What a stinker of a day to welcome the All Blacks back to Aotearoa - shot Auckland. Writing this, I'm looking out the window as trees are bending sideways in front of a grey backdrop knowing that somewhere down the road the All Blacks are preparing to put smiles on faces regardless of the weather.
The All Blacks' victory tour is about to get underway with the fellas set to host a little shin-dig in Auckland city at noon, in the rain and they'll then head south. Apparently not south enough as many folks in the deep south aren't happy that the All Blacks won't head down to Dunedin and while I get where ya'll southerners are coming from, the All Blacks can't go everywhere - maybe you'll get a creative compromise? The All Blacks victory tour will ensure that the happiness and good vibes are stretched out a little longer, but come noon tomorrow, all my attention will be switched on to another trans-Tasman clash in Brisbane.
I've rolled with this trans-Tasman theme for a week and a half now, which I reckon is fair enough as we've been graced with an abundance on trans-Tasman sports this year and it's all snuck up on me. I don't want this to end and we can't take epic sporting clashes against Australia for granted, especially in cricket where they have been few and far between.
Leading the way in the cricket this week has been the war of words between the BLACKCAPS and Australia. I don't usually like to hype up the words of players leading into a series as I prefer to dive into actual semi-analysis ... instead of twisting words and so on, only this time it's something new and it's fun, and they're Aussies, and we're kiwis and both cricket teams are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum - IT DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS.
When Australia ruffled England's feathers a few years ago, I loved it. I love the way Australia play cricket with their big mouths and bravado as it makes cricket automatically exciting; you know something fun is going to happen to spice up the contest and to an extent (obviously don't need to break arms etc) it is great for cricket.
There needs to be balance though and I also love the way the BLACKCAPS play cricket, even if it does feel like they are trying really hard to be nice. Most of the time it's a geuine kiwi niceness, sometimes though Brendon McCullum chirps up from his spot on top of his Niceness Throne (who else misses Game Of Thrones?). The differences in the way both teams play their cricket makes this a must-watch series in my eyes as you're going to see two different styles in action and which one holds greater influence over the winning of a cricket game.
Hint - Australia won the Cricket World Cup.
Different styles and then sprinkle some trans-Tasman herbs on top ... fuck it, whack the whole lot in there. Trans-Tasman sport is the gift that keeps on giving right now and while the Rugby World Cup final was fairly epic, this cricket series is about as pure a trans-Tasman contest that you will get. If you're reading this and you know nothing about Australia and New Zealand, our relationship and our love for sport then the cricket will suss it all out for you.
I came across a great yarn from the Guardian, one that many kiwis should read not only to sit in awe at Steve Hansen and his coaching staff but also use as inspiration or motivation. I won't taint Shag's words with my own thoughts, just have a read and come to your own conclusions and hopefully put it to good use in your life...
"No10s need to be playing consistently, to get a feel of a team and to know when to push what buttons. Some will say we took a punt on him but for us it was about giving him as long a run as we could. By his own admission he wasn’t anywhere near his best earlier this year but there was a belief Dan was the player for this tournament. Sometimes big players need the big-pressure moments to bring the best out of them.”
“You learn a lot about yourself when you’re in uniform. You learn to face your fears and how to deal with situations. I did a lot of jobs. One of the best I ever did was working in a freezing works. It was like a university in its own right. Some scallywags work in there … you just learn about life. I’m pretty non-judgmental, I don’t think it’s right to judge people other than the way you find them. That’s what I do in the rugby team. I just judge everybody how I find them and treat them accordingly. We don’t have a lot of rules but we do have a lot of expectations. If people aren’t living up to those expectations we’ll tell them.”
“I thought Spain were a great model when they won the European Championship then the World Cup. They just about won everything but then threw it away.
“Something’s happened there – people say it’s cyclical but you only go cyclical because you get comfortable and stop working hard. You’ve got to be honest with yourselves. At some point we’ve now got to ask: where do we go next? Ask some really hard questions and try to find the inconvenient facts. The stuff that winning sometimes glosses over and you don’t want to admit to yourself.”
"When I first came in we were the No1 side in the world and had just won the World Cup. Was it going to be same old, same old or were we going to set an aspiration so massively high people would probably think it was stupid? Or are you going to set the bar low? I decided we’d set it really high and leave it to others to say if we’ve achieved it or not.” Anyone wishing to overtake the All Blacks will have to catch them first."
This kerfuffle around Sam Burgess has me giggling. People ask me what I think about Burgess coming back to the NRL and my reply is simply that I don't care ... which isn't because I don't care about Burgess or because I don't like him, or because I hate the Australian media's insecurity (maybe). I don't care about it because I'm overly fussed whether Burgess tries to make something out of his move to rugby or he comes back to the NRL - either way I'll be happy. I honestly think Burgess can help English rugby and many people are using Burgess as a scapegoat when England's problems are far greater than a code-hopper.
Burgess will obviously go well in the NRL again so it'll be cool to see him back in Australia as well. I just want to see Burgess playing well in either sport, hence I don't care what sport it is.
Cheeky Steven Adams update...
30/10 vs Orlando Magic - 36 mins, 9 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
1/11 vs Denver Nuggets - 22 mins, 2 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, 2 blks,
3/11 vs Houston Rockets - 19 mins, 5 pts, 3 rebs, 1 stl