The Last Word: May 14

Hayden Meikle
Look around — there are plenty of positives.
Look, I understand. It feels like we live in a time of relentless awfulness, that while we are in many respects a highly privileged generation — seriously, fellow New Zealanders, we are embarrassingly fortunate in broad terms — we are flooded on a daily basis with a reminder that life is hard.

There is a climate crisis, the cost of living is spiralling, we have priced lots of people out of the housing market, fuel and groceries are killing our bank accounts, Russia has chosen war, the poison of social media has led to a tsunami of mental health problems, and there is a growing reluctance by some people in society to allow opinions that deviate even slightly from what they believe is right.

Sport is not immune — think of the awful commercialisation of the Olympics, the obscenity of nation states funding football teams, the obsession with winning medals over building sport from the ground up, the Crusaders, and so on.


But it’s not all bad!

A couple of my colleagues in the industry (not the two outstanding reporters sitting next to me) have been delivering the heat recently.

One, in particular, just wrote a column that, in effect, said: all New Zealand sport is absolutely awful.

I am here today to tell you that is not true.

To start with some Otago bias, we are awash with sporting brilliance. There is the Holy Trinity (Courtney Duncan, Erika Fairweather, Suzie Bates), of course. The Divine Duo (Holly Robinson and Anna Grimaldi). The brilliant big basketball boy Sam Timmins. And, of course, the wonderful Winter Olympians, led by the sublime Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous. All fabulous young people as well as exciting athletes.

  • The Highlanders have won three in a row! (Yes, dangerously, I am writing this early and presuming they beat the Force, and that the bizarre selection of a winger at first five did not backfire.) They’re a tiny franchise (not a club) and they show tons of ticker.
  • Super Pacific is ... OK it is not exactly a smash success so far. Crowds have been average, the playoff system is stupid (but we love it this year), and the rugby has only shone in fits and starts. But we finally have Pacific Island teams, we finally got rid of the dreadful time zones, and 12 is the right number of teams. Give it a chance.
  • Side note: these two numbers from the Hurricanes are bonkers but just brilliant. They have used FIFTY players in 11 games this season, due to Covid and injuries. Fifty! And that number includes no fewer than NINE hookers. Extraordinary.
  • No, the White Ferns did not do particularly well at the World Cup. But a reminder the Black Caps are reigning men’s test champions, and we are living in a time of both Kane Williamson and Devon Conway. We will not see their like again.
  • Speaking of cricket, did you know the leading wicket taker in ALL cricket (first-class, one-day, T20 combined) in the entire decade of the 2010s was ... wait for it ... Jeetan Patel. And you did not guess that.
  • The Black Ferns Sevens are awesome.
  • Lydia Ko is awesome. She looks so happy, and she’s playing great golf.
  • Steven Alker! What a story. And Ryan Fox is playing great too.


... really that bad

  • Liam Lawson will be in Formula 1 soon. Imagine if Kiwis top F1, Supercars (Giz) and IndyCars (Scotty Mac) at the same time.
  • The Commonwealth Games are just around the corner. Medals everywhere, heroes you never heard of, lots of fun.
  • The Wellington Phoenix is in the playoffs! A generous playoff system, to be sure. But after another brutally tough season for the Nix, making the top six is a fine achievement.
  • The Warriors are ... OK, they are not great. But what do people expect? The deck is stacked against them, and even to stay competitive in this league is difficult, let alone for a team that has spent three years on the road.
  • We are about to see an epic series between the All Blacks and Ireland. Brace yourselves.
  • Don’t like his sport, but Israel Adesanya gives New Zealand genuine star power in the massive UFC.
  • Eden Park might be a dump but Dunedin has the best stadium in the country.
  • Chris Wood and the All Whites are going to qualify for the World Cup. Trust me.
  • Liverpool is poised to win a remarkable cup treble! Making nearly every football fan in New Zealand very happy indeed.


Massive brickbat

I was angry that day, my friends.

When the sports editor of a newspaper finds out an extremely high-ranking Fifa official has been in his town to check out facilities ahead of the biggest sporting tournament this country has hosted, and that media were not told about it, he will never be impressed.

I don’t quite know who to blame, so I’m going to take a crack at all of them. Keeping the visit to Dunedin of secretary-general Fatma Samoura secret was a spectacular failure by Fifa, the DCC, DVML and Football South.


What the Fifa?

It is a rare day the world of gaming features in the sports pages of this august publication (no, esports are not sport), but I have to briefly touch on the seismic football news announced this week.

The Fifa video game series as we know it will disappear, to be replaced by EA Sports FC (ugh), developer Electronic Arts promising the game will only get better and will include all sorts of interactive nonsense (sigh) that it was not able to do thanks to the exclusive licence.

Word is Fifa wanted a billion bucks every four years to keep its name on the game. To be used for the development of football at the grassroots, no doubt.



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