Monday, 25 May 2009

Any sports columnist worth his salt, especially one with a rugby bent, should, at this point of the season, be penning a deep and meaningful look at the run-in to the Super 14 finals. He could add icing to his insightful expose by second-guessing Graham Henry’s first All Blacks team of the international season.

Sadly, I must confess, I can do neither.

Before my recent offshore jaunt, I endured more than enjoyed, three Highlanders games at Carisbrook. Upon my return, when the Super 14 inevitably comes to life post-Easter, duckshooting conspired to deprive me of all but a fleeting glance of the exciting Blues-Hurricanes clash. Similarly last weekend’s game-of-the-season, the Canes v Chiefs, was also the victim of a prior engagement.

Therefore I’m in no position to comment other than to say the Super 14 starts too early and goes for too long. It has become a real problem child for the NZRU and I worry the Air New Zealand Cup is heading down the same path. Why the fascination with 14 team competitions?

With 13 round-robin games and then semis and finals, the NPC, too, starts too early and goes for too long. The Stags have seven home games this season plus, by my reckoning, a good chance to repeat last year’s semi-final heroics. Do provincial unions have a fan base to sustain so many games? And more importantly do provincial unions have a chequebook to sustain such a lengthy competition?

The players, not surprisingly, want to play every other team but surely the answer lies in a ten team competition that is done and dusted within 11 weeks (beginning mid August and finishing with the finals at Labour Weekend) rather than the current 15 week scenario (August 1 to November 7).

Such a competition would allow the top players to play in their club finals and for those finals to be played at the end of the club season rather than moved forward to early July to accommodate the NPC.

I have watched even less netball than rugby but I did flick over on Monday night to witness the win over the Mystics.

The Steel would appear to be a much better unit with Donna Wilkins back to her dead-eye best. I understand there has been criticism of her fitness in some circles but Wilkins at even 80% is surely a better bet than many at full fitness.


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