Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gidday from Dunedin from where you’d hardly know Super 14 rugby was about to kick off with tonight’s Highlanders v Brumbies clash at Carisbrook.

It would appear, in fact, there’s a whole lot more interest in the future of Carisbrook than the prospects of the Highlanders. Everyone in this city, it seems, has an opinion on the proposed new stadium and my brief polling would suggest Dunedin is a city divided -almost down the middle.

No one is in denial a new covered waterfront stadium would be a great asset to the University of Otago and to a city that has fallen behind the likes of Hamilton and Tauranga in national ranking in recent times. However the problem arises when it comes to paying for it, more particularly who should pay for it?

Without wanting to sound like a cheerleader for licensing trusts, because they aren’t without blemish, it’s just another timely reminder of how lucky a dairying province like Southland is to have such cash cows to call on.

Confession time. If I hadn’t managed to grease my way into a corporate box tonight, I’d have to put hand on heart and admit I’d stay home and watch the final Chappell-Hadlee one-dayer.

I bang on about this every year at this time. I can’t get excited about rugby until I’ve tucked into some Easter eggs and hot cross buns!

Friday the 13th is considered unlucky for some. I hope it does not come to pass for the Highlanders franchise on and off the field tonight. With a forecast high today of only 14 degrees, the competition from the cricket in Brisbane, throw in the OtagoVolts v Auckland Aces Twenty-20 clash at the University Oval, not to mention most of the scarfies still missing in action, and the potential is there for a very mediocre crowd.

For Southlanders though, there will be plenty of interest in how our two favourite sons, Jimmy and Jamie, go in their new leadership roles, how Josh Bekhius fares in his debut at this level and whether Kenny Lynn gets a decent run off the bench.

And let’s not forget Cabbage. When Jason Rutledge inevitable gives David Hall a spell, it will be a victory for perseverance, persistence and perspiration.

If the Highlanders play with half his courage and commitment, they will kick off their campaign on a winning note.

Friday, 6 February 2009

TVNZ has a wonderful propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and the Halberg Awards on Tuesday evening were no exception.

Off the back of the Peter Montgomery’s cowardly axing from the yachting commentary, the state broadcaster made it two cock-ups in a week with its coverage of the most prestigious sporting gala night of the year.

I’m a big Peter Williams fan. He and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby were certainly a notch up from Simon Dallow and Pippa Wetzell last year but I question the placement of the teleprompter (obviously well below their line of sight) and why TVNZ doesn’t allow such a seasoned and professional broadcaster to ad-lib his way through the evening. It was all too scripted for me.

And Anne Audain was right to question the dumping of her Hall of Fame acceptance speech in favour of the televised musical entertainment. Admittedly some of it was quite good, but it is a sports awards evening after all.

As for the result, I tip my hat to Valerie Vili, but the twins should have won. Two in a row beats one throw!

It’s nearly a week into my big shift to the Big Smoke of Dunedin. In my new capacity as an out-of-towner I offered to fall on my sword as a columnist but Southland Times sports editor Nathan Burdon suggested I stay on and that perhaps I could even act as a spy behind enemy lines when it comes to the Highlanders and the Southern Steel. I’ll do my best Big Guy and you’ll never have to question my provincial loyalty.

We’ve survived the stress of shifting (just) and while I’m relishing the challenge of stepping out of a very comfortable comfort zone, Southland will always be home.

Even though Riversdale is my home town and always will be, I’ll miss Gore too, my home for the past 17 years. As a town that sometimes gets a bum wrap nationally it has a lot going for it. It’s a great place to do business, raise a family and its cultural and sporting facilities, for its size, are second-to-none.

Already I miss the ease of parking, the lack of traffic lights, the Green Room’s coffee, my sheep, my well-worn jogging tracks and playing golf with Michael F Saunders.

But life goes on and I’m going to be joining the picturesque Balmacewen club in Dunedin. They tell me on occasions it can be a little snobby. Michael informs me he’s paying a visit to play some golf. I wonder how the elite of Dunedin will handle his colourful use of the Queen’s language?