28 Nov

Tall Poppies
by Paul Waite
28 Nov 2004

The All Blacks took the field at Stade de France wearing a special commemorative jersey with a single poppy emblazoned on the sleeve. The test match was fought for the Dave Gallagher Trophy, in memory of the great New Zealand rugby player, skipper of The Originals, and war hero who lost his life in Passchendaele in World War 1.

After the test some of what the players were saying in interviews gave us a sneak peek into the psyche of the test-week buildup. They talked of “starting a new legacy for The All Blacks”, and of honouring the New Zealanders who had fought in that massively wasteful war, and died there.

These are powerfully emotive thoughts, and it all came pouring out in a haka led for the very first time by Tana Umaga, of Samoan heritage, who nonetheless tore into it with a ferocity to quicken the heart of any Maori purist.

The post-haka expressions on the faces of the All Blacks, as they waited calmly for the French to kick off belied what lay beneath the surface. By the end of half an hour, the French front row was in disarray, requiring regular medical treatment for the battering they were taking, and looking like they had already played eighty minutes and would rather be anywhere else but on that battlefield in the Stade de France.

As with any genuine test match worthy of the title, it started with the front row, and that old campaigner Anton Oliver led the charge. In behind them the return of Norm Maxwell, with his take-no-prisoners attitude still on full throttle despite a worn body, and his partner Chris Jack were the engine room in a scrum which simply destroyed their opposites. By the end the French had run out of props, or at least said they had – perhaps none were willing to return from the safety of the touchline – and the referee had to visit the final indignity on them of calling for Golden Oldie (no pushing) scrums.

It was nothing less than a total and utter humiliation for a pack reckoned to be the strongest in the Northern Hemisphere.

Given this platform, the All Black loose forwards McCaw, Collins and So’oialo had the chance to outshine their illustrious opposites. Olivier Magne, that superlative No.7, was taken in a thunderous tackle by All Black winger Doug Howlett, and almost folded in half by it. He was never a force in the test after that. Betson was simply out-played by Collins who was tireless both on defence and attack, and never gave an inch.

Based on the soldly planted forward effort the rest of the team joined in with an across-the-board devotion to duty. Nobody missed a single critical tackle, and the French were forced into running sideways, backwards, and then finally to booting the ball downfield.

By the final quarter, the massive crowd were booing their own team as they assembled to watch yet another conversion attempt by the almost flawless Daniel Carter, who is showing he is a natural first-five eighth now that the All Black coaches have given him the chance to shine there [please take note Super-12 and NPC coaches].

It isn’t often these days that we get to watch the All Blacks deliver on the All Black Traditions in the same way that they did in the amateur era of the game. Today they did just that.

Here’s to the start of another All Black legacy.

Congratulations to the All Black coaching staff and all the team.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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13 Nov

Season report cards
by Zand Moloney
13 Nov 2004

Time for the boys to get their end of year reports, it makes pretty good reading but ‘must try harder’ comes to mind as falling at the final hurdle is difficult to stomach.

Shannon Paku – needed a big season and delivered, sound under the high ball and effective when he came into the backline. Should push Brent Ward this year for the Canes. 8.5

Lome Fa’atau – undoutably one of the stars of the season, whenever Wellington scored a great try he had something to do with it. Scared the life out of all defences with his speed and guile and his defence was much improved. 9

Sireli Bobo – strong and fast Bobo was effective whenever he was on attack. Not quite the complete package yet but very exciting to watch. 7

Roy Kinikinilau – This should have been the big man’s year, he showed great skill last year but it was missing this time. Looked disinterested and average and deservedly missed out on the Canes this year to former Chief draftee Fa’atau 3.5

Conrad Smith – Outstanding! Smith showed there is still a place for smaller men in the midfield, making up for in vision, agility and speed what he lacks in sheer size. His combination with Nonu was amazing and suggests that there is life after Umaga. 9.5

Ma’a Nonu – A great return to form for Nonu who reminded us all just what he can do. His ability to break the line and off load in tackles was in evidence every week. Not sure about the mascara though.. 9

Tana Umaga – With a self-emposed lay off he looked back to his old self, hitting the line hard and at speed, and he was absolutely everywhere on defence. He pace may have slowed but he is still one of the best midfielders in the world. 9

Tane Tui’pulotu – No rating for the sadly injury ravaged midfielder, hope to see him back to his best for the Super 12.

David Holwell – In his final season Holwell again showed that although he is not flashy he is still an outstanding pivot. Mr Reliable held this backline together for many years and this season was no different. A sad loss for Wellington and New Zealand rugby. 9

Riki Flutey – Is he a halfback or a five eighth? There is no doubt he has a good running game, and generally has good option taking but really he doesn’t have the kicking game required for a top level fly-half. 6.5

Jimmy Gopperth – No rating, didn’t get enough game time for a comment, hope to see more of him in the Super 12.

Piri Weepu – another good season by the former leaguie. His kicking game was much improved and his sniping runs were telling. Not sure if he is ready for an AB’s tour yet but certainly one for the future. 8

Rodney So’oailo – Like fellow former All Black Nonu he needed to step up to prove himself to be a contender and did so. The captaincy made him think more on the field and he grew into a good leader. Good to see him back to his best. 8.5

Kristian Ormsby – His power and strength was a highlight in the early rounds of the NPC and suggested he should have been given more chances to impress. Great with the ball in hand and good in the air, 8

Thomas Waldrom – Did nothing wrong, like Ormsby unlucky not to get more game time. Rarely used at his favoured no 8 position he did well whenever he played. 7.5

Jerry Collins – again was one of the standouts of the pack. Hit the line hard every time and drove players back in the tackle. Needs to think about his tackling technique, but you can never question his commitment. 8.5

Scott Waldrom – troubled by injuires early in the season Waldrom came back strongly and was a major reason for the demolition of Taranaki. Great pace and an eye for a gap he was a key link-man between backs and forwards. 8.5

Ben Herring – again and again had the dirtiest jersey on the park beause of his rummaging around in the rucks, Herring was a constant thorn in many teams sides. Played himself to a standstill sometimes with scant support (particularily against Otago), the Kronfeld to Waldrom’s Jones 8.5

Ross Filipo – needs to work on discipline, good with the ball in hand and in the air, 6

Ross Kennedy – continues to develop at a startling rate. Great with the ball in hand and dominating in the air he should continue to be the first choice for the Canes. A future All Black, 9

Luke Andrews – another good season for the former Southlander. A good man in the lineout and strong defender, forms a good combination with Kennedy, 8.5

Tim Fairbrother – sadly injury robbed him of a chance to continue on from a good season for the Canes. Very strong scrummager, 7.5

Neemia Tialata – showed just what a talent he is this season, never taking a backward step. Learnt some hard lessons in the scrums sometimes which will serve him well, 8

Joe McDonnell – the rock of the scrum, McDonnell’s experience proved a crucial new ingrediant for the Lions. Showed Fairbrother and Tialata what is required at this level, 9

Mahonri Schwalger – a good new addition to the Lions this season. Scrummaged well and threw in effectively. Unlucky to end up on the draft, 8.5

Luke Mahoney – outshone somewhat by Schwalger, Mahoney did little wrong (apart from the odd misthrow). Needs more time to develop, 6

3 Nov

Homo Lookatus
by Paul Waite
3 Nov 2004

In a Darwinesque turn of events, a new species of rugby player has been discovered this week by a team of intrepid scientists presently studying the Lions in Deepest Wellington.

“It was totally unexpected”, Dr. David Flubberthing announced at a hushed and expectant media briefing at Te Papa yesterday. “We’ve been studying The Lions for years, in an attempt to find a genetic or sociopathic reason for their inability to win anything, and to be honest, we never expected we’d discover a brand new species”.

Flubberthing then unveiled a shocking picture of a male Lion wearing human female eye makeup.

“Notice the poofy hairdo”, instructed Flubberthing, brandishing an alarmingly long pointer and waving it dangerously close to a cameraman unwise enough to be taking pictures of it.

“This is completely normal for this family of Lions, who sometimes spend hours on their hair in daily pre- and post-game grooming sessions in preference to any serious rugby training”.

“BUT!” he added, bringing the stick down on the desk with a loud thwack and inadvertently destroying three small mp3 recording devices, then swinging it with all the deft martial artistry of Jackie Chan to point at the picture, “What isn’t usual is all this fudgepacker eye-liner shit right here!!”

All eyes at the conference were drawn along the still-quivering stick to the Mata Hari-like appearance engendered by the pictured Lion, looking like a right bloody nancy-boy, it has to be said.

“We call it ‘Homo Lookatus’ !”, Flubberthing announced, spreading his arms wide as if for applause but only receiving a “fuck!” from the sound engineer whose eye he had just put out.

“Of course, in this particular case, the name is understandably often just shortened to ‘Homo’ but, as scientists, we would prefer the full name to be used since it conveys the nature of this animal’s primitive drives to be noticed no matter how talentless it is”, he droned.

“Using the full title also stops us from confusing them with Gays who, unlike Homo Lookatus rugby players who take the field in ladies gears thinking it’s a cool thing to do, are deserving of some measure of respect.”

Turning to a model of what looked like a miniscule walnut in a glass jar full of water or Lion Red (it’s hard to tell which, frankly) the good Doctor adopted a lecturing pose.

“This thing here is a model of the brain of a typical Lion, reconstructed from many many MRI, X-ray and stethoscope scans and a bit of yelling ‘hello is anyone at home’ in their ears”, he expounded.

“As you can see it’s about as big as that of a hydro-encephalic field-mouse”, he added, wiggling a finger in one ear and then carefully examining the tip of it.

“Naturally we have tested the Homo Lookatus to get a comparison, but unfortunately we couldn’t locate brain matter anywhere, leading us to the inevitable conclusion that this animal probably has its brains somewhere located up its rectum, which was the only place we couldn’t bring ourselves to look.”

At this point the Press Conference erupted into a barrage of questions, causing the Doctor to reel backwards, trip over his chair and look extremely silly.

“What kind of eyeliner was it and where can we get it?”, demanded a reporter from the Silly Teens Who WIll Buy Any Mag With Glossy Pics Of Richer But Equally Talentless Teens In It Magazine.

“Fuck knows”, replied Flubberthing, getting up with a grimace on his face. “Who’s grimace is this?” he asked, taking it off and handing it to an assistant.

“Will this Homo Lookatus be playing rugby for the All Blacks?” asked an aghast Phil Stifford of the Canterbury Rugby Collective (CRC), bathing everyone in front of him in a fine spray of spittle.

“Well he never played any rugby as such for the Lions, so I doubt it” retorted the injured Doctor, settling his sore behind gingerly onto the lap of a female reporter from Women’s Weakly.

“Aside from the eye makeup, this new species has all of the traits of a Lion of standard bloodstock”, he amplified. “He holds onto the ball too long, has the small and completely predictable repetoire of moves required by such a tiny cerebrum, and tends to lose all important games”.

“Henry Greyhame has picked him to go on tour – so what’s he going to be doing if not playing rugby?” asked Melody Moonstruck, as she helped herself to another large slice of Steve Walsh beefcake.

“Finding the soap in the showers I expect”, answered the huffy Doctor, who was growing visibly bored with the line of questioning.

At this point the news conference broke up, as a large ape-like creature ran in, leapt onto the table scattering microphones everywhere and proceeded to jump up and down grunting what sounded like “nonnoo-nonnoo”.

It’s all too much to deal with.

Here’s an idea for all you rugby players out there with this kind of outlook – let’s all concentrate on playing the game well, and not on how beautiful we look, eh? you poofy bloody self-absorbed bunch of chuckle-heads.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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