Editor’s Note: A few months ago a disaster struck the fine nation of New Zealand. One of epic and tumultuous proportions. John Campbell left Campbell Live.
The rumours had started up a while before. They were gonna replace his cutting-edge investigative journalist’s platform for more sloppy ‘Reality TV’. Maybe another vehicle for those irresponsible Jono & Ben loons. Well, New Zealand spoke. Petitions were signed and ratings were inflated. And then those Mediaworks bastards cut him loose anyway.
So we at The Niche Cache put out a few feelers. Hey, Johnny? You rate yourself as a man of the people, well so do we. Put the ol’ severance cheque where your mouth is and come do something for us! His response was enthusiastic, but then Sky TV came along and poached him. Still, he promised some freelance stuff and dutifully he delivered with this minute by minute reaction. Initially he’d said it might be a conflict of interest since he was literally working for someone else at the time. We said, mate, you’ve got a contract (he didn’t, not with us anyway, but that was enough to rub salt into some old wounds). Mr Campbell obliged.
Preview: G’day New Zealand. I’m John Campbell reporting from beautiful Apia and it’s a bloody privilege to be speaking to you once more. Tell you what else, it’s bloody marvellous to here in Samoa too. What a nation, what an occasion. Thank you for making this a reality, New Zealand. It was your voices that did it. I’ve never been prouder to be a kiwi (except for when we won the World Cup of course!).
I flew in last week with my production team (Frank the cameraman, Larry the other cameraman, Barry the editor, Steve the sound guy, Sharon my secretary and Macca the bloke who’s teaching me to use an iPad). We wanted to spend some extra time in the country soaking up the atmosphere and getting a read on the local anticipation. If you thought that we loved our rugby in NZ then you have no idea. Children were running down the street, playing touch with an old Gilbert. We even saw one youngster in a Hurricanes jersey! Samoan and New Zealand flags were flying from cars – it was like the party had already started. The local transit board tried to ban the flags, but thankfully the people spoke up and common sense prevailed. Well done Samoa. This really is a marvellous country.
Last May on Campbell Live we started something special. The All Blacks had never played in Samoa, despite the fine citizens of Samoa being some of the team’s biggest and most passionate fans. Just look at the long list of All Blacks of Samoan heritage, brilliant players like Julian Savea, Tana Umaga, and the incomparable, irreplaceable Jerry Collins (may he rest in peace). And yet only five times before have the ABs ever played against their Samoan cousins.
Manu Samoa struggle every year for quality competition and far too often these wonderful, rugby-loving people are denied the chance to see their heroes play live because the bigger sides are too worried about cash revenue. We said enough is enough. You agreed.
Now this historic match is finally happening. 91 years in the making, folks. It almost brings a tear to the eye. It really can’t be stressed enough, New Zealand: this whole thing is just bloody MARVELLOUS.
I spent all morning in a frenzy of excitement. I reckon I only had a couple of hours sleep last night, I was like a kid on Christmas morning!
When I finally did fall asleep I had this nightmare that I was on Come Dine With Me NZ with Paul Holmes, Hillary Barry and Mike McRoberts and they were all ganging up on me. I burnt the main course and had to dash down the street to KFC to replace it but when I got there they wouldn’t serve me. I started yelling at the dark, hooded figure behind the counter and they stepped forward into the light and it was actually my father and he was telling me I’d never make it as a television journalist. I said: “You’re wrong dad, you’re wrong! I have a show on TV3!” and he said: “Not any more, son…”
I woke up in a sweat and then I remembered where I was. I showered and put my patterned shirt, lei and lava-lava on. What a magical day in a gorgeous city. This means so much to the people of Samoa. Pride and respect, that’s the message of this game. The All Blacks finally saying thank you to their Pacific cousins. It’s a national holiday here. The reception that the ABs got at the airport on arrival and at the parade yesterday… it was unbelievable to witness the passion. The last time we saw that kind of thing in New Zealand was when the Tongans and Samoans arrived in 2011 for the World Cup. We can take our rugby for granted sometimes and this was a welcome wake up call to so many of us who are spoiled by our own riches.
New Zealand have named a decidedly stronger team than Manu Samoa (even without their Hurricanes!), but this game is not about the result. I fully expect to see the home team rise for the occasion. They’ll feed off the atmosphere and prove plenty of doubters wrong. They already have, just by being here. Fantastic. Sport just has this way of uniting people, doesn’t it? I bloody love it.
Conditions: It’s almost time, folks. The crowd is in raptures and I’ve got goose-bumps all over me! They’re singing the anthems now and I’m trying to find a towel to wipe the sweat from under my armpits. It’s bloody steaming here, I have to say! Not too bad for rugby though, it’s certainly cooled down in the last few hours. And I didn’t think I’d be able to say this, but my skinny self is handling the heat better than my Sky TV co-host Jeff Wilson is at least!
Two stunning renditions of the national anthems there and I’ve never seen two more passionate challenges than that Haka or that Siva Tau either. This is one of the most inspiring days I've ever experienced. This is what happens when we join together to fight for what we believe in. Congratulations to all involved, this is your day. Let's enjoy it.
Kickoff: We're underway, after 91 years in the making! Sam Whitelock claims the kick, Andy Ellis pumps it forward. I’m so dizzy with excitement! The All Blacks knock on in the Samoan half and then concede a penalty on the scrum. Ah, rugby.
3 mins: Some crunching tackles happening already. I can feel the ripples from my seat in the crowd. Kieran Read knocks on, hope that hand of his is okay.
5 mins: A couple of nice touches for Sonny Bill, who also drives over the top to earn a turnover. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting SBW a few times, I spoke with him yesterday in fact. He’s a magnificent man.
6 mins: The All Blacks win a penalty and Richie and the boys show some great respect for their opponents in taking the points. Dan Carter boots it over, 3-0 to NZ. Respect, that’s what this day is all about.
9 mins: Some sloppy moments. Oh, I forgot to say I ran into Shag before, doesn’t he look the part!
11 mins: George Moala is driven back by Alesana Tuilagi in a tackle and knocks it on. Call that your initiation into international rugby, mate. Beats having Carol Hirschfeld putting vinegar in your coffee every morning.
13 mins: DC shanks one off the tee, still 3-0. ABs dominating the territory but showing wonderful respect. Solid defence by the mighty Manu Samoa.
17 mins: 6-0, Dan Carter nails this one… off the post. Had me sweating even more than usual for a second there!
19 mins: A penalty to Samoa, here’s their first real chance to attack. I saw John Key before but he wouldn’t talk to me. There something about these Prime Ministers, they all have such thin skin. There’s a knock on and the All Blacks kick clear.
21 mins: Blood bin substitution, Luke Romano hit by friendly fire. Owen Franks crushed him with a stray elbow. Left his face even messier than Seven Sharp.
23 mins: 6-3 now. Tusi Pisi with a marvellous penalty kick from 50 metres out. Richie McCaw gave away the penalty, but I don’t believe he’d ever have done it on purpose. He’s a champion, our Richie.
26 mins: Discipline and handling a little off for both teams. Not what we wanna see in a World Cup year! Dan Carter to take his fourth shot at goal, 40 metres out. No problem there, 9-3 is the score. Nothing close to a try yet from either side but the atmosphere is electric all the same!
27 mins: FALCON! Andy Ellis bombing the ball out from inside his own 22 and it lands right on the forehead of the sideline official! I laughed so hard I nearly spilled by mineral water!
30 mins: All Blacks with an opportunity now, five metres out with a lineout feed but the throw isn’t straight and it’s been knocked on anyway. Shag won’t be pleased, not that you can tell with that man. Boy, it’s toasty here. I haven’t sweated so hard since the last time I interviewed Helen Clark.
34 mins: Penalty in the scrum. Dan Carter makes it 12-3.
35 mins: Jeez, I’m really cooking here. Good golly.
38 mins: Another knock on, this time from Ryan Crotty. Wouldn’t have happened with a ‘Canes centre like Conrad Smith in there!
Half-Time: Fittingly it’s a knock on to end the half with the score line 12-3. Plenty of rustiness from the kiwis by the looks of it, not everyone can flawlessly fit back into performing live after months off. No tries and nothing close to resembling one. If I were back at my old job, I’d call it a slow news day, but the crowd has loved every minute of it. It’s not about the result, it’s about the occasion. And a marvellous one it is too. I’m off to watch some rousing cultural half-time entertainment and maybe try find a sponge bath. Join me after the break, will you?
40 mins: Welcome back to John Campbell’s Minute By Minute Report of the All Blacks vs Manu Samoa test in Apia. I’m John Campbell. Well, the first half wasn’t very open and hopefully the crowd has a few more reasons to cheer in the next 40 minutes, because after 91 years they deserve it.
Still 40 mins: Whoops-a-daisy, Dan Carter puts the kick off out on the full.
41 mins: Stunning strength from George Moala to put the raging Tuilagi over the sideline.
43 mins: Fun fact courtesy of the kind and generous people at Sky Sports: Alafoti Fa'osiliva is the only man in the Samoan squad who also played the last time these two proud, rugby-loving nations met. About time.
47 mins: TRY! TRY! TRY! Oh, gosh, I nearly fell out of my seat then! George Moala scores a stunning try on debut, running onto a chip over the top from Dan Carter, who converts it as well as setting it up. Stone the crows, what a try that was! Like watching my beloved Hurricanes! Score now 19-3.
50 mins: Samoa hit back with a chip kick of their own. Dagg misplays it then someone else comes in offside and Pisi kicks it over from right out in front. 19-6. Wonderful stuff.
52 mins: Another penalty against New Zealand. Tusi Pisi has a go from over halfway but it falls agonisingly short, bouncing back off the frame. An incredible effort, he can be very proud of that attempt.
53 mins: On comes Colin Slade for Israel Dagg, who’s been ineffective. My wife thinks I look like Colin Slade. I let her go along with it. I’m glad he’s back in contention.
55 mins: Pisi with his third successful penalty goal. 19-9, Manu Samoa have responded with great passion since the All Blacks scored. A couple of magnificent runs off the back of the restart too.
57 mins: Nepo Laulala makes his All Blacks debut, coming on for Owen Franks. Congratulations, it’s a wonderful achievement. Every young boy in New Zealand dreams of this moment and it’s even more special to arrive on such a magical day.
58 mins: Dan Carter lines one up from half way. Truer than the fact-checking department on the late Campbell Live. 22-9 to New Zealand. I think the heat’s starting to make me tipsy.
59 mins: On comes Retallick and off goes Whitelock. More changes in the All Blacks line-up than the Seven Days one! Did I make fun of them already? Eh...
62 mins: A capacity crowd here of over 8000 people. Absolutely marvellous.
63 mins: Hika Elliot is coming on, what a fantastic comeback story his is! Leaves some hope for NZ Current Affairs broadcasting after all. Brad Weber is on too, he’s making his debut. Good lad.
65 mins: OH MY GIDDY AUNT! TRY TO MANU SAMOA! Fa'osiliva goes steaming through a hole in the defence, then storms through another two phases later, Colin Slade had no chance of stopping him. Magnificent. Marvellous. Fantastic. BLOODY GREAT! 22-16 with 14 minutes left now. I TOLD you they needed to play this test, I TOLD you!
67 mins: Dan Carter kicks to Charlie Piutau on the wing, but it narrowly evades him. Almost hit right back.
68 mins: Piutau gets smashed under a high ball but recycles it quickly. SBW gets a chance to do his thing down the right flank only he throws his offload forward. Luke Romanu’s face has been rearranged. The crowd is on their feet. I can’t seem to stop giggling.
72 mins: Isn’t rugby just marvellous!
73 mins: Weber kicks the ball dead on a counter attack. Someone just called me ‘uso’. This is the greatest day of my life.
74 mins: All Blacks win a penalty in the scrum. Big effort. Laulala is beaming. Isn’t it just grand to see such passion from our All Blacks? This is why these tests are so important. Dan Carter pushes the score out to 25-16 from the tee.
77 mins: Magical break from Piutau, surely the ABs will score? Nope, Weber’s caught on the inside and the ball was sloppy through the hands.
80 mins: One last chance for Samoa but it’s lost. Time’s up and the All Blacks try to run it out. It’s turned over, and then turned back over. Charlie Ngatai boots it out to end the game. He must have come on while I was changing shirts for the post-match. A wonderful game of rugby, the All Blacks win 25-16. Superb stuff. A credit to all involved and a day that nobody will ever forget. I could go on for hours, but I’ve got to be on television in a few minutes.
Ka kite ano and have a very good night.
(Obviously this was a parody article. You will have already figured that out if you read it all. But if you didn't read it and you jumped to some other conclusion, well then that was a little silly, wasn't it?)