Daring to hope for the unthinkable

New Zealander Maggie Squire competes in the women’s 1m springboard preliminaries at the Fina...
New Zealander Maggie Squire competes in the women’s 1m springboard preliminaries at the Fina world diving championships in Budapest, Hungary, this week. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

Breaking a vow

There are some things New Zealanders must never do.

Rate Vegemite above Marmite. Indicate when going in any direction from a roundabout. Say anything nasty about Shortland Street despite it being 20 years since you watched an episode. Consider Lorde to be overrated. Not think Goodbye Pork Pie is the greatest New Zealand film ever made. Spell Jacinta Adern correctly on social media rants.

And you must NEVER expect or wish for the All Blacks to lose.

So, forgive this outburst of heathen treachery ... but I kind of hope the All Blacks lose to Ireland tonight.

Bear with me!

Defeat in the opening test of this much-anticipated series would perform two valuable functions.

It would be an early examination of the All Blacks, highlighting specifically the positional areas of concern and some major questions over general readiness a year out from the World Cup.

It would also, crucially, set the scene for an epic week in Dunedin.

Our test (next Saturday, if you have been living in a cave) will be big enough. All Blacks v Ireland, first major test in four years, sell-out crowd — guaranteed buzz.

If the All Blacks have just been beaten?

Boomfah. Light a match and step back. The atmosphere will be absolutely electric.

And, when the All Blacks win at the Glasshouse, it sets up an epic decider in the third test.

Come on, Ireland. (Sorry.)

Utterly deflating

Questions. So many questions following the Black Caps’ capitulation to England in the test series.

And it was a capitulation. The reigning world test champions against a team that has played some awful test cricket in recent years was not supposed to end 3-0 to the home team.

Are you feeling mildly annoyed or genuinely gutted?

Is this confirmation an absolutely glorious Black Caps era is well and truly over?

Is Brendon McCullum a genius or just a man with impeccable timing?

Tom Latham — flat-track bully?

Henry Nicholls — average?

Why shouldn’t Ajaz Patel play every test?

Has Kyle Jamieson been found out, and is Devon Conway a mere mortal again?

If the top order is terribly out of form, who exactly are potential replacements?

Why have the Black Caps been lumped with just four home tests, including two ghastly two-test series, next summer?

Warrior spirit

Yes, they are terrible.

But we should all be Warriors fans this weekend as the battling NRL team plays its first home game in nearly three years.

New Zealander Liam Stone competes in the men’s 1m springboard preliminaries.
New Zealander Liam Stone competes in the men’s 1m springboard preliminaries.
It has been an incredibly rough time for the Warriors, who have sacrificed so much to remain part of the competition.

Put aside your despair at their results and give these poor blighters one weekend of nothing but celebration and your best wishes.

Let’s gone, Warriors.

Ups and downs

Sports reporters are forever being scolded for writing "negative" stories.

Now a website called Livefootballtickets.com (sounds totally legit) has produced something called a "sentiment analysis" to examine which sport had the most negative or positive coverage over a decade.

Golf led the way with a sparkling 79.18% positivity — I imagine that rate has been dropping with the emergence of the "golf wars" involving the LIV series.

Rugby league was second with a weirdly high 77.04%, though this was a British exercise and the semi-constant NRL scandals might not have been included, and football was third with 71.05%.

Out for the count was boxing, which clocked in bottom with a measly 54.67% positivity rating.

The bagman

Regular readers will recall The Last Word was a bit mean years ago about golf caddies, prompted largely by the antics of Steve Williams and the insistence by some that he should have been a contender for New Zealand sportsman of the year.

Now the column is a little older and (arguably) a little wiser, it can appreciate the role the bag-carriers play in a good walk spoiled.

I was particularly taken by the recent story of Billy Foster, the veteran caddie for rising English star Matt Fitzpatrick, who won the US Open.

Foster, a massive fan of the Leeds football club (like my uncle Geoff), has had a 40-year career with spells working for Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and others.

But he had never won a major until he helped Fitzpatrick triumph at Brookline.

"I’ve had a lot of great days at the Ryder Cup, but this is obviously the shining jewel, 100%," Foster said.

"I’ve got to admit I didn’t think it was going to happen for me. My time is running out. I’ve probably only got another two or three years of caddying left in me.

"Someone said I’ve got that monkey off my back. It felt more like a gorilla. It will be one long party and I’m going to have a liver like a space hopper."

Fathers and sons

Another recent yarn that I nearly missed was all the family links in the NBA finals between the Warriors and the Celtics.

No fewer than five players had fathers who played in the NBA.

Superstar Warriors leader Steph Curry is the son of Charlotte Hornets scoring machine Dell Curry, wingman Klay Thompson is the son of 1978 No 1 draft pick Mychal Thompson, Warriors guard Gary Payton jun is the son of Hall of Famer Gary "The Glove" Payton, and Warriors break-out star Andrew Wiggins is the son of journeyman Mitchell Wiggins.

On the Celtics side, centre Al Horford is the son of former Bucks centre Tito Horford.

hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz

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