The Last Word: Some things...

Finn McDonald-Page meets elite Australian triathlete Chris McCormack after Challenge Wanaka....
Finn McDonald-Page meets elite Australian triathlete Chris McCormack after Challenge Wanaka. Photo supplied.

You want my opinion on the issue of whether Dunedin should be doing what it can to be a part of the Fifa under-20 world cup? Of course you do.

Here is the opinion of a sports editor who loves football:It will be a massive shame if the best stadium in New Zealand has no role in what will be among the four to five greatest sporting events held in this country.

I understand the reservations, from both the council sinking under a mountain of debt and the ratepayers forced to pay it off.

I totally accept the DIRECT economic benefit for the council is negligible.

And, yes, I grudgingly agree that the stadium is better off, financially, trying to attract Fleetwood Mac or The Eagles, or similar acts that, while they might appear a bit dusty to some of us under 40, would tick more economic boxes.

... are worth fighting for

This football tournament is too big, too exciting and (have I mentioned this already?) too big to consign to the too-expensive basket.

It will provide a virtually unequalled opportunity for Dunedin to be given global exposure - you might scoff, but it's true.

There will clearly be some economic benefit to the city, even if the tournament will not attract the number of supporters/visitors that flocked to the Rugby World Cup.

Finally, it must not be seen as ''only'' a junior tournament. This will be unbelievably great football, the best we will ever see in this country. There will be players from elite leagues. It will be heaven for football fans.

The thought of Hamilton or Napier being a part of this football festival, and Dunedin missing out, is unbearable. Somebody, please make it happen.

Labelling Lance
Finally showing some contrition? Or merely confirming his status as an insufferably arrogant cheat?Most seem to have settled squarely on the latter definition for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong following his ''confession'' to Oprah Winfrey.

But I wonder if your feelings about the issue have merely been magnified, not necessarily shaped, by the televisual tell-all.

Take the Otago Daily Times sports department - or at least, its two most argumentative members - as an example.

I, being an unblinking (read: dumb) Lance acolyte back in the day, heard some of the things I wanted to hear. He admitted to doping. He admitted all seven of his Tour de France victories were dirty. He referred to himself as a ''bully''.

So, while I cringed at the moments where Armstrong painted himself as the victim, and was left disgusted at the occasional turn of phrase that indicated he still thinks he did nothing wrong, I generally felt he had fessed up to a satisfying degree.

My colleague, Adrian Seconi, to his credit has been a Lance doubter since as long as I've known him.

He still feels Armstrong is a louse, that the highly-staged interview does not remotely scratch the surface of redemption.

I get the feeling Adrian's camp would have more members than mine. Perhaps it's going to take a while to completely purge the Armstrong fairytale from my system.

Winners are singers
Still shaking my head over the Otago Volts winning 10 straight twenty/20 games. Unbelievable.

Congratulations to Vaughn Johnson, Derek de Boorder, RtD (apparently it's Tendo, but The Last Word prefers RtD for our favourite Dutch South African Dunedinite), Brett Lee (who I'm sure told me 14 years ago he dreamed of playing for Otago), Jacob Duffy (and whoever is running his very funny Twitter parody account) and all the rest.

No doubt the Volts would have belted out their team song with extra gusto after their win in the final.

It's very much a team thing but we hear the song was written by Steve Finn, the Englishman who played for Otago last summer, runs to the tune of The Ants Go Marching, and refers to ''the coldest place on Earth''.

Gormless Guildford
It would be very easy to condemn Zac Guildford as we survey the wreckage of a promising career that has all but gone off the rails.

There is no doubt Guildford has been terribly wasteful of the gifts (rugby ability, notably sheer pace) and support he has been given in recent times. That incident in Rarotonga, where his drunkenness and lechery were on full display, was particularly unsavory.

But - and I stress I am not recommending we continue to wrap the bloke in cotton wool - it is hardly time to call for the hanging squad.

He needs help to battle his drinking problem, and both the All Blacks and the New Zealand Rugby Union need to provide what support they can.

Rugby continues to foster a strong relationship with booze companies, and it can hardly act surprised when one of its elite young men is led astray by the sponsor's product.

Redemption in this specific area is possible, as proven a few years back by former Highlanders captain Jimmy Cowan. Arguably, he behaved worse than Guildford, and he was given the help he needed.

To Jimmy's immense credit, he came back a better person and a better rugby player. Young Zac could do a lot worse than follow his lead.

Marvellous Macca
While we're on the subject of sportspeople behaving badly, how about those nutters at Challenge Wanaka?Oh, hang on.

Turns out elite triathletes are not only incredibly tough and dedicated but also have the common touch when interacting with the public.

Finn McDonald-Page certainly thinks so. The sports-mad Outram 10-year-old was in Wanaka, supporting mother Clare, competing in the Lake Wanaka Half.

Finn was cheering and whooping as the elite Challenge competitors arrived at the finish. Chris McCormack, the great Australian triathlete, paused for a high five and handed Finn his (presumably rather expensive) sunglasses. The pair later caught up for a photo.

When CJ was great
You might recall our recent story on Llewy Johnson, the young North Otago cricket star who smashed a record score (159) in the South Island primary schools tournament in Christchurch.

It brought back some memories for someone else in that fine province: North Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive Colin Jackson.

''CJ'' was a Dunedin North Intermediate pupil when he scored an unbeaten 107 for Otago against Southland in 1972.

The tournament was played in Oamaru, at St Kevin's College, and another star in the Otago side was future international Bruce Blair.

Jackson played in the tournament in three consecutive years. In both 1971 and 1972, he was named captain of the South Island primary schools team.

He went on to play for the New Zealand Brabin (under-20) team for two years.

Birthday of the week
Wayne Gretzky is 52 today.

The Great One. Has there been a more appropriate nickname?


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