Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chris Carter's new job

Former Labour MP (and now independant MP for Te Atatu) Chris Carter is off overseas again; this time to take up a new job with the United Nations; Stuff reports:

Expelled Labour MP Chris Carter is leaving New Zealand to tackle corruption in warn-torn Afghanistan.

Te Atatu MP Carter is to take up a post in Kabul with the United Nations. He has previously said he would leave parliament at the election.

It's understood Carter is to quit next week before flying out that weekend.

His departure won't force a by-election because it is less than three months to the November 26 election.

Prime Minister John Key said he heard about the appointment last night.

"Kabul can be a bit of rough place," he said. "Good luck out there."

This news comes as no surpirse; there was talk a few weeks back of Carter having applied for a role with the UN.

And one thing is clear; there's still no love lost between Carter and his former Labour colleague and leader Phil Goff; read on:

Carter was booted out of Labour last year for plotting against Labour leader Phil Goff and is now an independent MP. Before that he was demoted for using his ministerial credit card to buy personal items.

Goff said: "I'd wish anybody going to Kabul well, but what he does is his affair."

He didn't give Carter a job reference. "He didn't ask and I wouldn't have given one."

Carter must quit before he leaves, he said. "It's common sense. No-one accepts two salaries. If you've got a job and it's a paying job, you resign. I imagine that's what he'll do."

Asked if former Prime Minister Helen Clark , now UN development programme administrator in New York, lined up the job , Goff said: ''Well I don't know that that's happened. I'm not sure how he's got the job.''

Chris Carter will have his work cut out for him; trying to cut down on corruption in Kabul, which is not one of the world's safest cities by any stretch of the imagination. It seems that his tell-all book on the goings-on in the Labour Party will remain a work in progress, and we suspect that Carter's former colleagues will be delighted to see him fly away. At least this time around, someone other than the New Zealand taxpayer will be picking up the tab.

The Fairfax numbers

Here, in graphical form, are the numbers from this morning's Fairfax Media-Reseach International poll. We think that you'll agree they look pretty striking in the way that they've been presented.

And just as an aisde; has Fairfax Media abolished the Horizon poll; the one that was totally out of kilter with everyone else? We're just wondering...

No rhyme nor Reason ...

As we've mentioned more than once, we go back a few years, being a child of the 1950's. We well remember the 1971 British Lions tour to New Zealand where the Lions won the series here for the first and only time, and the team was accompanied by the most bitter and twisted pack of journalists ever assembled. One of those was Daily Telegraph writer John Reason, who had an especially stroong sense of distaste for rugby in the Antipodes.

When John Reason passed away a couple of years ago, DJ Cameron, a doyen of New Zealand sports journos wrote an obituary in the NZ Herald. It began thus:

New Zealanders may regard the selective and often critical tone that Stephen Jones takes in his Sunday Star-Times articles about New Zealand rugby in general and the All Blacks in particular as bilious and ill-aimed assaults on our beloved game.

They might take a more charitable view of the inimitable Welshman if they realised that this month came the death of John Reason, the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph rugby correspondent whose witheringly cynical blasts at New Zealand rugby in the 1960-80s make Jones' efforts appear as mere slaps on the wrist.

John Reason was survived by a son, Mark. And Mark Reason also became a rugby correspondent for the Daily Telegraph before migrating to New Zealand. But he's a chip off the old block, as his column on Stuff this morning suggests; check this out:

If New Zealand go out of a consecutive World Cup because of another dodgy refereeing decision, they will have no one to blame but themselves. The All Blacks no longer even bother to bend the laws. They set out to deliberately cheat.

For only one piffling syllable, CHEAT is an awfully big word. "Who are you calling a cheat?" demands the card-playing gunslinger, just before the mandatory murder and the five aces sliding from the sleeve.

The All Blacks cheat in spades. Half of their tries in the Tri- Nations have been set up by blatant cheating.

Go back to the first South Africa game just before Wyatt Crockett scored in the corner. It is hard to believe that Richie McCaw could be four yards offside and get away with it, but there he is holding back the South African lock.

In the first game against Australia they are at it again. Piri Weepu set up the first try by going through a hole created by Ali Williams holding Quade Cooper to the ground.

In the buildup to the second try Ma'a Nonu sets a screen (much as they might do in basketball) for Kieran Read.

Every week Paddy O'Brien, the International Rugby Board head of referees, sends out a directive to the coaches about issues that have arisen from the weekend games. At this point O'Brien warned coaches about all the holding back and obstruction that was going on. He might as well have told the All Blacks to stop doing the haka for all the notice they took.

New Zealand were at it again on Saturday. There were just three incidents in the leadup to their first try, but the second try was exceptional. As Nonu was running through another black hole, a prone David Pocock was waving his arms in frustration. McCaw and Keven Mealamu had held him pinned to the ground for 14 seconds.

Even by the very high standards of the All Blacks, 14 seconds must have constituted a personal best. Does McCaw have an invisibility cloak that only television cameras can penetrate? Even Robbie Deans called him "a bloody menace" and that's when he was coach of the Crusaders.

This is an extraordinary piece by Reason the Younger, but it's also one of which his father would be immensely proud. But Mark Reason writes with a very jaundiced eye. He makes no mention of Quade Cooper's repeated attacks on McCaw since Hong Kong last year. He makes no mention of the fact that as Will Genia scored Australia's first try on Saturday night, Cooper was holding McCaw back, creating a gap through which Genia slipped. He makes no mention of Genia's skill at running close enough to referees that he cannot be tackled. He certainly makes no mention of Quade Cooper's knee to McCaw's face.

Sure; the All Blacks are not lilywhite. The reality is that NO team in international rugby is lilywhite. Rugby is a combatitive, contact sport. It is a contest of skills and tactics. And as happens in any sport, players will push referees to and beyond the limit of the law. That's probably not as it should be, but it is the reality. We know from our own officiating days that players, even in lower grades know what a particular referee's strengths or weakenesses are, and do their best to exploit them.

But to suggest that the All Blacks are the only international team that pushes the envelope (and does Reason Jr mention and other guilty team?) is patently absurd. This is nothing more than a beat-up.

So here's a trivia question or three: Who was the last All Black sent off in a test match? Who was the last English player? And the last Australian? We'll add the answers later if no-one gets them, but let's just say that it's been a lot longer between drinks for one of those three teams than the others.

Alongside the colum, Stuff is running a poll to which over 7000 people have replied. 18% of respondents think the All Blacks cheat, and 22% think they don't. But an overwhelming 4333 respondents (thus far), around 60% have chosen the obvious option; No more than any other side. That really says it all.

Back in the 1960's, Murray Ball wrote his first book; long before Footrot Flats made him a household name. Ball was a very good rugby player, and his first book, Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest was a forefunner to his later literary successes. And it included this little ditty:

The Lions represent Great Britain, And in that team they have to fit in

English, Irish, Scots and Welsh, And press-men sent to make us belch

Indeed this party never fails, To include at least one man of wails

Guess who that man of wails is in 2011?

Wanganui boy makes good

It's a proud day for the people of Wanganui today. Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mataparae will be sworn in as Governor General in a ceremony at Parliament this morning.

Sir Jerry is a son of Wanganui, with strong links to the wider Whanganui region. His Wikipedia profile notes:

Jerry Mateparae was born to the Andrews family in Wanganui. He was given to his mother's brother, a Mateparae, to raise in the Māori customary adoption known as whāngai.[5] His birth father and his adoptive father were both ministers in the Ratana Church.[6] He is descended from the Ngāti Tūwharetoa[7] and Ngāti Kahungunu tribes and also has links to Tūhoe and tribes in the upper Whanganui.[1] He was raised in the Whanganui suburb of Castlecliff and attended Castlecliff Primary School, Rutherford Intermediate School and Wanganui High School. He has three children with his first wife Raewynne, who died in 1990, and two children with his second wife Janine.[5]

Until recently, we also lived in the seaside suburb, literally just around the corner from where Sir Jerry was raised. Castlecliff gets a bad rap thanks to a gang presence, youngsters with spray cans and a lack of respect for others' property, and unfortunate social indicators. But the suburb certainly improved incrementally during the time we lived out west, and it will continue to do so. Castlecliff School has suffered a drop in its roll in recent years but it is growing again, and the school will be rightly proud of its most famous Old Boy today.

Sir Jerry takes up the role of Governor General following a distinguished military career. We met him once when a member of our whanau was graduating at Waiouru, and he is a charismatic man, but clearly a man of considerable mana. It is somewhat ironic that just days after our first Maori Governor General was laid to rest, our second Maori Governor General is sworn in.

We again congratulate Sir Jerry on his appointment to this role, and we are sure that he will do it with pride, and with a strong sense of service over self. Today's ceremony will be a fusion of traditional pomp and ceremony, with the added military and Maori elements reflecting Sir Jerry's kaupapa. Kia kaha Sir Jerry; kia toa; kia manawanui!

Yet another day; yet another poll

We make no apologies for this post, even if it upsets those (and one in particular) who worry about us being fixated with Phil Goff and Labour. We're not, or course, but when Stuff releases a poll such as it has this morning, it's newsworthy. And if you're a Green Party voter, it's also wonderful news!

Right; enough of the preamble; let's get down to it. The last poll for August (unless Roy Morgan reports today) has been released, and it is an absolute shocker for Labour. It's the Fairfax Media-Research International poll, and Tracy Watkins and Andrea Vance break it gently:

Voters appear to be deserting the Labour Party for the Greens as Phil Goff's election chances look increasingly hopeless.

The Greens have leapt to 11 per cent in today's Fairfax Media-Research International Poll – and their rise has come at the expense of Labour, which has slumped to 25.7 per cent.

With 86 days until the election, there are echoes of 2002 in the latest poll results.

That year National crashed to a disastrous 20.9 per cent vote on election night, with supporters panicked into voting strategically for the minor parties, particularly NZ First, after deciding Bill English had no hope of victory.

The Green Party's improved result in this poll shows the party may be benefiting from a shift in its position towards National. It had previously ruled out working with National in any sort of coalition deal.

The Greens now say that although a deal with National is "highly unlikely", they will not shut the door completely. But yesterday Green Party co-leader Russel Norman dismissed suggestions of tactical voting on the Left.

"Under MMP every vote counts ... people are feeling that they are voting for the Greens in a positive way."

The Greens will be over the moon with this result. They now only trail Labour by 14.7 percentage points. Two more months of 4 point swings from Labour to the Greens, and the unthinkable happens; the Greens become the major opposition party!

Someone will doubtless correct us if we have erred, but we reckon that this is probably Labour's worst poll result since the 2008 General Election. We recall that they slumped to 27% in July's One News poll, but we can't readily recall a lower poll rating than this for the Labour Party.

In the meantime, National's support has edged up another point to 57.1%, and could govern alone on these numbers quite easily. John Key of course has indicated that National will not govern alone, and that coalition partners will be sought no matter what the numbers say on election day.

And in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes it's just more of the same; read on:

Prime Minister John Key remains National's most potent weapon. He towers above Mr Goff in the preferred prime minister stakes, at 54.6 per cent to Mr Goff's 8.5 per cent. Mr Key appears to have cemented his popularity since the previous Fairfax-Research International poll a month ago, with the number of undecided voters down from 29.9 per cent to 22.5 per cent.

Phil Goff had to again defend his leadership yesterday. This time though, rather than being right-wing bloggers who are questioning him, it's hard-bitten political journalists. As Patrick Gower noted yesterday on 3News, the knives are coming out for Goff; from within. The late Sir Robert Muldoon used to say that a front-bench politician's biggest enemies were the ones beside and behind him, not the ones opposite, and that seems true for Phil Goff at present.

Anyway; those are the numbers; pleasing for National, fantastic for the Greens, and disastrous for Labour. Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Well chosen words...

We missed this is the Kate Chapman story that we quoted when we updated the Herald DigiPoll post at lunchtime:

"I'm the leader of the Labour Party, I'll be taking the Labour Party into the next election. You all know that. It's about time people stop flogging that dead horse and just accept the fact."

Not the most well chosen words in the world at the moment, we would have thought. We just hope that Phil wasn't referring to either of these ones...

Oh, hang on; they're donkeys! Phew....

UPDATED: Another day, another poll

UPDATED - 12.30pm

So how does Phil Goff respond to Labour's latest poll setback? He blames the public! Kate Chapman from Stuff reports:

Labour Leader Phil Goff is refusing to accept his party's poor popularity saying its bad polling is because people aren't focused on the issues.

There are two ways of looking at Goff's statement. If "people aren't focused on the issues" (and later in the story, the RWC gets the blame as well), why did Labour release its game-changing CGT policy back on July 14th, four months before the election, and at a RWC venue to boot? Surely, if the people weren't going to focus on the issues until later in the campaign, Labour should have kept its powder dry.

But secondly, Phil Goff may just have misjudged the public's reaction. Give the people credit for being able to make their own minds up Mr Goff. And the public seems to have decided that by and large, the Labour Party they voted out of office three years ago has still not taken onboard the message that the electorate sent them.

Phil Goff would get far more respect if he was to say "Look; we accept that we are not connecting with people" and if he and his Labour Party colleagues actually took responsibility for the current bad polling. To continue to make excuses just convinces many of those who abandoned Labour in 2008 that they were right to do so.


The August Herald DigiPoll has been released, and in keeping with other polls released this month, it's not good news for the Labour Party; the Herald reports:

Three months before the election, the Labour Party's support has dropped again in the Herald-DigiPoll survey to its lowest this term.

Labour's support dropped among decided voters by almost two points to 31.5 per cent - its second lowest since 1999.

This follows a three-point drop the month before. Its lowest was in July 2008 when it polled at 30.8 per cent.

National remained steady on 52 per cent in the poll of 750 eligible voters - enough to secure it 65 seats in Parliament and govern without requiring support from other parties.

Labour would have 39 seats.

The Green Party and NZ First were the main beneficiaries of Labour's fall. The Greens went up by 1.5 points to 9.8 per cent - their highest in the poll since mid 2002, and enough to add three more MPs to the nine they have.

NZ First went from 0.9 to 2.4 per cent after its annual conference.

This is simply news that Labour neither needed or wanted. The Herald DigiPoll had been Labour's friend among the polls, with the party scoring higher there than any of the other polls. But even the DigiPoll now is getting perilously close to the 30% mark.

And the Herald story shuts the door on another of Labour's excuses. At the weekend on the Nation someone from Labour (and we can't recall whether it was Shane Jones or the panel of Stuart Nash, Carol Beaumont and Carmel Sepuloni) said that things would change once undecided voters made their minds up. Not so, according the the Herald DigiPoll; read on:

With three months to go before polling day, undecided voters had dropped from 11 per cent to 9 per cent this month - well below the same point before the 2008 election, when 17 per cent were still undecided.

The poll of 750 eligible voters was between August 19 and 26.

Oh dear; there are only half the number of undecided voters that there were at this time in the 2008 election cycle. Even if every single one of those gave their party vote to Labour, National would still be able to govern on its own.

Labour's caucus meets today, for the first time since the One News, 3News and Herald DigiPolls. If only the walls of the Labour caucus room had ears!

Valerie Adams; the best in the world

Well done Valerie Adams. After a year to forget last year where her marriage broke up, she changed coaches and lost form she was back to her very best at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in South Korea. For the third successive time, she is the World Champion in the Women's Shot Put.

Adams saved her best for last in the finals last night. Her final put was a massive 21.24 metres; a personal best, and equalling the championship record. Her closest challenger and great rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus was almost 1.2 metres behind Adams; this was the most comprehensive of victories.

At just 26 years old, Adams has the world at her feet. Her third World Championship sits alongside two Comonwealth Games gold medals and the Olympic gold medal from Beijing in 2008. She is well on her way to becoming New Zealand's best-ever track and field athlete; shot-putters traditionally mature late, and it's conceivable that she could have another ten years of competing at the top level and at the pinnacle of her powers.

So we salute Valerie Adams this morning; a worthy World Champion, and a champion New Zealander!

A particularly shitty live cross

Both New Zealand news channels seem to have developed an unhealthy obsession with the live cross; sending reporters out into the field to report live on the bulletin from the scene of the action. During the recent snowstorms, there were some very bedraggled looking reporters out in the wind, rain and snow.

But we doubt that either channel would subject one of there treasured reporters to this; seen on Campbell Live last night, and quickly found on YouTube:

Yes dear readers; that's not "sea foam" that the intrepid reporter is being coated with; perhaps he didn't notice the rather organic tint to his coating. We have no doubt that his colleagues kept their distance on his return to the studio after what was literally a shitty day at work!

We guess that we can take some consolation here; whatever life throws at us today, it's not likely to be as bad as what the raging sea tossed at Tucker Barnes!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Is the Sonny Bill experiment over?

We heard on the 11am news that Sonny Bill Williams has put off any move to sign an NZRU contract until after the Rugby World Cup.

That's disappointing. Graham Henry said early in the season that he wanted contracts done and dusted before the Rugby World Cup, so that players would not be distracted from which they are currently contracted to the NZRU to perform. And Sonny Bill Williams should be no exception.

We have no beef with Williams himself. But with Williams comes his manager, Khoder Nasser, and his main man, Anthony "The Man" Mundine. Nasser is a businessman, and has no pedigree in rugby. His sole focus is to get the best deal that he can for his client. Obviously, the better the deal, the better the percentage that Nasser draws. Mundine is; well, Mundine; that's the only way to describe him. He's a clown with an inflated sense of his own importance, and like Nasser, really isn't interested in rugby, except as far as rugby pays the bills for his "mate" Sonny Bill.

We were excited when the NZRU signed Williams last year. We were probably naive to think that there wouldn't be this kind of drama when it came time to put a new value on Williams at contract time. The NZRU has bent over backwards to accomodate Williams' foibles, including his "beneficiary-bashing" boxing match in June, during the Supoer Rugby season.

So here's our suggestion to the NZRU; send Khoder Nasser a final offer for Williams for next season, with a final deadline to sign of 31 August 2011. If he wants to commit to New Zealand rugby he can sign it; if he doesn't, cut him adrift when the current contract expires post-RWC.

Barring injury, it seems as though Williams' contribution to the RWC campaign will be limited. The selectors and the NZRU took a punt, and whilst it hasn't nbben a complete failure, it hasn't worked out as well as was hoped. Nut let's not lose any more time and effort trying to line the pockets of the likes of Khoder Nasser and Anthony Mundine, and let's get the focus where it needs to be; soley on winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Only in New York...

Who'd want to be Mayor of New York City. We've just heard on the radio news while driving to work that New Yorkers are disappointed that Hurricane Irene was a bit of a damp squib by the time that she got to the Big Apple. And they're taking out their frustrations on NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg is under fire for his mass evacuation order issued Saturday morning NZ time. The measures were far and away beyond any precautions ever taken before, and were wide-reaching. With good reason; the forecasts surrounding Hurricane Irene spoke of weather events which could have been catastrophic to such a populated area.

As it happened, Irene weakened as she approached NYC, and the city was spared her full fury, to the chagrin of some. Trying to please all the people all of the time requires super-human abilities, but we guess that in New York City, it's an impossibility!

Justin speaks...

We can't say that we are great fans of Justin Marshall's comments role on the Sky rugby commentaries. He has yet to learn the golden rule of television commentary that less is more, as the viewers can actually see what's going on. He does though bring a player's perspective, and that is invaluable.

But in print, his words are easier to digest; he opines:

Call me mad. Dub me naive. Christen me crazy if you like.

Just don't label me panicky for I refuse to fret about the All Blacks' recent losses to South Africa and Australia.

I realise I just alienated a large chunk of you in that last sentence. Many of you will be apoplectic with rage after seeing the Blacks go down again on Saturday.

But my belief in the team is founded on the fact they are an entirely different animal at home.

I don't know why.

They just are.

In those words, Marshall encapsulates an intrinsic quality of sports fans; blind loyalty. We desperately want the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup again, and they'll never have a better chance than this year, in their own back yard. And Marshall is right; the All Blacks ARE a different beast at home.

To his credit, Graham Henry has admitted that the strategy of resting players for the South African trip was wrong. That's good, and with so much pressure on Henry and his co-slecetors, especially after the controversy over their re-selection, it's remarkable candour this close the the RWC. But the Tri-Nations is done and dusted, and there's only one goal left now; RWC 2011.

And Justin Marshall concludes:

Eden Park has this security blanket that envelops them and inspires them to great deeds. It seems to also bring out the worst in other sides. Again, I don't know why. It just does.

Hence as a pundit I'm fairly sanguine about the All Blacks' chances.

They did enough during the Tri-Nations – without winning it – to suggest they are ready, willing and able to create history. Now is the time then to ooze determination and intelligence; two qualities the Wallabies had in spades on Saturday night.

Yep; we'll buy that. As painful as it may be, the All Blacks have to admit that they were beaten by a better team on Saturday night. And they have to learn from that defeat, and do whatever it takes to make sure that it isn't repeated.

We've supported the All Blacks through thick and thin for the best part of 50 years. We're not about to turn our backs on them now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

You be the judge

Australian first five-eighth Quade Cooper was cited after the Tri-Nations decider for kneeing All Black captain Richie McCaw in the face. We've just read that he has been cleared of the charge, and is free to play in Rugby World Cup 2011.

Here's the incident:

Whaddya reckon; did the SANZAR citing commissioner get it right, or is Quade Cooper a very lucky man tonight? We're leaning toward the latter, not that it makes any difference! Still, sport is all about controversies and rivalries, and Quade Cooper might regret his action the next time that a rampant All Black forward pack runs straight at him...

Who's Act's #3?

Act has announced its party list, but it's incomplete; the Herald reports:

The Act Party has today announced their list for November's general election but with a name missing from the number three spot.

ACT leader Don Brash, who rolled former leader Rodney Hide in April, takes the number one spot and ACT's current parliamentary leader, John Boscawen, takes the number two spot.

However, the number three spot has been left blank.

So who's the missing link? The Herald reckon they know; read on:

It has been rumoured that Hong Kong-based corporate lawyer Cathy Odgers - known as blogger "Cactus Kate" - will stand for the party and it is possible the spot is being held for her.

Dr Brash said the number three position was being held "for someone who has the unanimous support of the board, and has strong credentials for the role, but is not currently in a position to confirm availability".

He confirmed the person was not a current MP.

Cathy Odgers has been in New Zealand for the last week having been present in support of Cameron Slater at last week's Great Cycle Challenge with Trevor Mallard. She attended meetings surrounding the Act selection at the weekend. It's not unreasonable to suppose that she has been offered the #3 spot on Act's list, given that she doesn't appear among the other 26 names released this afternoon, most of whom we've never heard of. We wonder if she needs to have discussions with the partners in her law firm before her place is confirmed.

Interestingly, we suggested to Don Brash back in July that Cathy Odgers be offered the #3 spot on Act's list. We reckoned that a top four of Don, John, Johnn and Don would be seen by the electorate as same-old-same-old. We had the names right, but in a slightly different order; apart from the gap at #3, Act's list is headed by Don Brash, John Boscawen, Don Nicolson and John Banks.

Modest though we are, it's nice to know that Don Brash read what we blogged last month, took it on board, and pushed for the list we suggested. It will be interesting to see whether Cathy Odgers is indeed confirmed as Act's new face, because if she is, things are guaranteed not to be dull.

UPDATE: We'd only just got in from the golf course, and didn't see the story on Stuff; sadly, it looks like Act's #3 will be Catherine Isaac, as according to John Boscawen, Cathy Odgers has decided that "the time is not right for her". That's a pity; then again, is Act a brand that Cathy Odgers would wish to be associated with right now?

Christian Music Sunday - 28 August 2011

Rich Mullins left earth at far too young an age. But he left a legacy; a song that will be sung, the chorus at least, in churches all over the world today:

Our God is indeed an awesome God; enjoy!

All Black review - Sunday 28 August 2011

Australia 25; New Zealand 20

One of rugby's finest cliches is this one; it was a game of two halves. It's a cliche that certainly applied last night as a fired-up Australian team won the Tri-Nations in Brisbane.

Australia climbed into the All Blacks from the first whistle, and raced out to a 20-3 lead at half-time. Graham Henry's team talk at the break must have been a paint-stripper; the All Blacks emerged with a new game-plan and a new resolve, and within 20 minutes had levelled at 20-all.

Then came the moment when the Tri-Nations was decided. Will Genia found space with a bit of help from referee Wayne Barnes, the Wallabies broke away and Kurtley Beale scored the winning try.

It was an enigmatic performance from the All Blacks. They were stunned by the ferocity with which the Australians attacked them in the early stages, and never really recovered in the first half. If anything, the half-time score flattered the All Blacks. The early loss of Kieran Read with a sprained ankle didn't help, whilst Adam Thompson aggravated an elbow injury, and was ineffective. The team struggled to get the ball, turned it over far too easily, and missed too many tackles.

It was as though a different team emerged after half-time. The All Blacks grabbed the ball and hung onto it for phase after phase. Victor Vito came into his own, and Ali Williams was prominent. The scrum began to dominate, and the combinations started to click resulting in well-taken tries by Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith. No sooner had the All Blacks caught up than the Wallabies scored again, and although they tried gamely, they couldn't reply.

The negatives were obvious; a slow start, missed tackles, dropped balls and indecision; 40 minutes' worth. There was no one single culprit; the malaise was widespread.

On a more positive note there were some good signs in the second half. That All Black forwards were able to achieve dominance, and when the Australians were forced to defend for extended periods some cracks appeared. When Nonu scored, the final player he beat was Quade Cooper who, from only a couple of metres away from Nonu did his best impression of a statue, not even trying to tackle Nonu. Tony Woodcock played the full match, and got better and better. The All Black lineout was good, and the scrum, once Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu and Woodcock were reunited was dominant.

Looking forward, we wonder what selection changes will be prompted by this result. Mils Muliaina seems to have lost his speed; he may need the Japan and Canada pool matches to reach 100 tests, but we reckon that Israel Dagg will put pressure on for the #15 jersey. Zac Guildford had a horror first half, and Cory Jane was starved of ball. We'd still pick them ahead of Toeava. The next three pick themselves; Smith, Nonu and Carter. Piri Weepu was hesitant last night, but that was due to the quality of the ball he was being given, and the lack of protection his forwards accorded him. He was coming into his own when he was subbed last night; an odd decision. The loose forwards again pick themselves, assuming that Read's injury is not serious, and the tight five mentioned above is the All Blacks' best tight five.

Two things console us as we look forward to the start of the Rugby World Cup; the team that won the Tri-Nations has never won RWC, and the All Blacks can not play as poorly again as they did in the first 40 minutes last night. But we're not as positive as we were this time yesterday.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

All Blacks vs Wallabies; the final shakedown

All eyes (in this household, anyway) will be on Brisbane late this evening as the All Blacks and Wallabies conclude their Rugby World Cup preparations. Sure; there is the small matter of this match being the Tri-Nations decider, but this year, there is really only one trophy which will be remembered.

Both countries are taking near full-strength teams into the match, and that's hardly surprising; it's the last chance that the players will get to run together before the RWC starts in just 13 days time. The RWC squads have been finalised, so for the All Blacks, there will be no shadows of doubt hanging over them in terms of cup selection.

The All Black team tonight has a seasoned, experienced look to it. There are a few changes from the team which comprehensively beat the Australians in Auckland. Adam Thompson replaces Jerome Kaino at blindside; Kaino is at home on parental leave. But the other changes are far more positive. The inclusion of Cory Jane and Zac Guilford on the wings gives the All Blacks added pace and vitality. Sivivatu and Gear were adequate against the Wallabies, but this combination has a much more dynamic look to it. And Tony Woodcock will be better for the run in Port Elizabeth, but more importantly, has had the acid on the Wallaby scrum for several seasons.

The choice of Piri Weepu at halfback is interesting. He had an excellent game against the Wallabies in Auckland, and gave Dan Carter a terrific ride. And Carter, Nonu and Smith thrived on the service from within. Weepu revealed during the week that Will Genia brings out the best in him.

The All Blacks put huge pressure on Genia and Quade Cooper in the Auckland match, and they will be looking to do likewise tonight. Putting a dent in Cooper's confidence tonight could have big implications if and when the two teams meet in the latter stages of RWC. The Australians will also miss James O'Connor's blistering pace as he sits this one out, reflecting on the wisdom of a night on the turps.

This match has the makings of a great contest, but it would surprise us if the All Blacks do not come away with a victory. Both teams have a lot to lose tonight, but it must be remembered that Robbie Deans' Wallabies have only beaten Graham Henry's All Blacks twice in the last four years. We don't see that changing tonight.

Let's get this match out of the way, and then everyone's focus can shift to what we have all been looking forward to since that awful Sunday morning in Cardiff four years ago.

Armstrong on Labour

John Armstrong's piece in this morning's Herald will make grim reading for Phil Goff, for the Labour caucus, and for anyone still hoping for a Labour-led government after the election. He opines:

For three years, Phil Goff has tirelessly pushed his boulder Sisyphus-like up the hill, only for it to roll back down each time. Now, however, the rock may have slid down the hill one too many times.

Over the past couple of weeks, cracks have appeared in Labour's united front, giving National added reason to believe it can secure the electoral equivalent of El Dorado - winning enough seats in an MMP election to govern alone.

Labour's legendary self-discipline seems to be crumbling under the relentless pressure of bad polls.

Witness the unfortunate outburst from Dunedin South backbencher Clare Curran, flaying the Greens for having the temerity to encroach on territory which apparently belongs to Labour as of right.

Of more serious note, some senior Labour MPs clearly think November's election is a foregone conclusion, and are now focusing on what happens afterwards leadership-wise, positioning themselves accordingly.

The net effect of this is to leave Phil Goff marooned exactly where National wants him - in an ineffectual limbo with his leadership destabilised, but not so much that he must be removed before the election.

That last paragraph really nails it; Phil Goff is in a no-win position. Even though Labour's CGT "game-changer" policy was reproted by 3News this week as more popular that National's proposed partial asset sales, Labour trails by some distance in every poll that comes out, and Phil Goff's personal popularity is lower still.

Shane Jones has been at the forefront of the post-election wrangling. Gotcha yesterday featured a video of Jones' appearance on Maori Television earlier this week where what he didn;t say was more telling than what he did say. Of more interest though was John Tamihere's emphatic confirmation of the view that Phil Goff did indeed offer to resign. Given that Tamihere was not at the meeting, one can't help but wonder who's been talking out of school. Would Shane Jones be so openly disloyal to his leader? Or does someone else have Tamihere's ear? Jones' media tour continues this morning with an interview with Duncan Garner on The Nation on TV3.

Armstrong continues on this theme:

Most damaging has been the leaking of suggestions that Goff offered to resign as leader during a recent meeting of Labour's front-bench MPs.

What Goff apparently said was that he had put everything into the job for the past three years, and anyone who wasn't happy with his performance should stick their hand up. No one did.

The only motive for the leak would be to undermine Goff before the election campaign to ensure he loses.

Blame is being levelled at those backing the post-election leadership aspirations of Labour's ultra-ambitious finance spokesman, David Cunliffe.

Worse, the leak was followed by a 3 News Reid Research poll which found that even among those intending to vote Labour, many do not believe Goff can win the election.

This really is devastating stuff for Goff, less than three months out from the election. Not only is he not considered capable of winning the election by a good proportion of his party's support base, but moves are already afoot to replace him after the election. Which begs the question; why wait until after?

There's quite a bit more to Armstrong's piece, and his historical comparisons are worth a read, but he's made his main point; there is a solid body within the Labour caucus that has seen the writing on the wall, and that has more interest in individual survival than the bigger picture. He concludes:

When the positioning going on within Labour is taken into account, what is happening is that the early stages of the 2014 election campaign are being played out before this year's one has started.

All rather bizarre, to say the least.

He's not wrong; it's bizarre indeed, and at the moment, it gets more bizarre with every Shane Jones television appearance. It's an interesting and very public game he's playing; at Phil Goff's expense.

Hurricane warning

New York is under attack again, but this thime terrorists aren't the culprits; it's Mother Nature on the rampage; the Herald reports:

New York City's mayor has ordered mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas and the city's entire system is to be shut down as Hurricane Irene makes its way towards land.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city had never ordered a mandatory evacuation before and stressed they would not be doing this if they did not believe Hurricane Irene posed a serious threat.

The areas to be evacuated are coastal areas in Brooklyn, Queens, including all of the Rockaways, and Staten Island, along with Battery Park City and the financial district in Lower Manhattan and Governor's Island.

"You only have to look at the weather maps to understand how big this storm is and how unique it is," the mayor said at a news conference, "and it's heading basically for us."

The image above is of Hurricane Irene two days ago. Since then the storm has tracked north-west and intensified, and the upper eastern seaboard from the Carolinas to Massachusetts is under threat.

This certainly looks to be a storm of considerable significance. We will follow Irene's progress with interest.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It never rains...aka Tweet of the Day

The old saying goes thus; it never rains, but it pours. And it's certainly pouring on Phil Goff just at the moment; Tau Henare tweets:

West Side Tory
@ a hui in West Auckland yesterday with & Phil1 called Phil2 the candidate for Waitakere. Not alot gng right ay.

Goodness; you couldn't make this kind of stuff up! All we can wonder is who will be more displeased; the real Labour candidate in Waitakere, Carmel Sepuloni, or Phil Twyford, Labour's TE ATATU candidate, replacing the expelled Chris Carter?

Actually, weren't their rumours a few weeks ago that Phil Twyford was the numbers guy for the two Davids, Pareker and Cunliffe? Maybe this was not a Goff gaffe after all...

This Sporting Life - 26 August 2011

It's Friday again, and whilst a pall has been cast across the sporting landscape, life and sport goes on, and another busy weekend beckons.

Obviously (for us anyway) the All Blacks test match against Australia in Brisbane tomorrow night is the highlight of the weekend. As usual, we'll do a preview tomorrow, but it should be a fantastic match between arguably the two best teams in world rugby.

And it's hard to believe that after all the hype, the Rugby World Cup is just two weeks away. That means of course that domestic rugby's showpiece, the ITM Cup must come to an end. The last round-robin round starts tonight, followed by the catch-up match on Tuesday between Manawatu and Otago, cancelled last week because of the snow closing Dunedin airport. Manawatu has already sown up a place in the Championship final where they will probably meet Hawke's Bay. The Magpies play in the game of the weekend when they challenge Taranaki for the Ranfurly Shield on Sunday. If we weren't playing in a golf tournament, we'd head to New Plymouth on Sunday. Tomorrow, there are "traditional" matches to look forward to; Auckland vs Waikato, and Canterbury vs Otago. At this point, we'd lean towards a Canterbury versus Waikato final in Christchurch, which would be some small comfort to the rugby folk of Christchurch, denied involvement with RWC.

The Warriors' chances of a top-four placing and a home semi-final are entirely in their own hands. If they can beat St George at Illawarra on Sunday, then beat North Queensland at home next week, they will finish the regular season in fourth, which will probably earn them a match-up with Wests Tigers.

There's plenty more happening this weekend, but time is short if the GST is to get paid today! Feel free to fill in the gaps; the floor is yours!

PS: Did anyone follow our tip last week, and put a lazy tenner on Manawatu to upset Waikato? No? No; nor dd we!

Remembering Moodz

The tributes have been flowing for Graeme Moody. The Wellington sports broadcaster died in a surfing accident in Australia has been remembered not only as a skilled and knoweldgeable commentator and analyst, but an all-round nice guy.

And this morning, we'll be tuned to Newstalk ZB in Wellington as his peers pay a special radio tribute. Jason Pine and his colleagues in Wellington have hi-jacked Sean Plunkett's morning talkback spot, and memories will be rekindled between 8.30am and midday. The Newstalk ZB team in Wellington is close-knit, and this will be a very poignant moment for them.

You can listen on 1035AM, which is available around most of the lower North and upper South Islands, or listen online by choosing the Wellington feed from the Newstalk website. We'll certainly be tuned in to what will be a very, very special piece of radio.

Waka pity this is; revisited

We blogged on Wednesday about the decision of the USA Eagles RWC management not to allow the team to participate in a Waka ceremony in Wanganui. We're delighted to report that they've had a re-think; the Herald reports:

The United States rugby team have had a change of heart and will be taking a waka trip across the Whanganui River after earlier pulling out of the Rugby World Cup welcome due to safety concerns.

Wanganui Mayor Annette Main welcomed the USA Eagles' change of heart, saying it meant a lot to the community.

"It is clear that, when they initially decided not to take part, the Eagles had not realised that the waka trip is an integral part of the welcome ceremony at Putiki Marae on September 4.

"Now that they have a better understanding of the cultural nature of the ceremony and the importance of the Whanganui River to our community, they have confirmed that they will be honoured to join the waka trip," Ms Main said.

This is good news indeed for the good folk of Wanganui. Whilst the River City would have provided the warmest of welcomes to our USA guests waka or no waka, the Americans will now fully participate in what will be a ceremony of considerable significance.

Putiki marae is the home of the Tupoho iwi, and the Whanganui River is central to Tupoho's tikanga. The welcome at the marae, one of New Zealand's better known will be warm and gracious, and the young and not-so-young men of Tupoho will provide a spectacle as they transport their manuhiri back to the central city. It will be a day to remember, and we are delighted that common-sense has prevailed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Does money win elections?

Long-time readers will remember that Keeping Stock was founded because of our opposition to Labour's odious Electoral Finance Act. Passed at the end of 2007, so that it could be in force for the entire period from 1 January 2008 until the General Election, the final vote was as follows:

A party vote was called for on the question, That the Electoral Finance Bill, the Broadcasting Amendment Bill (No 3), and the Electoral Amendment Bill be now read a third time.

Ayes 63 New Zealand Labour 49; New Zealand First 7; Green Party 6; Progressive 1.
Noes 57 New Zealand National 48; Māori Party 4; United Future 2; ACT New Zealand 2; Independent: Field.
Bills read a third time.

The EFA placed significant restrictions on electoral advertising during the regulated period in 2008, as was its intention. In the Third Reading debate, John Key said this:

This legislation today is designed for one reason alone, and that is to silence democracy, reduce participation, and put a legalised gagging order on the people that Helen Clark and her travellers do not like. There can be no other explanation for a law that will see New Zealanders spending one-third of their adult life subject to a law that is so bureaucratic, where the hoops are so bad, and that is so muddled that the Prime Minister has told people to consult a lawyer if they want to try to understand it. The Government cannot explain the legislation. What sort of democracy are we creating in this country when we are creating law so muddled that the Electoral Commission is confused by it, the Law Society is against it, former Prime Ministers have come out speaking against it, and the Minister has said the only hope for it is to apply common sense to law that has no fundamental common sense in itself?

Helen Clark does not care. She does not care for one reason: for blatant self-interest she will pass this law, because she thinks nobody will notice. According to Helen Clark, when issues get tough they are inside the beltway and nobody notices. Well, I have news for Helen Clark. Everybody has noticed, and the vast, overwhelming majority are opposed to this legislation. The only thing Helen Clark has been able to hide behind throughout this entire debate is some sinister kind of plot that is all about big money.

If there is big money involved in New Zealand politics, it is the big money of the Labour Party. These are the people who spent $50 million through Government agencies in a non - election year but nearly $70 million when an election was under control. That is the reason they no longer care about neutrality of the Public Service. You see, with Labour and an election the role of a communications manager is a political appointment. That is why Madeleine Setchell’s face did not fit. That is why Clare Curran’s face did fit. That is why Erin Leigh was defamed in this House by a Minister who used advice for which that ministry has apologised, and for which he will not. That is the reason why. And this—the audacity of this—from a party that got caught in the last election flogging $800,000! It has the audacity to lecture New Zealanders about big money.

After the 2008 election, Labour, to its credit admitted that the Electoral Finance Act was wrong, and not only voted for its repeal, but later supported replacement legislation. Electoral law reform was again largely bi-partisan, which is as it should be.

Over at Kiwiblog, David "Happy Feet" Farrar has blogged today about organisations who have registered with the Electoral Commission as promoters; check this out:

Just had a look at the Electoral Commission Register of Promoters, ie those planning to spend more than $12,000 in the general election or the referendum.

Remember how the left rail against money in politics, and those evil business groups. Well surprise surprise there is not a single business group registered as a promoter.

Goodness! Where is the Employers and Manufacturers Association? Where are all the Chambers of Commerce? Where are the export and trade people? They are nowhere to be seen.

Now there are separate lists for the electoral referendum, and for the General Election itself. The lists differ only in the inclusion of Vote for Change, the Green Party and the Campaign for MMP having registered for the referendum only. Otherwise those organisations who will be spending in excess of $12,000 are the CTU, the PSA, The NZEI, the Service and Food Workers Union, the Dairy Workers union, the National Distribution union and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

Now don't get us wrong; we have no problem whatsoever with trade unions campaigning at election time, provided that their members, from whom the money comes, have endorsed their plans. After all, unions exist for the sole purpose of getting the best deal for their rank-and-file members don't they?

But it does rather blunt the Left's argument that big money wins elections, when the only organisations who have registered to spend big money as third parties are organisations that traditionally support the Left.

Shane's ultimatum to Maori; and to Labour

We blogged earlier in the week about suggestions that Shane Jones was the "senior Labour MP" who is talking to the media about Labour's leadership. The plot thickens this morning; Shane Jones is laying down an ultimatum; the Herald reports:

Labour MP Shane Jones has indicated he is weighing up his future in politics if he does not get strong endorsement from Maori voters in November's general election.

Mr Jones said on Te Kaea on Maori Television he wanted to win the Tamaki Makaurau seat - currently held by Maori Party leader Pita Sharples - and if he did not he would "reconsider my options".

Asked to clarify his comments by the Herald yesterday, he said winning the seat would give him a strong platform for "future developments" in his political career.

"If that doesn't come to pass, a whole bunch of other factors have to be weighed up. If I don't win the seat, then I'll assess what happens - whether or not I stay on and look to play a more meaningful role in politics, or whatever."

Mr Jones has not been restored to the front bench since he was disciplined for his credit card use. He is almost certain to return as a list MP regardless of whether he wins the seat.

His comments suggest he believes winning the seat back for Labour will be a crucial factor in his party rewarding him with senior roles, including the possibility of becoming leader. It would bolster the argument that his rehabilitation was complete in the eyes of the voters.

This is a most interesting comment from Shane Jones, and suggests that there is a bit of post-election manouvering at play. Since MMP was introduced, Don Brash has been the only leader of National or Labour to be a list-only MP. So we can't help but wonder if he sees securing the Tamaki Makarau seat as pivotal to future leadership aspirations.

So is this early notice from Shane Jones that, subject to winning an electorate seat, he will be putting himself forward should Labour's leadership be up for grabs after 26 November? We reckon that it is.

It might also be that Jones is trying to "do a Hone", and convince the electors of Tamaki Makarau that Pita Sharples will be in Parliament anyway, so they will get two MP's for the price of one. But that one won't wash; the Maori Party probably needs to win electorate seats to ensure that its MP's are elected, as it cannot draw in the party vote to a degree where list MP's are a sure thing. And it might backfire on Jones; smart TM voters might decide that Jones will get in anyway, and vote for Sharples whose links to the electorate are far stronger than Jones'; his whanau is from Te Tai Tokerau.

But it's a fascinating story nonetheless, and we're picking that in coming weeks, Shane Jones won't be the only self-promoting Labour MP. And it may well be that there is an element within the Labour caucus and the wider party that isn't ready to forgive Jones for his movie-buff indiscretions, and that his ultimatum may come back to bite him on the bum.

RIP Moodz

The radio community in Wellington is in shock this morning at the sudden death of long-time sports broadcaster Graeme Moody; the Dom-Post reports:

Veteran radio broadcaster Graeme Moody has died in a surfing accident in Australia a day before he was due to fly home.

The Wellington-based sports reporter drowned while surfing off the far north coast of New South Wales about 2.45pm NZT yesterday.

Other surfers saw he was in trouble and brought him ashore unconscious.

Paramedics tried to revive him but he died at Angourie Beach, near Yamba.

His distinctive voice would be sorely missed by loyal listeners throughout the country, friend and fellow sports broadcaster Bryan Waddle told The Dominion Post last night.

"It's a massive shock because it just came out of the blue and he was happy doing something that he really loved. Every year he went to Australia for a holiday with his wife Bev."

We're surprised to learn that "Moodz" was 60; he's been around a while, but there was always a youthful enthusiam in his commentries. And he's covered the whole gambit; read on:

Moody was a sports reporter and commentator on NewsTalk ZB for 35 years covering major event including the Olympic Games, rugby world cups, Commonwealth Games and America's Cup yachting.

He spent the 1990s commentating and travelling with the All Blacks but got sick of being away from home, he told the Wellingtonian newspaper last year.

"The touring life is a real limbo-land, airports, hotels, training, matches. It's quite a lonely existence," he said.

He relayed the devastating 1995 Rugby World Cup final from Ellis Park, which saw the All Blacks beaten by South Africa.

"It was a totally draining, almost surreal experience."

And he will leave a big hole in the studios of Newstalk ZB in Wellington:

The Wellington College old-boy celebrated his 60th birthday last week.

"He biked to work every day. He looked like a 40-year-old.", Newstalk ZB Wellington operations manager Jason Pine said.

He described "Moodz" as an unassuming and humble bloke who was well liked and respected in all facets of his life.

"He had three loves his wife Bev, surfing and rugby. It just won't be the same without him. He was just so universally loved. He's just synonymous with rugby in particular."

He was lined up to cover the upcoming Rugby World Cup tournament.

"He just had an ability to paint a picture for an audience. He was able to bring excitment into things at the right time. He was just an absolute shining light in our office and is someone who will be missed terribly."

Graeme Moody was an avid surfer, and there's a bitter irony in him dying doing something he loved so much. To his wife Bev, and to his colleagues in the Newstalk ZB Wellington studios; our thoughts, prayers and aroha are with you. Rugby matches out of Wellington just won't sound the same. Rest peacefully Moodz.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why we love the Ranfurly Shield part deux

Taranaki 15; Southland 12

Another day; another cliffhanger of a Ranfurly Shield game. Taranaki hung on for their lives in the dying minutes of the match in Invercargill tonight, but have deservedly won the Log of Wood, 15 years to the day since their last successful challenge in 1996.

It was a match for the rugby purists; no tries scored, and a ding-dong battle between two never-back-down forward packs. But that's the magic of the Ranfurly Shield; the tension and drama of a sudden death match creates its own excitement.

Southland's tenure of the Ranfurly Shield has been brief this year, but that's what an All Black-less ITM Cup is delivering; an even competition, with no match being a foregone conclusion. The Taranaki boys will have a wee celebration tonight; of that there's no doubt. But tomorrow they start preparations for 2011's only defence; against Hawkes Bay at the weekend.

It's great to see the Ranfurly Shield moving around again after too many years where Auckland and Canterbury dominated its possession. We again implore the NZRU; don't even contemplate changing the Ranfurly Shield format. New Zealand rugby's most sought-after trophy is in great health just the way it is!

Has Clare been muzzled?

Clare Curran clocked up a pretty spectacular SMOG (Social Media Own Goal) on Monday; one which attracted attention far beyond the blogophere.

So we noted this comment in the Dom-Posts Politics Briefs with some interest:

BLOGOSPHERE 'FERALS' MAKEthe hard word might have been put CURRAN CIRCUMSPECT

Labour MP Clare Curran was unusually quiet on social media yesterday. Usually a prolific Tweeter, she posted no 140-character updates. Perhaps the party's communications and IT spokeswoman was feeling bruised by the storm her Red Alert blog posts created. Ms Curran came under fire for attacking the Greens and appearing to expect support from the Left rather than earning it. She denied she was ordered to keep quiet by party bosses, adding that she didn't want to fuel "people going feral" in the blogosphere.

Whaddya reckon Dear Readers; was Clare Curran's Twitter and blog silence yesterday self-imposed? Or do you think that the hard word might have been put on her by someone higher up Labour's food chain?

Perhaps Clare took the advice we so helpfully offered her yesterday; when you're in a hole; stop digging!

A neat story

There were lots of human interest stories yesterday and today with the naming of the All Black side. But we reckon that this one, with its associated picture is the pick of the bunch - the Dom-Post reports:

An overwhelmed Amie Jane, wife of Cory and mother of three, found out on Sunday that her man had made the squad but was under strict instructions not to reveal anything until the official announcement was made.

"I had to avoid people because I can't lie, so I wasn't able to see family members because they would see it all over my face. It got to the point where I was avoiding phone calls and text messages."

Excitement aside, it would be difficult to cope with her husband being away so much during the Cup campaign, with kids Cassius, five, Tennyson, 22 months, and Prisseis, four months, to look after.

"I'm kind of putting it in my mind that I'm going to be a solo parent for the next couple of months.

"Cassius said the other day: `I want my dad to come home now,' and I said, `He's busy being a hero.' But it's going to be worth it when we win."

We love Amie Jane's optimism. A couple of months ago, Cory Jane was injured and out of form, and playing in a team that was in the process of disintegrating. The Rugby World Cup must have seemed a million miles away. But now he's been selected, and he has already shown that he is a player who thrives on the big occasion. There won't be a bigger one is his career than a Rugby World Cup tournament in his own backyard.

And Amie Jane is predicting big things; read on:

Although there have been more than 1000 All Blacks, her husband would be one of the few who could say they had won a World Cup, she confidently predicted.

"When he's an old man he will be able to sit back in his rocking chair and go, `Woo-hoo'."

There have actually been well over 1000 All Blacks; Jarrod Hoeata became All Black #1109 when he played against Fiji in Dunedin a few weeks back. Only 30 so far can claim to have been World Champions. We hope that number doubles one Saturday night in October!

And to the wives, partners and families of the chosen thirty players; thanks for the scarifices you are making to make those rocking-chair moments possible!