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Hello again. Trust you all had a pleasant Christmas-New Year and have not been too distressed by the weather (from obscenely hot to grey and drizzly) or the performance of the Black Caps.
It is, of course, a time of year to be pondering, prognosticating and predicting, or even (ugh) making resolutions.
Normally, The Last Word is reluctant to embrace the last concept, finding it to be an exercise about as worthwhile as watching television on New Year's Eve.
But here goes.
... for the new year
In 2013, I will.-
• Bite less when ribbed about Liverpool's various failings.
• Watch more Super rugby. Even (gasp) the odd game not involving the Highlanders.
• Try not to let it bug me so much when Sky commentators ''ask'' questions during player interviews that are, in fact, nothing but statements.
• Try not to let it bug me so much when teams other than the All Blacks perform the haka.
• Spread the glorious gospel of Knicks basketball when my beloved New Yorkers make the NBA finals.
• Decide, once and for all, whether Jesse Ryder is a magnificent talent who should be nurtured or merely an overgrown boy who needs to start repaying those who have been so patient with him for so long.
• Read more GREAT sports books.
• Keep trying to convince myself that hours spent playing Fifa 13 equate to participation in sport.
• Stay calm if the Old Golds do not make the Meads Cup final.
Make the most of it
There was a time there when I really feared for Dunedin's status as a great sporting city.
Fine, I understand that is something trivial to be worrying about. But it's not like it kept me awake at night, and my job DOES rely on there being some sort of sport with which to fill these pages.
Think back a few years. Carisbrook was ageing rapidly and had been ignored by the NZRU; the University Oval was not yet ready; we lost the Otago Rebels (still hurts); the Highlanders were battling and the Nuggets were a laughing stock; and in general, Dunedin seemed like the last place major sports teams wanted to come.
Now look at us. Rightly or wrongly, the stadium was built, and that is the major reason 2013 is shaping as an extraordinary year.
The Warriors are coming, for the first time. The Phoenix is returning, for a third time. Most remarkably, Dunedin has a Bledisloe Cup test, for the first time in 12 years.
Yet another cricket test is coming to the Oval - featuring England, if you please. The Southern Steel netball team has a Dunedin-based coach. The Highlanders are loaded with All Blacks. Even the Nuggets have built their strongest-looking roster in years.
Further out, The Hills course hosts another New Zealand PGA, the third Winter Games will be the biggest yet, and motorsport will be getting a massive boost with the opening of the remarkable Highlands development near Cromwell.
This is a great time to be a sports fan in Otago.
This column has already lamented the imminent departure of the sevens from Queenstown, but it will repeat the point ahead of the tournament starting today.
It is rough justice to lose an event you have effectively resuscitated, and I hope the New Zealand Rugby Union appreciates what the Sevens With Altitude group has done.
Queenstown seemed such a natural home for the summer tournament. I can't help but think a few grizzling North Island unions have influenced the shift.
Fingers crossed the weather is good, the sevens is exciting and the crowd gets into the event, so it can go out with a bang.
Some quick questions (and possible answers for each) following confirmation this week Ryan Nelsen is heading to Toronto to be a manager.-
Is he our greatest footballer?
Answers: (a) Don't be ridiculous - Wynton Rufer holds that title now and till eternity; (b) My oath. He played the dominant role in the All Whites' unbeaten run at the 2010 World Cup, and he's been a starting player in the English Premier League for eight years; (c) Hard to say. Nelsen did more for the All Whites, but Rufer's club career was better. Besides, both could be left in the shade by the Kiwi Messi.
What does it say for the Nelsen-Herbert relationship that the player didn't even talk to his national coach?
Answers: (a) They obviously don't like each other; (b) Just a communication glitch; (c) Seriously? He didn't even have the courtesy to call his coach?
How does one feel about Nelsen making the leap straight to management?
Answers: (a) Hate it. Hate it in football, rugby, cricket, every sport. Go off and learn to be a coach first; (b) Love it. Nelsen has experience, knowledge and mana. Will be great; (c) Toronto's on to its eighth manager in seven years. Things can only get better.
Will Ryan Nelsen double the number of footballers in the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame?
Answer (only one): Yes. He's straight in as soon as he is eligible.
In Nelsen's absence, should Andrew Durante be selected for the All Whites?
Answers: (a) Of course. He's quality, he's eligible and he wants to wear the silver fern; (b) No. Better to invest in the next generation of homegrown defenders; (c) A tricky one. Will Durante really be passionate about helping New Zealand get to the World Cup? Mind you, he has been here five years. Remember the great Irene van Dyk had been here five minutes when she was named in the Silver Ferns.
Plenty of praise has flowed for retiring Australian cricketer Mike Hussey - and rightly so; the man fashioned a fantastic career.
My fixation is still with the amount of first-class runs he had scored before getting a test call-up at the age of 30. More than 15,000. Fifteen. Thousand.
Naturally, the mind wanders to some comparisons on the home front. A little digging (Cricinfo and New Zealand Cricket Almanack) reveals some interesting statistics:BJ Watling had scored 2155 first-class runs when he made his test debut.
Kane Williamson had scored 1428 runs.
Daniel Flynn had scored 1280 runs.
Dean Brownlie had scored 918 runs.
But wait, there's more. Hamish Marshall, the poster boy for cricketers chosen to play at the top level too soon, had scored a whopping 456 first-class runs before making his test debut against South Africa in December 2000.
These figures probably aren't hugely surprising but they do illustrate the contrasting depth of talent in the two countries.
Names of the week
He's a rules official on the PGA Tour. Brilliant.
Played for Mansfield - alongside a bloke called Lindon Meikle - against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Birthday of the week
Spyros Louis would have been 140 today.
The Greek runner won the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, propelled to glory (apparently) by orange juice, wine, beer and an Easter egg.