Lance: happier times

January 16, 2013


January 15, 2013

Whatever else Lance Armstrong says in his interview with Oprah, remember this:

Otago cricket needs name change

January 9, 2013

It’s probably beyond time but we have to start taking the Otago Volts seriously in this year’s HRV Cup.
Six wins from seven starts and the Volts are favourites to bank a home final later this month.
I like T20 better than I should admit to, and I like what I’ve seen of the Volts.
The scoring hasn’t been dominated by one player, rather it’s been spread around a handful of batsmen who are all in form at the moment.
And Otago has a balanced bowling attack, with quality spin options in Nick Beard and Nathan McCullum — arguably one of the best limited overs slow bowlers in the world — backing up a solid crew of medium pacers including Southland’s Jacob Duffy.
I like T20 because it’s the only form of cricket — other than the first innings of a New Zealand v South Africa test — that I can watch from beginning to end.
And now that teams are starting to get the hang of the shortened, shortened form of the game, you will see the momentum swing back and forward in the space of a few overs.
There is no argument about how much longer 50-over cricket can last, it’s dead in the water now.
Duffy’s form has been so hot for the Volts — he’s the competition’s leading wicket-taker, with some handy scalps to boot, that it adds considerable weight to a campaign of mine — to have Otago renamed Southern Districts.
We already have Northern Districts (not Waikato) and Central Districts (not Manawatu or New Plymouth) and yet anyone not living in Dunedin is forced to follow a team which goes by a name many of us were brought up to despise.
It took the rugby dullards some years to work this out, and I’ve always considered the gentlemen’s game to be a level smarter.
Otago can’t produce enough cricketers to be competitive in New Zealand cricket. It has done well in recent years picking up the discards of other provinces, but it desperately needs a name change to help it make the most of the region it draws from.

Calling all Highlanders fans

January 4, 2013

The Highlanders start their season on February 22 against the Chiefs in Dunedin.
In the offseason they’ve signed x-factor players Ma’a Nonu and Brad Thorn, along with fellow All Black prop Tony Woodcock to join a roster which includes Ben Smith, Tamati Ellison and Hosea Gear.
Add in the fact that Colin Slade and Lima Sopoaga, who are both quality, if unlucky, players, and you have to think that at some stage the Highlanders have to turn into a fairly entertaining outfit.
The question Highlanders officials will be asking themselves will be, is it enough to get people off the couch and into Dunedin Stadium?
So, is it?
What will it take to get an Invercargill rugby fan to fill up a car with mates and tackle the near five-hour return journey to Dunedin on a Friday night? Or the long haul from Queenstown to Dunedin?
The Highlanders have picked up their share of admirers over the past two years under Jamie Joseph without actually doing a heck of a lot other than dragging themselves from near the bottom of the table to the middle of the pack.
They aren’t shirking the fact they now have a team capable of winning the competition, but so do half a dozen other franchises.
There’s still plenty of room on the bandwagon. What will it take to get you on board?

Had you forgotten about this guy?

January 3, 2013

Hopefully this won’t be the most you will see of injury-prone Highlanders first five Colin Slade this season. Remember it wasn’t that long ago – the 2011 World Cup in fact – that he was preferred to Aaron Cruden as Dan Carter’s All Black back-up.

Not so good then

January 3, 2013

Ok. So that was pretty bad.
New Zealand’s third-worst test score, the worst in more than half a century. Kane Williamson top scores with 13.
To be honest, I pulled the pin with New Zealand already teetering at 14 for three. We looked like rabbits caught in the headlights, crease bound and inferior against what is an outstanding pace attack.
Brendon McCullum’s decision to bat first with the pitch offering probably the only assistance it will give to the seamers will be torn to shreds by those with 20/20 hindsight.
For mine it had echoes of the T20 series opener when McCullum chose to bat first and a nervous looking New Zealand team failed with the bat.
I went to bed hoping against hope that at least a couple of the New Zealand batsmen would be able to mount a rear-guard action and at least get us through to something like 150.In all likelihood, if McCullum had’ve fielded, New Zealand might have chipped a couple out early but then we would have still been struggling on a pitch which had no demons on the first day, according to Shaun Pollock.
Better teams than New Zealand, ie Australia, have suffered humiliating collapses against South Africa at Newlands, what I want to see now is a team which has the spine to at least go down swinging.
In a blog yesterday I suggested it might be enough to see New Zealand win a session in this opening test. Now I’d be happier if we saw New Zealand have the better of an hour.No wonder the South Africans were struggling to sell tickets to days four and five of this test, both teams will be back in the nets by then.


January 2, 2013

What are you reallly hoping to see from the New Zealand cricket team during this test series against South Africa?
Things get underway from 9.30pm tonight (NZ time) at the Newlands ground in Cape Town.
It’s hard to see things being anything but one-way traffic with New Zealand, a $9 outsider, missing their best batsman (Ross Taylor) and best bowler (Tim Southee).
The South Africans, meanwhile, just look very, very good. They have ambitions of being the best team in the world and won’t be expecting the Black Caps to be much of a speed bump on the way there, especially when you’ve got this bloke in your team.Expectations of New Zealand cricket are at an all time low in all forms of the game, but there is interest in how Brendon McCullum will go leading the team.
It’s all well and good to have an attacking skipper, but it’s hard to do anything with that mindset if you don’t have runs to play with or bowlers capable of making inroads.
I guess all we really want to see is a bit of fight from our cricketers. It’s something that New Zealand cricket teams have been known for in the past and it’s something that has seen them get results despite generally being outskilled by their opposition.
That fight hasn’t been evident in a lot of their recent performances, although it was there when Taylor batted so well to lead New Zealand to a test win over the Sri Lankans.
There were signs of it during the T20 series against the Yapies, and hopefully that will flow through to the test series.
Maybe then New Zealand will at least get the better of a few sessions, maybe even sneak a draw.

Running Mum

January 1, 2013

The boss has made her writing debut for the Southland Times. Hertis

Who am I?

No-one special, except to my family and friends.

I’m a 37-year-old busy working mum of four wonderful children (five including my husband).

What am I doing and why?

Most days I’m chasing my tail, but the reason for this column is my hubby and sports editor, Nathan Burdon, was looking for a female columnist.

A mum, looking to get back into exercise while coping with the everyday challenges of raising a family.

Someone suggested he look in his own backyard.

My main reservation was the fact that I would actually have to do some exercise instead of just talking about it or finding excuses not to do it.

My goal is to get my running fitness back and complete the Southern Lakes Half Marathon, in Wanaka, on March 31.

I’ve never done a half-marathon before and at the moment I jog for five minutes, then get the stitch or get puffed and have to stop and walk for a couple of minutes before I start the process again.

The challenges I face are ones that many people will be able to relate to.

I’m busy with my fabulous daughters, aged 2, 4, 11 and 14. I get tired. I don’t have a lot of spare time and it’s hard to stick to a routine.

Another issue is battling my own thought processes. I used to run competitively when I was at school. I’ve also played competitive netball and rugby, as well as other social sports, but I stopped all competitive sport about five years ago.

People who know me think I’m a naturally fit person. I’m not overweight, so many assume I do exercise, but looks are deceiving.

My brain actually thinks I’m fit, but whenever I’ve tried to get back into running, I get injured.

I start off too hard and fast and the body can’t keep up with the brain. I’m past the point of relying on natural ability.

I also want to do well in events. I worry about people seeing me in the back group when I used to be a competitive sportswoman.

I know it is silly to think like that and I need to harden up and get over it.

I’m no writer, but if you decide to follow my progress during the next few months, expect a simple, honest and to-the-point column. I look forward to sharing my journey with you.

That’s a wrap

January 1, 2013

Twelve months ago we spoke to the three coaches of our local professional sporting franchises – the Stags, Steel and Sharks.

They expressed plenty of hope, as you tend to do with the summer in full swing and the season still some months away.

Of those three coaches – David Henderson, Natalie Avellino and Richard Dickel – two have fallen by the wayside after difficult seasons.

Avellino will be Janine Southby’s assistant in 2013 after sharing the duties with her this year, while Dickel was ousted in favour of Paul Henare after his first losing season in charge of the fledgling franchise.

Steel started in outstanding fashion with a win over a Magic side that would eventually go on to win the trans-Tasman competition, but there wasn’t much to write about after that – other than the form of Donna Wilkins.

The Stags had an awful start, not helped by injuries to key players, but managed to recover sufficiently to make the semifinals – the top four of a seven-team competition – and a play-off game against Counties Manukau.

Of course, that game will be remembered for that scary incident involving Hoani Macdonald that almost cost the father of two, who gets married in a few days’ time, his life. Thankfully, Macdonald is still with us and we may even see him in the Stags coaching box in the future.

You can argue that the Sharks never really got going, and Dickel eventually became the scapegoat.

The New Zealand NBL is not a strong competition; certainly it’s weaker than netball’s trans-Tasman series of the NPC, so the expectations have to be higher.

But 2013 will be an interesting year for all three franchises.

The Stags showed glimpses this season that the young players within the squad are ready to make an impression.

Robbie Robinson, Marty McKenzie and Cardiff Vaega could form the backbone of an exciting backline, while Junior Ngaluafe has promise.

Steel, often through lack of choice, have banked on youth.

It’s a game plan that could pay dividends in two or three seasons’ time, but professional sport does not offer that sort of luxury, and Steel will have to get some results this year.

Incoming chief executive Sue Clarke has some interesting challenges ahead of her.

The franchise is split geographically, with the head coach and most of the players based in Dunedin, while the team’s fan, administration and sponsor base is in Invercargill.

Marrying together two disparate cities more than two hours apart is no easy thing, but Steel will never be a consistently well-performed team off the court unless the front office is strong.

After giving Steel a year to bed themselves in under a new coaching regime this year, the franchise can expect to face a bit more heat from us in 2013.

Unfortunately for both Steel and the Sharks, we face the prospect of another season in the velodrome as the interminable wait for the new stadium to be completed continues. The only positive about the velodrome as a centre court is the fact that without it, we’d have nothing.

The Sharks head into the post-Dickel era with some excitement.

The nature of the NBL means there’s no reason the Sharks shouldn’t look to dominate it the way Sting did in netball through the first decade of this century.

That is Paul Henare’s challenge: we wish him the best of luck.

While the Sharks, Steel and Sting will have heightened expectations around them in 2013, that pales into insignificance with what we should expect from the Highlanders starting in late February.

After some aggressive offseason recruitment, they will start their campaign with a team that rivals the franchise’s best, and anything other than a playoff finish would be considered a failure.

This week also marked the end of another era, with Brendon Egan leaving The Southland Times after three years.

This year’s winner of the Bell Journalism Prize, something we’ve been fortunate to dominate in the Times’ sport department over the years, Egan is heading off to get a taste of the world before settling back into his home town of Christchurch and a job as a sports writer at The Press.

Egan’s arrival coincided with the orange blossoming of the Sharks and he provided quality coverage of the team during their first three seasons.

It’s been great to have Egan in the office, particularly with Southland winning the Ranfurly Shield off his beloved Canterbury twice during that time.

Cool invention of the day

December 7, 2012

I’m not sure if this would actually make a difference but it is pretty cool.