Let’s enjoy Games for what they are

A young fan watches as Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon tries his best to ride her bike...
A young fan watches as Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon tries his best to ride her bike to training camp at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

The relevance ...

The Last Word was unexpectedly asked to feature on one of those castpod things on an RNZ platform this week to bang on about the relevance of the Commonwealth Games and some favourite memories of the event.

That word — "relevance" — appears without fail every four years when this regularly weird and often wonderful collection of random sports takes place.

I’m a bit tired of the debate, to be honest. What does "relevance" even mean in this messed-up world? And why does a sports event NEED relevance necessarily? Can’t we just enjoy it for what it is?

Anyhoo, as we are on the topic, let’s embrace the absolute seriousness and relevance of the Commonwealth Games by doing a quick New Zealand Athletes Top 10 Power Rankings, unavoidably incomplete as the Games are not yet finished.

1. Ellesse Andrews (cycling)

Awesome. New Zealand cycling has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past couple of years but superstars like sort-of-Otago-so-we-claim-her Andrews make everything seem OK. Three gold medals and a silver, fantastic.

2. Aaron Gate (cycling)

Awesome. New Zealand cycling has been . . . oh, sorry. Gate is a magnificent performer who never seems to be under pressure. The triple gold medallist is the kaumatua of a cycling team that has performed brilliantly.

3. Lewis Clareburt (swimming)

A star is born. He’s not Danyon Loader (yet?) but he doesn’t have to be. Incredibly exciting to see him blossom.

... of rankings

4. Hamish Kerr (athletics)

There is still something so exciting about watching someone in black winning gold in track and field, the heartbeat of the Commonwealth Games.

5. Bryony Botha (cycling)

Absolutely brilliant ride to win the individual pursuit. Unlucky to crash out of the scratch race.

6. Andrew Jeffcoat (swimming)

Clareburt has the aura but Jeffcoat is not far away. Broke the New Zealand record in winning the 50m backstroke.

7. Sam Gaze (mountain biking)

A class act who retained his cross-country title and led home another Kiwi 1-2.

8. Sophie Pascoe (swimming)

The great dame did it again.

9. Corbin Strong (cycling)

Southland rider with a big heart and a big kick.

10. Paul Coll (squash)

Gave us the odd flutter — possibly just because we expect the West Coaster to be perfect in every match — but duly won gold.

Speaking of which

That is a nice segue into an annual feature (well, annual since I came home) of the Otago Daily Times sports pages.

Our New Zealand Sports Power Rankings will appear later this month.

It is where we (well, I) rank our star athletes on the basis of profile, success and assorted other stuff.

If you have any initial thoughts on the movers and shakers of New Zealand sport and where they should rank on this RELEVANT list, drop me a line.

Out and proud

Do yourself a favour and make sure you catch the short Heath Davis documentary on The Spinoff.

It is a beautifully crafted story about the former New Zealand cricketer with the express pace and the colourful hair, and how he hid his sexuality for a long time.

We still don’t have openly gay Black Caps or All Blacks, but men like Davis are helping make it easier for the first current star to come out.

We go again

The Premier League is back!

It feels like it finished yesterday with the world’s greatest club narrowly finishing second behind the world’s richest club.

But you can never have enough football, and there is nothing like the Premier League for drama, excitement, skill and the most beautiful collection of men in red shirts you will ever see.

I am ambivalent about English football returning to Sky, especially as the Spark Sport streaming service is just so much crisper when streaming, but plenty will be happy about it.

Lionesses roar

Women’s football has had quite the week.

It helps that England won, of course, but the Euro 2022 tournament has been another big sign that the women’s game is on the verge of exploding.

A record 87,000-plus people crammed Wembley for the final.

Think about that number. Then think about the fact New Zealand — with six games in Dunedin — is hosting the World Cup next year.

It is going to be massive, in case you did not already realise it.

The wheel of time

Your man is starting to creak a little, and will tick off another year some time next week.

I’ve always said there is nothing like a child to put your age in perspective — my Eli is 14 now, nearly as tall as his dad, and almost as witty — but lately I have been thinking about how sport also acts as a gauge of experience.

A fellow I was talking to this week confessed his utter lack of knowledge of the 1990 Commonwealth Games, an event burned into my memory.

To fully grasp where I sit on the life-sport continuum, let’s look at prominent sportspeople born the same year as me.

Hidetoshi Nakata — what a footballer!

Vince Carter — Vinsanity!

Andrew Flintoff — Freddie!

Victor Matfield, Ronan O’Gara — Couple of decent rugby players there.

And, of course, the great Danny Griffin, who played 29 games for the Northern Ireland football team, and is the only semi-prominent sportsperson I can see who shares my birthday.


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