

XXXXXXXX

For those of us whose memories stretch back to the early 1960's (as ours do) or even beyond, the Springboks will always be our #1 rugby rival. For the younger readers, who cut their teeth during the period when South Africa was isolated from the rugby world, the natural enemy is more likely to be Australia.

By the 1970's, the Bledisloe Cup was seldom seen. However the New Zealand and Australian rugby boffins dragged the old girl out of hiding in the 1980's, and more regular contests between the trans-Tasman neighbours ensued. We reckon that it's fair to say that Australia benefitted more from that then the All Blacks did.

But the Bledisloe Cup is now a keenly-fought contest between New Zealand and Australia. With at least three matches annually due to the inflated Tri-Nations, one or other side gets an advantage year about in terms of home games, and this season, the Wallabies host the All Blacks twice. If Aussie Bob's boys are to break a long losing streak, logic suggests that this is the year in which to do it.

We don't reckon that Australia will win tonight though. Both sides were impressive against a disappointing Springbok outfit, although there was a big difference in quality between the Bok side that lined up in Auckland, and the dejected side that couldn't get out of Brisbane quickly enough. We reckon that last week's scoreline flattered Australia.

Like all test matches, this one will be won or lost up front. The All Black tight five was very strong against South Africa, and man-for-man look to have the wood on their Wallaby opponents. Over the last couple of years the All Blacks have attacked Australia at the lineout where they have looked vulnerable, and we would expect the All Blacks to have an edge at scrum-time, although we acknowledge that the Australians have improved in this area of the game.

The loose forward battle will be pivotal, and much of the challenge for the AB's will be to contain Will Genia. If they can put some pressure on the Australian halfback, they will go a long way towards disrupting the Wallabies' flow. There's little doubt too that large All Black forwards will run hard with ball in hand towards the slight Australian inside combination of Giteau and Barnes, and there is plenty of potential to launch attacks from a go-forward platform.

The big variable is going to be the Etihad Stadium pitch, and we can but wait and see what state it's in after an AFL match last night. But heck, who expected the All Blacks to run in long-range tries against South Africa on a rain-and-windswept Cake Tin track a fortnight ago? We don't believe that underfott conditions will inhibit the All Black's attacking approach too much.

This should be another enjoyable match, and we'd frankly be surprised if Robbie Deans' seven-match losing streak against the AB's was broken. We expect the All Blacks to win, and to win with some style. Our biggest regret is that we'll be in Melbourne NEXT weekend, and not tonight! Ah well ....

Do you REALLY mean that Trevor?

We thought that Trevor Mallard was on Phil Goff's side. Apparently not, if this response to a post on Red Alert is to be believed:

chris73 says:

A vote for Phil Goff is a vote for a prosperous NZ

One month ban for lying. Trevor


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Is Trevor Mallard REALLY saying that it's a lie to say that "a vote for Phil Goff is a vote for a prosperous New Zealand"? As we said above; we thought Trev was on Phil's team. Perhaps there's been a BBQ (or more likely a dinner party) at Cunners' place that no-one knew about.

The plot thickens ...

Labour gets nasty

Petulant, vindictive, nasty; all adjectives which could be used to describe the Labour Party today. The party heirarchy seems determined to rid itself of Chris Carter, and is prepared to play dirty to achieve its goal - the Dom-Post reports:

Labour is demanding Chris Carter resign and force a by-election as a concerted campaign gets under way within the party to discredit him over his mental state.

With Mr Carter's bungled plot forcing the spotlight on Labour leader Phil Goff, MPs moved yesterday to isolate the disgraced Te Atatu politician.

Mr Carter lashed out at Mr Goff as unelectable on Thursday after being unmasked as the MP behind an anonymous smear campaign.

Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard said Mr Carter's behaviour had been "pretty unusual" and "pretty irrational".

Party president Andrew Little also suggested people were concerned about Mr Carter, who had been under a great deal of stress over revelations about his travel and other expenditure.


We're not surprised that Labour has rolled out Trevor Mallard to verbalise its inner thoughts. Mallard is Labour's bully-boy, and seems to revel in the role. Mallard had a very cryptic post up at Red Alert last night entitled Once a Rainbow Warrior, but it has been pulled by him with a note that says "Friends found offensive".

You'd expect nastinessness from the likes of Trevor Mallard, but we were VERY surprised to read this, from Maryan Street:

And in an important signal the caucus was united behind Mr Goff's handling of the issue, Left-leaning list MP Maryan Street said Mr Carter had ended his political career "without a doubt".

"I'm actually very concerned about him. I've known him for 20 years. While he's often been a very volatile character, I've never seen him behave in such a self-destructive way before."


And Phil Goff makes Labour's motive plain:

He said Mr Carter no longer had a mandate to remain the Te Atatu MP.


Labour wants Carter to resign so that it can have a by-election (at a cost of $600k, if you believe Jim Anderton), and install a party hack to replace Carter, the former party hack. Unfortunately for Labour, Carter cannot be forced to resign. Chris Carter is the duly elected MP for Te Atatu, not Chris Carter, conduit of the Labour Party. And given his proclivity to live at the taxpayer's expense, we doubt that Carter will walk away from his MP's salary and associated benefits any time soon just to suit Phil Goff. The gloves are off!

Carter holds the moral high ground here. Unlike around half of his former caucus colleagues, he is an electorate MP, and is untouchable by the party, even if Labour expels him. There's already blood on the floor, but the Labour leadership seems as though it won't be satisfied until Chris Carter has been disemboweled, and his head delivered to Phil Goff on a silver platter. The personal attacks on Carter and the innuendo around his mental health reflect very poorly on Labour in our humble opinion.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chris Carter exclusive!

What a scoop! We've just received a copy of the first draft of the letter that Chris Carter sent to the media yesterday. He obviously did a bit of work on it before it hit the news last night, but we reckon he should have stuck with the original.

Anyway, here 'tis. In reading it, just remember that Chris Carter was once the Minister of Education ...



More Emmerson brilliance

Is there a better cartoonist in the land than Rod Emmerson just at the moment? We don't believe so. He has the knack of making his point brilliantly yet simply. Here's his take on Chris Carter:



Who said it wouldn't work?



Moving away from Chris Carter and the Labour Party's woes for a moment. Have a read of this, from Stuff:


Police attribute an estimated 15 percent drop in gang members in Wanganui to the council's ban on gang patches and strong police anti-gang operations.

Under a bylaw Wanganui District Council introduced last September, people wearing gang insignia in Wanganui could be fined $2000 and the insignia confiscated.

Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws is hailing a police report on the bylaw's impact as a vindication of the council's tough stance.

The report says that within the first nine months of the bylaw being in place, there have been 13 prosecutions for wearing gang insignia. After October the number of prosecutions has fallen to no more than one a month.

"There has only been one prosecution to date for wearing full gang regalia (ie leather gang patch), which occurred on the first day the bylaw was introduced. The remaining prosecutions were for breaches of wearing clothing (usually T shirts) that show gang affiliation."

Police believe the bylaw was acting as an effective deterrent and had contributed to:

* overt gang presence being less noticeable by the general public

* a reduction in levels of intimidation for the community

* a reduction in confrontations between gangs.


We've published a fair chunk of the Stuff story because of its significance. We've also had to publish from Stuff, because although the story is the front-page lead in today's Wanganui Chronicle, it won't make it onto the Chronicle's website until tomorrow, which defeats the prupose of a news organisation having a website, in our always-humble opinion. But we're digressing here.

The Gang Insignia Act is working in Wanganui. We live here and we work here. The gang presence around town is noticeably less. And Wanganui is an infinitely better place because of that.

We did not vote for Michael Laws to become mayor in 2004. We did not vote for him to be re-elected in 2007. But on the issue of gangs, and getting shot of the menace they pose, he has our respect and our appreciation. Had he decided to stand for mayor again this year, he might well have enjoyed our support.

So this morning, it's a big thumbs-up from Keeping Stock to Michael Laws, the Mayor of Wanganui, and to Chester Borrows, the Whanganui MP. It is largely thanks to these two men that the Gang Insignia Act was passed through Parliament to become law; very effective law, it would seem.

And therein lies an irony. Michael Laws and Chester Borrows worked very effectively together to enact this legislation. Now, the goss is that Michael Laws will make a comeback to national politics, and will stand AGAINST Chester Borrows for the Whanganui electorate in 2011. We urge him to think very, very carefully before going down that road. Chester Borrows is a great bloke, and in supporting Laws on the Gang Insignia Act, showed how effective a local MP can be on a single issue. We believe that standing against Borrows would be a rather perverse way for Laws to show his gratitude.

Dunedin North sounds like a much better proposition Michael. Labour's candidate will etiher be a union hack or an academic/party hack (the only two nominations), and although Dunedin residents are hard-wired NOT to vote National, the lure of Michael Laws and Winston Peters might prove irresistable to them. Just don't shaft Chester!



Conspiracy theories and the UN

We're not the only ones thinking that a certain someone currently employed by the United Nations had more than a passing interest in yesterday's events. Over at Silent Running, Murray has posted this:

The following text message origonating from Phil Goff’s mobile phone has been intercepted: “iz tht all u got bitch?”


This is fast developing into a conspiracy theory of Winston Peters-like proportions, and we're loving it! Even the best Hollywood screenwriter couldn't have concocted such a scenario.

This Sporting Life - 30/7/2010

Blimmin' heck; it's almost the end of July! Where HAS 2010 disappeared to?

Enough navel-gazing though; there's a weekend ahead, and with such things as the Tour de France, the Open Championship and the World Cup out of the way, there's only one thing to focus on - rugby! The ITM Cup has kicked off, and already we are behind the eight-ball in Virtual Rugby (having picked Taranaki to beat Northland). There's a feast of provincial rugby ahead, and we especially like the change in the draw this season with two games scheduled for Sunday afternoons.

But that's just an entree for the Main Event - the first Bledisloe Cup battle for the season. There are a few questions to be answered. Did last week's win flatter the Australians? Had we softened the Springboks up for them? Can the Wallaby forwards compete with their All Black counterparts. In this morning's Herald, Wynne Gray reckons that's where the All Blacks will have an advantage, and we can't help but agree. And the Ockers will miss Quade Cooper.

We'll do a proper blog-preview of the match tomorrow, but because the prospect of a Bledisloe battle is already whetting our appetite, it's on today's agenda as well. Don't feel constrained by us though; if it's sport, you can talk about it here!

The Phil Goff poll

It's democracy in action! Avail yourself of the opportunity to tell Phil Goff what he should do after the unveiling yesterday of a dratted plot against his leadership.

We wouldn't want to influence anyone's vote, but we'd suggest that he follow the fourth alternative and text New York for advice, because that still seems to be where the heart of the parliamentary Labour Party lies. We'd love to have a look at Chris Carter's next mobile bill!

Ab=nyway, exercise your democratic right, and we'll see what the people say!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The plot thickens ...



We're starting to wonder whether Chris Carter knew EXACTLY what he was doing today - this from Voxy:


Mr Carter said his letter was an attack on Mr Goff's leadership.

"I no longer believe it's possible for him to win the election," he told reporters.

"I think I owe it to the people I represent and the people who voted for our party that we have a leader who can win the election.

"Look, Phil Goff is a very nice guy but he's just not going to win and his latest flip-flop over the tradeable fourth week... was the last straw for me. Yes I was attempting to get a momentum going where our caucus would think about a leadership change and I am hoping that my actions will cause some of my caucus colleagues to reflect on something which I think almost all of them would come to the conclusion: that nice as Phil is he's just not going to win."


As we just noted in the comments section on the previous thread, we're starting to wonder whether Chris Carter has "taken one for the team" in order to get caucus discontent with Phil Goff's leadership on the public agenda. Who, we wondered to ourselves, would mastermind a plan like that?

Do all roads lead to the Big Apple? The plot thickens ...

Carter suspended

From the Herald:

MP Chris Carter has been suspended from the Labour Party after admitting to sending an anonymous letter claiming there is a plot to overthrow leader Phil Goff.

"His actions were stupid and disloyal," Labour leader Phil Goff told a press conference this afternoon.

"There are no more chances. His future in the Labour Party is at an end."

Mr Goff said he recognised Mr Carter's handwriting on the envelope of the anonymous letter.


For goodness sake; Chris Carter couldn't even execute a coup properly. More on this soon!

UPDATE: Here's the letter, hand-delivered in an Air-Mail envelope; Koru Club Carter troughs it up right to the bitter end! And Stuff has more from Phil Goff:

Labour bosses would meet on Saturday week and decide his future and they were expected to expell him.

''I would expect nominations to be reopened for Te Atatu,'' Mr Goff said.

Mr Carter is the only nomination for the west Auckland seat, which he holds with a 5298 vote majority.


There's also more background to the supposed "coup" (our emphasis added):

It is understood CCTV inside Parliament caught pictures of the person putting the letters into the mail system.

It claimed union-aligned MPs would challenge Mr Goff at next week's caucus meeting over his position on the Government's policy of allowing a fourth week of annual leave to be cashed in if employers and employees agreed.

It also claimed finance spokesman David Cunliffe was expected to challenge Mr Goff and deputy Annette King before the next election.


This really puts the cat amongst the pigeons in Labour's ranks. And you have to wonder - were instructions being sent from afar? Whatever, Carter has made an absolute meal of it all.

Tonight, Labour is clearly a party divided. Will Cunliffe's leadership ambitions be snuffed out? Has Phil Goff bought himself a fight which will ultimately see him rolled? What will Chris Carter's response be? So many questions ...


UPDATE II: Just heard Carter interviewed on 3News via RadioLive (still at work dammit!) - Carter is unrepentant, and claims that he is doing this because Labour cannot win the election next year led by Phil Goff. We're looking forward to getting home and watching One News on MySky.





Quote of the Day

... comes from Jim Anderton, on the subject of Christchurch councillors and the Mayor accepting directors' fees:

Anderton said yesterday that if he became mayor in October he would ask all councillors to forgo directorship fees for sitting on council-controlled organisations, because they were already well paid.

"It's not as if councillors are being asked to do extra duties. It is part of their day job that they are already being well paid for," he said.


Which begs the question: is being leader of the Progressive Party, a party which exists in name only, a part of Jim Anderton's day job that he is already being well paid for? Perhaps there could be a compromise; Bob Parker et al relinquish their directors' fees when Jim Anderton relinquishes his leader's budget. Is that a goer?


Does he have a point?

We spotted this letter in the Dom-Post yesterday, and helpfully, it's online today - check this out:

So, Sir Peter Jackson has bought himself a top-of-the- line personal jet plane (July 23). Bully for him.

Perhaps he might now be able to afford to repay New Zealand taxpayers some of the tax relief and grants that he's received to get his companies off the ground.

I have no problem with people making a profit from their endeavours, but I object to those who have been assisted not repaying what should have been suspensory loans.

GEOFF BENGE

Waikanae Beach


Now we'll say from the outset that we don't know Mr Benge, but he raises an interesting argument. Is this just a case of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, or does Geoff Benge have a point?

Building up

It's only Thursday, and thoughts are already turning to Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match in Melbourne.

That's if it happens. The Herald reports that referee Craig Joubert will inspect the Etihad Stadium surface today - read on:

South African referee Craig Joubert will be a focal point in the Bledisloe Cup rugby opener, long before a ball is kicked inside Etihad Stadium.

Joubert's verdict on the turf at Saturday's test venue will determine whether the match between trans-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand will proceed.

He has already expressed concerns to International Rugby Board referees manager Paddy O'Brien. The surface has been labelled unstable by Australian Football League clubs and the AFL Players Association, and debate is continuing about the possibility of All Blacks and Wallabies being injured.

Joubert contacted O'Brien after being confronted with damning stories about the ground on arrival in Melbourne.

All Blacks and Wallabies management were yesterday united in being comfortable with the game taking place, though Joubert will have the final say once he makes his own inspection.


Oh dear. A postponement would be INCREDIBLY embarrassing for the ARU, and we have little doubt that the Aussies will subtly lean on Joubert to ensure that the match takes place. It does seem ridiculous though that the ARU could not get the AFL to shift the match scheduled for Etihad on Friday night. AFL rules in Melbourne.

And then there's the "drama" over Graham Henry's leaked gameplan. It's all become a bit cloak-and-dagger, and if the All Blacks play the way they did against South Africa, we reckon they'll have too many guns for the Ockers. But we DO like Rod Emmerson's take on this ...


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Say it isn't so II

At least Michael Laws has a sense of humour - this has just gone up on his Facebook page:

Newsflash to NZ Media: David Lange and I are going to join forces in an attempt to revive the corpse otherwise known as the NZ Labour Party. We are in constant Ouija board communication and his latest message was: get Roger, before he gets you. Roger? I asked ... Roger who? Guess this will be front page of the 'Dominion-Post' this morning & I'll encounter TV cameras in the street.

Laws has been strident in his denials of any coalition of the willing with Winston Peters, but that's hardly surprising. We reckon that where there's smoke, there's bound to be a fire burning somewhere nearby, and we wouldn't be at all surprised if either Laws or Peters had a ciggie lighter in their pocket.


A little addition ...

We've added a new feature to Keeping Stock. At the foot of each post there's a few little buttons, which allow you to share what we're saying here if you feel so inclined.

You can link to Facebook, to Twitter, to Blogger and to Google Buzz, or you can e-mail our thoughts to someone. We're not quite sure that anyone would actually WANT to do any of that, but the facility is there.

Meantime, thanks for stopping by. This is a labour of love for us, and it's good to know that someone is reading what we post!

Medical matters

We're in Wellington today attending to some rather pressing medical matters, so blogging will be, of necessity intermittent until we get home late this afternoon.

Because we like to think of ourselves as a "good employer" we set up a health insurance plan for our staff last year. This is the first time that we've availed ourselves of the benefits, for which we are exceedingly grateful!

Say it isn't so!

Please, tell us that our worst nightmare isn't about to come true - from the Dom-Post:

Speculation is rife that NZ First leader Winston Peters and his former adviser Michael Laws are to team up again as part of a "relaunch" of the party this year.

Neither Mr Laws, who is to stand down as Whanganui mayor this year, nor Mr Peters would confirm the rumours. But MPs from both sides of the House and sources close to NZ First said they were aware of plans.

One source said Mr Peters had indicated he wanted to relaunch the party this year.

The annual conference will be in Christchurch in late October.

Speculation about Mr Laws has focused on the Whanganui seat, held by National's Chester Borrows with a majority of 6333.

But he has also been linked with Dunedin North, held by Labour's Pete Hodgson, who is retiring.

If NZ First won an electorate seat, it would then qualify for list seats even if it fell short of the 5 per cent threshold.


And ever the game-player, Laws isn't talking:

Mr Laws said he had nothing to say about the issue. "I am not interested in talking to you at all."

The possibility of a Lazarus-like comeback for Peters, with Laws at his side, is just too awful to contemplate. Please, someone say it isn't so!

An interesting exchange ...

We were on the road yesterday afternoon and had the radio on Question Time when we heard this bizarre exchange:

Darien Fenton: When he told a conference in Auckland last year that it was ridiculous that he could drink three-quarters of a bottle of wine in 90 minutes, yet still be under the legal alcohol limit, was he aware that actually lowering the limit would be a little too nanny State for his colleague Murray McCully?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The question is strange in so many ways. Obviously in reference to my slight frame, I am concerned at the thought of my drinking three-quarters of a bottle of wine and then driving. That was the comment I made last year.


What might Darien Fenton have been insinuating here do you think? Was this a devious way of suggesting that McCully has a liking for the bottle? And if that was the case, wouldn't that be a bit ironic, coming as it did from Darien Fenton?

The plot thickens ...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Prominent Palmerstonian suspended

Regular readers may remember the case of the Prominent Palmerstonian. In February, the PP was sentenced on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. His details had been passed to the New Zealand police by the FBI.

There was outrage that the Prominent Palmerstonian was given permanent name suppression. We wonder if there will be further outrage when people read this story from the Dom-Post (our emphasis added):

A Palmerston North medical professional, convicted after an FBI investigation led police to find thousands of child porn images on his computer, has been suspended from working for nine months.

The man, whose identity is permanently suppressed, was found guilty last September on 25 charges of possession and one of distributing objectionable material.

Police found 290,000 images "of concern" on the man's computer, many of them showing naked young girls in sexual poses.

He has served a four-month home detention sentence given to him in February, and yesterday was censured and suspended by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Tribunal chairwoman Kate Davenport said the man had taken steps to rehabilitate himself, but his actions deserved condemnation and it was appropriate he be suspended.

However, the man will be able to work again when the suspension ends and was likely to be given his old job back.

Earlier, the Professional Conduct Committee asked for the man's registration to be cancelled.

The committee's lawyers told the tribunal there was some concern that the man had admitted to "experiencing a degree of arousal in response to seeing a particularly attractive female patient in a partially undressed state as part of his work". That raised an issue of patient safety.


It's probably just coincidence, but we note that the Prominent Palmerstonian's suspension as a registered medical practitioner is the same as that of disgraced lawyer Chris Comeskey. Personally, we believe that the former's offending is far, far worse than that of the latter.

We are frankly surprised that there is a possibility that the Prominent Palmerstonian may, early next year, be able to practise as a doctor once again, given the nature of his offending, and the concerns put to the tribunal.



Ol' Man Hypocrite

We've just heard an amusing story on the 10am news on Newstalk ZB, although we can't yet find a link. Our old mate Jim "Ol' Man River" Anderton is accusing his Christchurch mayoral rival Bob Parker of double-dipping!

Yes, you read us right. Apparently, Parker receives around $36k per annum in director's fees as a director of the company which controls Christchurch city's utilities. Anderton reckons Parker is double-dipping, and has vowed and declared that he will not take the payment.

Nor should he. Jim Anderton must have forgot that he already receives New Zealand Superannuation and his MP's salary. In addition, he receives a leader's budget for a party which was deregistered due to its lack of members (although it has since re-registered), and which has already told its few members to party vote Labour at the next election. Jim Anderton also intends to campaign for the Christchurch mayoralty whilst still an MP, and has no intention of resigning as the MP for Wigram if elected to the Christchurch mayoralty.

In our ever-humble opinion, Jim "Ol' Man River" Anderton is the absolute LAST person who should be accusing anyone else of double-dipping.


UPDATE: Courtesy of WhaleOil, here's a link to Ol' Man Hypocrite's comments ...



Did He? Didn't he? Does anybody care?

The "entertainment" pages are all abuzz over the possibility that Brad Pitt was in Wellington at the weekend - this from Stuff:

He may be one of the sexiest men on the planet but Brad Pitt can chow down at a Wellington restaurant and go largely unnoticed.

Despite being one half of the most-photographed couple in the world, the Hollywood superstar is said to have had a quiet meal with three other diners at Indian restaurant Tulsi on Sunday night. But if he had been a Bollywood star he might have been mobbed.

Pitt, the partner of Angelina Jolie and star of such films as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, ate at the Miramar restaurant just a few kilometres away from Sir Peter Jackson's Park Road Post Production studios about 6.30pm, staff said. He dined in a corner booth, ordering chicken korma, butter chicken and a garlic naan.

Tulsi chef Suresh Neautiui, a self-confessed Pitt fan, said he prepared the meal and spotted the star. Workers at the restaurant joked they were unimpressed about the visit by movie royalty.

Vijay Patel said most staff preferred Bollywood celebs to their Hollywood counterparts, and in dim light and with Pitt wearing a cap, staff and the five other diners failed to notice him right away.

Mr Patel said the restaurant's manager did not recognise Pitt at first. "But once he looked he realised it was a Hollywood star."

Manager Makesh Bartwal originally confirmed Pitt had visited, but later called to say he could not be certain as a customer had only told them who Pitt was after he left. "There are so many celebrities that come and we hardly know them because we are not very fond of Hollywood movies," he said.


We suspect that this is more a case of Messrs Vijay Patel and Makesh Bartwal being very canny men with an eye for a marketing opportunity. Not surprisingly, they are milking this story for all it's worth.

We won't be rushing to dine at Tulsi restaurant next time we're in Wellington though. It has nothing to do with Brad Pitt; we just don't particularly like Indian tucker! But doubtless the punters will flock in over the next few weeks, and every single one will be escorted to the seat which Brad Pitt sat in!

More hyperbole

Not unexpectedly, the government's decision not to lower the legal blood alcohol level has drawn criticism from some, but we reckon that this is over the top:

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said not reducing the limit was "gutless" and a missed opportunity.

At least 14 lives a year would be saved by lowering the limit, she said.

"We simply do not need more research to tell us this will effectively save lives and reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes on our roads.

"This is a regrettable failure that leaves our Government with blood on its hands."


FWIW, we reckon that the government made a sensible and pragmatic decision yesterday. There is not a lot of information available on drivers with a blood alcohol level between 0.5 and 0.8 to make an informed decision. So the government is giving itself a couple of years to do the necessary research.

And not everyone disagrees with the government's decision:

AA general manager of motoring affairs Mike Noon welcomed the announcement the Government would undertake research on lowering the blood alcohol limit and the tough stand on recidivist drivers.

"We are talking about seriously drunk people who are blatantly ignoring the current rules. We want them off the road."

The Government should commit resources to alcohol assessment and treatment to help people deal with their addiction, Mr Noon said.

A second, lower, blood alcohol limit for younger people was confusing so a zero limit for under 20-year-olds was good, he said.


We agree with Mike Noon's assessment. We blogged recently about a recidivist drink-driver jailed for his 20th drink-driving conviction, and his 35th for driving whilst disqualified. People like that are the true menaces on our highways, and the government has made an excellent decision in targetting a small but dangerous group of slow learners with no regard for the law.

We also support the increased sentences for cases of dangerous or drunk driving where death ensues. The current maximum of five years is manifestly inadequate, and juries seem reluctant to convict drivers of manslaughter. A ten-year maximum sentence for those who cause death through drunk or dangerous driving is a welcome move from the John Key-led government.

Monday, July 26, 2010

She's kidding, right?

Judge Emma Smith hadn't come to our attention - until today. We've just found this story on The Press website:

A teenager has had an attempted murder charge against him dropped after a patron was shot during the armed of a robbery of a Christchurch tavern.

Ryan Randall Vlietstra, unemployed, of Beckenham, Christchurch, pleaded guilty in Christchurch District Court today to robbery while armed with a firearm, firing a sawn-off rifle so as to endanger a man, and unlawful possession of a firearm, the Christchurch Court News website reported.

Charges of attempted murder, assaulting a woman with intent to rob her, and having a firearm while he committed an assault with intent to rob were withdrawn.

Police said a man was injured when Vlietstra's gun went off as patrons wrestled with during the robbery of the Glenbyre Tavern in suburb Bromley at closing time on July 7.

He was detained until the arrival of police.

OK - so we've got an unemployed young man, who takes a loaded, sawn-off rifle with with him when he goes off to rob a tavern; pretty clearly, a pre-mediatated crime. During the course of the robbery, the gun went off, and a man was received gunshot wounds. On the facts outlined, you'd expect that Ryan Randall Vlietstra would be facing a lengthy prison term.

That's where Judge Emma Smith comes in - read this bit:

Judge Emma Smith remanded Vlietstra in custody for sentencing on October 29, and ordered a pre-sentence report and a report on his suitability for home detention.

Home detention for armed robbery? She's kidding, right? What; she's NOT kidding?

Father Time and the Springboks

There's a very interesting piece in the Herald this morning from Peter Bills. No, he's not having a go at over-priced New Zealand again; he has critically analysed the woes of South African rugby in the wake of a lacklustre fortnight in the Tri-Nations. He opines:

On an Australian rugby ground that lies on the site of colonial Brisbane's old cemetery, the Springboks were buried decisively, their hopes of retaining the Tri-Nations crown laid emphatically to rest.

John Smit's men arrive back in South Africa this morning from a disastrous 2010 Tri-Nations tour, without a single point from three matches and, perhaps even more importantly, apparently without a clue how to turn around this collapse in form.

These South Africans were condemned by the words of their own captain, who spoke afterwards with a frankness that went to the heart of his team's malaise. Defence poor, breakdown work poor, attack ordinary - that was Smit's summary and it was fully justified.

Springbok rugby is in disarray and serious questions have to be asked as to why this has occurred. Players considered world class 12 months ago now look like also-rans.


Indeed. After looking so dominant last year, and in this year's Super 14, the South Africans seem to have been caught out by the speed of the game. But Bills takes this hypothesis a step further:

They have been completely thrown out of their usual ways by opposing teams no longer kicking for touch. Former Australian coach John Connolly always said that the Springboks launch 90 per cent of their attacks from line-outs but with the opposition denying them that base platform, they have floundered.

And he notes, as we have, that Father Time is not on the Springboks' side:

Of course, too many players have too many miles on the clock; that is another factor and a huge concern with the 2011 Rugby World Cup now little more than 14 months away.

Long, long before the end - in fact, even before they had crossed the Tasman Sea last weekend and reached Brisbane - players like John Smit and Victor Matfield looked weary. They are paying the price for too much rugby, especially last year, but also this year.

The decision of the Springboks coaching staff to fly both men, their key performers, to Cardiff in June for a completely meaningless Test match against Wales, has been revealed for what it was and always appeared - a crass misjudgment.

Smit and Matfield are South Africa's crucial players; it is not over-estimating their importance to say that the Springboks' World Cup hopes rest largely in their hands.


He's quite right. John Smit and Victor Matfield are the Springbok equivalent of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw; absolutely pivotal players to the Springboks' gameplan and execution. Both men will be bitterly disappointed with their performances in the last three matches, simply because of the high standards each sets himself. And with Bakkies Botha no certainty to return when his latest suspension ends, the heart of the Springbok pack is under threat. For a team which bases so much of its game around forward domination, that is a major problem.

This is an excellent piece by Peter Bills, and well worth a read. It will be interesting to see how well the South Africans can regroup once they reurn home today. The All Blacks v Springboks clash at Soccer City should give us some answers.

Adam Smith and Unions

Our good friend and fellow blogger-sole Adam Smith from The Inquiring Mind has an excellent post on the subject of union access to workplaces. He notes:

Much of the squawking, mewling and squealing which we are hearing from the above named persons, plus let us not forget dinosaurs such as Sue Bradford and John Minto, is that of people seeing their ‘entitlements’ reduced and their one sided power relationship rebalanced.

In particular many of these agitators are especially exercised about union access to the workplace. Well an article in Saturday’s Dominion Post went a long way to explaining why that might be the case. It was by Susan Hornsby-Geluk, an employment law specialist. Unfortunately it is not on line, but can be found on Page B6 of Saturday’s Dominion Post.

You see at present unions have access whenever they want, for as long as they want and can effectively spend as much time as they want with the workforce with little or no comeback from the employer.


Adam quotes from Susan Hornsby-Geluk's article. Given that it was not online, every word was typed by Adam's hand, which is commendable given his less-than-robust health of late. But he's done us a great service in pointing out just what privileges unions currently enjoy, and employers have to endure. We applaud the government for seeking to redress an area of major imbalance, and commend Adam's piece to you as well worthy of a read.

Lucky young man


From the "He should buy a Lotto ticket" department - this from the Herald:

A teenager miraculously survived with minor injuries after falling 16 storeys from his family's Manukau City apartment through a carpark roof on to a concrete floor.

The 15-year-old was in a stable condition in Middlemore Hospital last night, three days after the 40m- to 50m-plunge from the top floor of the Proximity Apartments in Amersham Way, near the Westfield Manukau mall.

He is believed to have suffered only a broken wrist, a broken rib, a gouged leg and internal injuries. Medical experts are amazed he was not killed.

The building manager, Jason Epps-Eades, said the carpark roof broke the boy's fall and probably saved his life. "He's going to be okay. It's just incredible that he survived."


And here's the odds this young fella defied:

An intensive care medicine expert said yesterday that it was rare for someone to live if they plunged from more than five storeys, and "freakish" if they survived a fall from 16 storeys.

The boy did not have head injuries, which was the most common cause of death after falling from a height.

The specialist had dealt with one case where a man had fallen eight storeys and survived on "sheer luck".

The key to the Manukau teenager's survival may have been that he avoided falling head-first. An American study of 200 falls showed a person is just as likely to survive a five-storey fall landing feet-first as they are a one-storey fall headfirst.

A New York doctor who had dealt with a high number of falls said in 2008 that the death rate from a three-storey fall was about 50 per cent, but people who had fallen more than 10 storeys almost never survived.


I guess that all we can say here is this - kids; don't try this at home!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Honesty; with limits

What is it with Len Brown? And just who was at the dinner at Volare Restaurant on 27 September 2009? The Sunday Star-Times is determined to find out - read on:

THE CHIEF ombudsman is investigating Manukau City Council's refusal to name those whom mayor Len Brown wined and dined at an $810 dinner paid for by ratepayers.

Brown has said he will never name those at the September 27, 2009, dinner – held at Italian restaurant Volare just days before his birthday and paid for on his mayoral credit card.

"Will I give you the names? Never," Brown told a council committee meeting when asked to justify the dinner, insisting it was business-related.

Last month the Sunday Star-Times submitted a request to the council under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, but chief executive Leigh Auton refused to provide the names. He cited privacy and "to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the protection of those persons from harassment".

The Star-Times complained to the Office of the Ombudsman, and assistant ombudsman Richard Fisher said the council would be asked for the names. The chief ombudsman would then decide if there were good reasons for withholding them.

He said it was hoped a ruling would be made before October's local body elections.


We would hope that there is a ruling before the local body elections too. Aucklanders deserve to know what is going on here, and what Brown is so anxious to keep hidden. Had he paid for the dinner himself, it wouldn't be a story. But he didn't; Len Brown paid for a table of 10 on his mayoral credit card, with ratepayers funds. That DOES make it an issue, in our humble opinion.

But more of the issue now is this; what does Len Brown have to hide? Why has this become a "die-in-the-ditch" issue for Brown? The more he digs his toes in, the greater will be the clamour for transparency. Len Brown, by his refusal to front up as to who he spent ratepayers' money on, has dug himself into a huge hole. The stories are going to continue to run, and the questions are going to continue to be asked.

This has nothing to do with harassment. The spending of public money should always be transparent. It is Len Brown who doesn't seem to understand that concept.

RIP to the People's Champion

Former world snooker champion Alex "Hurricane" Higgins has died on cancer, at the age of 61. The Herald reports:

Alex Higgins, a two-time world snooker champion whose cavalier style helped to popularise the game in its 1970s-80s heyday, died in his Belfast home on Saturday after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 61.

Higgins, the Northern Irishman nicknamed Hurricane for his playing style, won the 1972 world championship at his first attempt, beating John Spencer 37-32 in the final to become the youngest winner of the title. He'd lose two more finals in 1976 and 1980 before regaining the crown in 1982 with an 18-15 win over Ray Reardon.

Despite being diagnosed with throat cancer 10 years ago, he was playing professionally as recently as 2007.


And already the tributes are flowing:

Six-time world champion Steve Davis said Higgins was one of two or three players he would label a genius with a cue.

"To people in the game he was a constant source of argument, he was a rebel. But to the wider public he was a breath of fresh air that drew them in to the game," Davis said.

"He was an inspiration to my generation to take the game up. I do not think his contribution to snooker can be underestimated."

Barry Hearn, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, called Higgins "the original people's champion."


Our interest in snooker was piqued in the old Pot Black days of the early 1970's; well before the advent of colour TV in New Zealand. Higgins was one of the stars of those days, and the polar opposite of the likes of Joe and Fred Davis and Ray Reardon. He played the game at break-neck speed, unlike his contemporaries.


And he was twice world champion, albeit that there was a long time between drinks. Those who knew of Higgins will understand the use of that phrase! So here, as our tribute, is the closing minutes of his most famous moment in snooker - RIP Alex "Hurricane" Higgins ...


Christian Music Sunday - 25/7/2010

No lengthy pre-amble today - just one of our favourite praise songs, with a blend of traditional Celtic instruments that stirs our soul - enjoy!!


Leave it out Cedric

Cedric Kushner, the dodgy promoter of Kiwi heavyweight David Tua is talking tough - the Herald on Sunday reports:

Angry promoter Cedric Kushner says he will be consulting a lawyer tomorrow to investigate legal action against critics who hinted that corruption may have played a role in the controversial draw between heavyweight boxers David Tua and Monte Barrett in Atlantic City last weekend.


We're not going to mince our words. David Tua got beaten badly last Sunday in Atlantic City, but survived courtesy of a VERY dodgy draw decision. We go by the old maxim - if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....

Kushner must think that boxing fans are stupid. We have no doubt whatsoever that the draw was both undeserved, and highly dubious. So go on Cedric, sue us!

Where's Peter?

Will Peter de Villiers dare to fly back to South Africa with the Springboks later today? Or will he go into hiding?

South Africans are passionate about their rugby. And the critics of the Springbok coach will have plenty of ammunition after South Africa crashed to its third straight defeat in the 2010 Tri-Nations in Brisbane last night. The Springboks head back from their three-week road-trip empty-handed; no competion points halfway through the tournament. Surely their Tri-Nations defence is already over.

Graham Henry hasn't hesitated to ramp up the pressure on his South African counterpart; the Sunday Star-Times reports:

Graham Henry has used the controversy Peter de Villiers has embroiled himself in to gently turn the screws on his Tri Nations rivals.

De Villiers made the outlandish claim this past week that the All Blacks recent supremacy over the Springboks was part of a conspiracy aimed at generating support before next year's world cup tournament.

Henry yesterday flew to the scene of the crime in Brisbane and watched the Wallabies open their Tri Nations campaign against South Africa.

Before he departed on his spying mission, he expertly distanced himself from the controversy.

"I can't really take anything [de Villiers] says seriously," Henry said.


Nor, we suspect, do South African rugby supporters. At 7.30pm on Saturday night two weeks ago, the Springboks were, in everything but IRB rankings, the #1 team in world rugby. What a difference a fortnight makes. After three consecutive losses, the Springboks are in disarray, and we don't know that Peter de Villiers is the man to turn them around.

Interesting times await, and the All Blacks vs Springboks match at Soccer City next month will be crucial for both teams' fortunes as thoughts turn to 2011.

McCarten's hyperbole

Matt McCarten has obviously had the dictionary and the thesaurus out this week as he's worked on his opinion-piece for the Herald on Sunday.

We're not going to dignify this piece by repeating large tracts of it. The link is in the paragraph above, and if you feel like reading it, you can. Suffice to say that it is "vintage" McCarten, laden as it is with hyperbole, for example "throwing red meat to the salivating pack" and good, old-fashioned, pro-union rhetoric.

The unions aren't going to win this particular battle; National and Act have the numbers to pass what we reckon will be sound changes to our employment laws which are in our opinion skewed in the favour of employees. The likes of McCarten though will soldier on manfully, and trot out all the hackneyed old phrases about class wars and attacks on workers' rights. In fact, we're sure that if we weren't watching the rugby from last night (thanks MySky!), we'd hear the strains of The Red Flag coming from somewhere within the HoS story!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Armstrong on the unions

John Armstrong's column in this morning's Herald should be mandatory reading for every union member in New Zealand - he begins:

The left-wing activists who stormed the Sky City Hotel last Sunday in an inevitably futile attempt to force their way into the National Party conference should take a good hard look at themselves.

The noisy fracas with security guards inside Auckland's Temple to Capitalism certainly got the activists what they wanted - top-of-the-bulletin coverage on that evening's television news. But if they think such tactics are going to mobilise public opinion against the Government's just-released package of workplace law reforms then they should think again.

Their actions were widely viewed within the Labour Party as unhelpful, though no one was saying so publicly.

Moreover, though there is anger about the reforms, the invasion of the hotel was simply for show. The activists knew John Key wasn't there. He was safely tucked away across the road behind police lines in the Sky City Convention Centre. The TV cameras having indulged their attention-seeking, the demonstrators executed a retreat from whence they came.


We concur entirely. This was protest for protest's sake, and for the sake of the media. It was, in short, a stunt; the sort of stunt that categorises the lives of "activists" (how we dislike that word!) such as McCarten, Minto and Bradford.

And after a brief reference to Rodney Hide's supplementary question from Tuesday which we blogged about, Armstrong suggests that time has passed the union movement by - he opines:

Bradford, McCarten and Minto seemed to have set their watches to 1910, not 2010. Any moment you might have expected horses ridden by strike-breaking armed "specials" to come around the corner. Or at least they would in their imaginations.

The storming of the hotel might have fitted the finest tradition of the labour movement - and McCarten warned of more to come. But it is not itself that the labour movement needs to communicate with if it is to roll back National's planned changes to employment law.

The Labour Party has worked that out. If the debate is only about what the unions think and want, then it is all over before it has begun. The strategy is going to have to be a little more sophisticated than that.

Last Sunday's television pictures will have already swung things more in National's favour. In his conference speech, the Prime Minister pitched his package as amounting to modest, moderate and pragmatic change. That night viewers saw the opposition to those reforms coming from the extremes of the labour movement. In the current climate, you don't have to guess who has more credibility.


Indeed. And it is for this reason that we suggested that Armstrong's column should be mandatory reading for union members. The union members themselves have the power to change to union movement, but to do so, they will have to have the courage to challenge the dinosaurs such as Minto and McCarten. And lest anyone suggest that we are anti-union per se, we're not; we were card-carrying members of a large union at our previous place of employment.

Over at The Inquiring Mind, Adam Smith sums this up well with a musical reference to where the union movement is stuck. And we would commend his link to a Pundit post by Sue Bradford as being well worth a read.

This is a very good piece by Armstrong in our ever-humble opinion. Union members around the land should be wondering in whose best interests their leaders are acting.



Well done Julian



No-one was ever going to catch Mark Cavendish in the final sprint in today's stage of the Tour de France. But when the captions went up on the telly, second place on the stage went to Julian Dean (centre in the picture above, in the gold and blue). That's another wonderful achievement for the New Zealand rider.

Sometimes, you'd wonder why he does it; why he puts his body and mind through the torture of training, not to mention the race itself. He's hardly had a dream run at le Tour; he got shot last year, and has been hospitalised and head-butted in this year's race. And as the Herald reports, he had a VERY strange incident happen this week - read on:

New Zealand cyclist Julian Dean has another bizarre moment to record in his Tour de France diary.

During Wednesday's 16th stage in the Pyrenees, Dean was crash-tackled by a policeman while warming up on his bike.

In a case of mistaken identity, the policeman had thought Dean was an errant spectator and was brought to the ground while riding on the Col de Peyresourde, his Garmin-Transitions team director Matt White said.

Dean was nearly halfway up the 11km climb while warming up before the start of the stage when the policeman darted out from nowhere and took him to the ground in a full-blown tackle, White said. The tackle stunned Dean, and also injured the policeman, whose hand was cut.

The incident didn't end there, White said. As Dean got to his feet, the policeman tried to stop him from riding back down to the team bus.

White was astonished when Dean returned and told him: "We may have a problem."


Dean has put in a remarkable Tour. Sure, as a sprinter, the mountains are a killer for him, but he will walk away from this year's Tour with two second-pace stage finishes. What makes that remarkable is that Dean's effective finish line is 200m short of the actual finish line each day. His role in the Garmin team is to lead out for the team's top sprinter, Tyler Farrar, then let him go to the sprint finish.

Except that Tyler Farrar is out of the Tour. Today, the domestiques were doing the work for Julian Dean, and but for the brilliant sprinter Cavendish, he might have won a stage, which would be a fantastic achievement.

Well done Julian Dean! Having some local interest in cycling's greatest race makes it an even better spectacle.

Emmerson on longboards




We've long regarded Rod Emmerson from the NZ Herald as one of the very best cartoonists in the land. Here's why; it's simple, but brilliant; topical and 100% on the money!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday light entertainment

It's Friday afternoon, it's been a long week, and a bit of light entertainemnt is called for We read a story of Stuff this morning about a Britain's Got Talent competitor from last season suing Simon Cowell for GBP2.5 million - read on:

The world's favourite nasty judge Simon Cowell is being sued for £2.5 million by a former contestant on Britain's Got Talent, according to British press reports.

Cowell and his TV show are being sued by contestant Emma Amelia Pearl Czikai, who claims she was humiliated and degraded on the show in a broadcast in May 2009.

Czikai first lodged her complaint of unfairness and discrimination with a British employment tribunal in January.

The tribunal action emerged in the press following a pretrial review at the central London tribunal court.

Czikai, representing herself, accused the show and its judges of "exploitation, humiliation, degradation and barbarism".

She also claimed the show was guilty of disability discrimination because it had not made adjustments for her, such as lowering the level of backing music and microphone levels.

Czikai said: "This program makes a select number of rich people very, very rich on the backs of the ordinary man and woman in the street through exploitation, humiliation, degradation and a re-emergence of modern-day barbarism with all its inherent cruelty."


OK. Today, lets play You Be The Judge - have a watch of this video. Unfortunately, it's not able to be embedded in the blog-post. There's an interesting exchange between Cowell and Ms Czikai in the judging which starts at around the 3:20 mark. Then ponder these questions:

  • was Simon Cowell being rude, or just plain honest?
  • what did Ms Czikai expect? Surely, she had seen the programme before?
  • was Ms Czikai's 5m13s of fame not enough?
  • has the world gone completely barmy?
  • would you make Emma Czikai rich?
  • when Emma says "people cry when they've heard me sing", do you think she knows why?
Your verdict please ...


And we loved this little verbal joust:

Emma: Simon, this is a really lovely song.

Simon: Emma, it is a beautiful song when you're not singing it. I think I speak on behalf of everyone; you have got a horrible singing voice Emma.

Emma: You don't think it could be that the backing track was a bit too loud?

Simon: Emma, it wasn't loud enough!


This, we reckon, is the best and worst of reality TV - which is why we avoid it like the plague!




The greatest bowler?


He's done it! And what a moment it was for Muttiah Muralitharan. Should we now call Murali the greatest bowler in the history of the game?

Take nothing away from Murali; 800 test match wickets is an incredible achievement. And like Sir Richard Hadlee, he walks away from the test match game having taken a wicket with his last delivery in test cricket.

We are of the opinion that Murali is a chucker, and we have been for more than 15 years. But today is not the time to relitigate that argument. The ICC changed the Laws of the Game and allowed bowlers a 15* flex of the arm in the delivery swing, and they regard Murali's bowling as legitimate. Therefore, it's likely that his record of 800 test wickets will stand for a long time, if not forever.

You can't fault Murali's longevity. He's now 38, and has been around forever! Since his debut in 1992, he has played in 133 test matches and 337 ODI's. That in itself is remarkable. But what is even moreso is that he is just as lethal as he was in his younger days, as evidenced by the eight wickets he took in his final march, against India, the masters of batting against spinners.

Cricinfo is all over the Murali story today, but we've chosen a piece which talks more about Murali the man than Murali the cricketer. And thanks to the marvels of modern technology, here's all Murali's wickets from his final, memorable test match - enjoy!








That just leaves one burning question. Should future batsmen be worried at the sight (at 2:03) of Murali Jnr in his mother's arms, already in a Sri Lankan ODI shirt and with ball in hand?

This Sporting Life - 23/7/2010

It's been a quieter sporting week this week. The All Blacks have a week off to let a few bruises settle after the two matches against the Springboks. The South Africans could do us a big favour tomorrow night if they can give the Wallabies a torrid physical contest in Brisbane before we head to Melbourne next week. Meantime, we've just realised that our timing is lousy - again; we'll be in Melbourne soon; the weekend AFTER the All Blacks visit! Ah well, we'll get it sorted some time.

We watched the last two hours of the Tour de France this morning, and what a battle it was as Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador battled it out up the Cor de Tourmalet, the most demanding climb in the Pyrenees, and the day on which the tour would in all likelihood be decided. Schleck took the stage, with Contador on his wheel, retaining the yellow jersey and an 8-second lead. But is it a lead well won? Did Contador unfairly get one over Schleck a couple of days ago when the latter had a chain malfunction? We reckon so, and it will be a phyrric victory for the Spaniard. It won't be forgotten in a hurry by cycling afficiandos.

What else? The Wellington Phoenix take on Boca Juniors from Argentina at the Ring of Fire tonight. With his squad far from settled, Ricki Herbert has a few challenges ahead, but let's not forget that the 'Nix also made a slow start to last season before roaring home in fine style. The Warriors have every chance of recording a sixth straight win when they play South Sydney on Sunday. But tonight, our attention will be on Invercargill, when the mighty Wanganui boys (with not an H in sight!) will give Southland a good run in the Ranfurly Shield match. Wanganui is unlikely to win - the gulf between the ITM Cup and the Heartland Championship is too wide; but it won't be for the lack of trying.

Oh, and then there's Murali's 800 wickets. We'll have more to say on that later on ....