September 26, 2011

So the RWC is in full swing, and despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the naysayers all across Aotearoa, it’s actually going kinda well.  Okay, there have been a few obvious blunders – more notably the Auckland transport chaos, the ho-hum opening ceremony (although I did get mildly gushy when old bung-kidney Jonah appeared through the mist), the typically highly variable performance of the match officiators, and of course the endless fucking noise of commentary, analysis and general match post-mortem from people we don’t give a toss about.  Much like this post really.  Yes, I can appreciate the irony of adding to the kerfuffle, but with my updated readership total of my Dad, 2 coworkers and now a friend from Japan, not to mention my heroic appearance and sublime performance in the solitary official game of rugby I have ever played[1], I’m feeling confident in my status as someone who can bring about a bit of value-add here.

The truth is, whether you like rugby and the RWC or you don’t; you’re still a dick.  Even the most vehement of opposers, including those saying that the economic burden of the competition on our fragile economy is unjustified, are still talking about rugby – so at least we are unified in the sense that we’re all jabbering on about the same crud.  Okay, I really don’t want to hear about how many oysters Radike Samo managed to scoff at the last press conference, and I couldn’t care less that Zac Guildford has gone on a bender in his hotel room just because he played like a narcoleptic thalidomide child, but there is a compelling draw exuding from what can only be described as a real world soap opera.  Maybe things will move to a whole new level and we’ll end up with a Cricket World Cup Bob Woolmer-esque incident to really rark things up a bit.

“The truth is, whether you like rugby and the RWC or you don’t; you’re still a dick.”

Not that the on-field antics have been lacklustre to the point of driving us to seek off-field drama; a bit of foul play always provides that extra bit of oomph to an already thrilling match.  Todd Clever’s blatant shoulder charge of that Russian bloke was right up there for me, including his effective subsequent acquital of all wrongdoing at the judiciary.  The match itself felt like a re-kindling of the now fairly frozen Cold War, and Clever’s shoulder-to-the-face manoeuvre was altogether very Team America.  Hoo-rah.   The banzai charging of the Japanese has been great (even if they capitulated and fielded a second-string team against the ABs to save themselves for the backyard dog cookers), and for the most part all of the minnow nations have been playing really well for at least 40 minutes of each game.

America, fuck yeah!

Petter De Villiers has been in typical fine form; ranting incoherently and doing his best to pretend like he knows what he is doing.  Dingo has been expectedly toothy.  Graeme Henry couldn’t be any more like Winston Churchill if he tried, although a bit of womanising, heavy drinking and cigar smoking might cap things off there.  Chris Paterson’s conversion attempt from out in front where he managed to soccer pass the ball along the ground and under the cross-bar was one of the best things I have ever seen; right up there with the time I saw Joe Strummer playing Clash songs at the BDO – I just couldn’t get enough of it, and must have watched it 10 times on replay.  The best part was the ref asking him seconds afterwards “How long have you been doing this?”.  Priceless.

Graham Henry

"We played well through the first 40. I thought the boys showed a lot of spirit."

I’m looking forward to the remainder of the tournament.  It’s been great to be able to limit my screaming at the television a bit.  Long gone are the days of me incessantly shouting “Pass the fucking ball, Nonu!”, or groaning as Toeava spills it just for a change.  Nine times out of ten now I’m just yelling “Spread it!”, like I’m obsessed with margarine or something.  I’ve even been particularly loving the insightful, witty and intelligent commentary offered by Stuart Barnes, and he’s a Pom!  I can in all honesty say that I don’t really mind whether the ABs win or loose, except to say that if we don’t pull off winning the whole thing, the endless witch hunting and finger pointing is going to get old as fast as it did the last time around.  Remember, we’re all still dicks – get over it already.

[1] Ever the under-performing miscreant, I grew up doing my best to ruin The Beautiful Game by playing it rather averagely at the best of times.  I played striker for 6 or 7 years, having the odd moment of glory, but generally played spectacularly poorly due to experiencing high levels of performance anxiety every time I put my boots on (no, not that sort of performance anxiety – that came later).  My Dad once commented that I went onto the soccer field looking like I was about to play a game of rugby, and I did have a tendency to end up injuring goal keepers as I ferociously attacked the ball they were attempting to dive on.  One morning after playing a game for North Wellington, I headed down to Kilbirnie to watch a friends rugby team play.  Arriving early, I stood around for the obligatory shit-talking with the players, who were mostly concerned about their lack of numbers.  Once they heard that I still had my soccer boots with me, I was instantly ‘on the team’, and about to play my first ever real match in the position of blind-side flanker.  Before the game began I was told (by some fuckwit) to rub a liberal amount of Tiger Balm onto my legs.  Either by virtue of having giant testicles that dangled beneath the bottoms of my shorts (highly likely), or just by being dimwitted enough to try and rearrange my own balls before going out to play with the oval one, I somehow ended up with a scrotal experience quite unlike any other to-date.  Now feeling more than fully wired and like being buried in a ruck would be welcome relief, I was ready.  Our team received the kickoff, and within 5 seconds of my first rugby game I was in my first maul (linked for all of you uneducated haters).  After about 15 seconds of mauling like a zoo-born tiger who got his first crack at a fence jumping psychiatric patient, I was utterly and incomprehensibly fucked.  Tired in the way that makes you just want to sit down and refuse to ever move again.  In hindsight, I don’t quite know how I managed to play the full 80 minutes.  I do know that I was almost entirely ineffective as a loose-forward, and that the exhaustion factor limited my tackling ability.  But I did manage to punch one of my own team members in the face in another maul later in the game which I think is a fairly spectacular achievement.  Oh and I scored a try after the opposition failed to clean up a line-out win on their own 5 metre line, where I pounced on the ball inside the end-goal and then immediately looked up apologetically towards the referee for having been so blatantly off-side.  Must have been Wayne Barnes refereeing that day, because suddenly we were 5 points up and I was a hero.  Anyway, I’m not saying that Keiran Read is shit, but let’s be honest – if Winston needs me, I’m ready to put the boots back on.

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