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Sunday, October 23, 2011

20th October – Sitting in the Dock of the Bay

The van got stick in the mud this morning. After 3 months of torrential rain (it certainly sounded like that from the noise on the top of the van roof), the ground was soft, and reversing, I couldn’t get over the bump to the road, and I couldn’t move it forward either. Despite finding 4 Kiwi men, an Ausiie and a Frenchman, to push, it still wouldn’t move. In the end, a tow rope pulled me out. I kept the revs low, but the owner told me it was the first time anyone had got stuck there. HMMMM…..

Because I didn’t take much liquid yesterday, I over compensated today, and so every hour on the hour, driving back to Auckland I had to stop. With an afternoon, sorting out my administration (e-mails, blogs, Facebook), meant that I’d thought I’d have nothing to write about. I’d spotted a game of rugby on at Ponsonby Rugby Club, a club I’d visited before, and as it was to raise money for Christchurch’s earthquake appeal, and cheaper than the cinema and theatre, I went along.

It was a challenge match between Kelston Boys (Auckland) and Christchurch Boys to be ‘champions’ of NZ. (Christchurch won 15-12). It was good to be among ‘grass roots’ rugby folk. Ponsonby have benefitted greatly from the World Cup, with Auckland Council refitting their changing rooms, highering their ceiling in their clubhouse, (although it was very sanitised from what it was in 2005 – from a cosy, slightly seedy feel, to a hospital waiting room,) new floodlights and a relaid pitch for the training sessions. Job well done, thank you very much. I don’t suppose the RFU and local Councils will put anything into the community clubs around the country at the next World Cup. The blazers will not stand up to the RFU or Premiership to get the money into the clubs. Mind you Ponsonby is like many community clubs around New Zealand and the UK. The coaches aren’t paid, they have 10 adult teams, 44 junior teams and around 1000 players in all. (Burton is about half that size). As is the case at these clubs, you could see the over-worked volunteers buzzing around doing the jobs like players meals, running the bars etc. This includes Bryan Williams, an ex-All Black plyer and the father to the Samoan full back Paul Williams, who was sent off for flooring a South African lock (legend).

That day, the game and the club featured heavily on the 6pm news magazine show. Bryan Williams was obviously featured, along with an English couple who had cycled from HQ down to Eden Park. Their story was featured in a display in the clubhouse.

The PA system didn’t quite work and there were 5 middle aged women in their ‘Royal Box’ chatting. I can think of 5 women who regularly sit in the Royal Box at Burton, and listening to their conversations, there were very similar topics. They were watching the game but talking about anything other than rugby. 12,000 but the clubs were similar.

The game, as I would expect from 18 year olds, was played with a joy, and a lack of fear to try things that disappears in adult rugby. They try out ideas that adults won’t and their coaches are probably watching it from behind the settees. It made for an enjoyable game that was won by a touchline penalty 3 minutes from time.

I also got to speak to a journalist from a rugby paper in the UK. Interesting stuff. From what he was saying, it was not only on the pitch that England were a shambles, the RFU is as well, and it puts organising the next World Cup into doubt – certain individuals have lost the plot as he put it. He is of a similar mind though – that Nick Mallet could sort the playing side out.

A quiet day, but an eventful evening.

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding – I’m back at Westhaven Harbour, Auckland. Back in the UK, many years ago, I was told of a friend’s cousin who was a musician. He named his son Otis. ‘What after Otis Redding? I asked, ‘No, came the reply, ‘He was conceived in a lift.’   

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