Friday, April 18, 2008

Overseas All Blacks

It is time to make some changes.
1. Allow the All Blacks to play from anywhere... that is the nature of true professionalism.
2. Open up the Super 14 fanchises to private funding... increase their incomes!
3. Extend the Super 14 into a two round competition, allow the NPC to become an almost amateur feeder system to the Super 14.
4. Dump the Tri-nations on an annual basis, make it bi-annual, go back to tours.
5. Play rugby in the afternoon not the evening.
6. Forget all the rule changes and focus on fixing one thing, the tacked ball area. Spend as much time and money as it takes trying things until the solution is found that stops the killing of the ball, the slowing down of the ball, the mess that is the tackled ball area! This is what is killing rugby.
7. Allow technology where tries are scored including forward passes (Cardiff, bugger) etc (thinking of the Hurricanes the other night!).
8. Black out games in the home area to force people who want to watch it to go e.g. Blues games blacked out in Auckland etc.

This is all far too much common sense though... Nothing will change.

One other idea that may be ridiculous.

1. Base the All Blacks in Europe and play the 6 nations every year...
2. Dump the Tri-Nations completely.
3. Go back to a tour every year with a three test series ... games against provinces, franchises, the Maori's, the Juniors, and three All Black tests!

Nothing will change!

World Cup Report

How can Graeme Henry be All Black coach? His response yesterday proves the point. He supported Richie McCaw's decision to ignore his instruction last year to take a drop goal! How can Richie McCaw be All Black captain. TV3 showed a caption of his indifference to the French-Ireland game last year before the World Cup. This alls says, "arrogant!" They were complacent.

I say again, Henry destroyed the All Blacks after building them magnificently. Why second guess the previous three years. In those three years the All Blacks played the Super 14 and dominated it. They then hit the internationals, with some degree of rotation, but playing the A team in the big tests. They then went on a tour of Europe and thrashed all before them. Why would you start screwing with the Super 14, rotating players without settling on a combination, reconditioning players when they should be playing, and then get to the World Cup underdone?

There should also have been 2 tough pre-World Cup games in Europe against northern hemisphere teams, preferably England and France, before the cup.

As for the drop goal business! Unbelievable!

Why is Deans in Australia? Why is Gatland in Wales? Deans should be now coaching the AB's, nothing is more obvious! Gatland should be coaching here. He can have the Blues, Nucifora is past his use-by date, send him home!

Rugby is in massive trouble!

Michael Aish and Lisa Hunter-Galvin

What a shocker. You run the A qualifying time for the Olympics and you are not selected. If you are Michael Aish, you run it twice, and don't get selected! What are the NZ athletics selectors doing? This is ridiculous. These people have made the marks (one twice), and they are not selected. We are a struggling nation in the world of athletics, one of the most competitive sports in the world. When you do the time you should be on the plane. Previous performances are not the point. I think the NZ athletics system of selection is too tough all round. Last year for the World Youth's they set harsher qualification times than the IAAF standards (e.g. 4.32 for the girls 1500 instead of 4.35). This is bizzare thinking. It is not as if we are brimming with talent.

So, where Aish and Hunter-Galvin are concerned, I hope they appeal and win their appeals. Whatever their past performances, they have shown their ability to make the games, they should go. Just as Beatrice F has done it. She threw one qualification throw at the last minute and was selected. There is a distinct lack of consistency here!

So... this is a shocker!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Things Worth Dying For 4: God Created the Heavens and the Earth

The Bible begins with the statement, 'in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. Now this to me is axiomatic and worthy of dying for. That is, Christianity is based on the notion that a brilliantly intelligent cosmic being is behind the created order, it is the product of his creative brilliance.

Beyond this Christians disagree, and with a great degree of strong feeling. There are those who are absolutely convinced that the Genesis account must be interpreted literally and that God created the order in exactly six 24 hour days in exactly the manner described in Gen 1-2. Other Christians are not so sure and are happy to accept some of the notions of science including an older earth. They reject that there is a need for six literal 24 hour days noting that the Hebrew for "day" is used differently through the OT, that the sun and moon were created on the fourth day, and that there is clear symbolism in the text. They thus accept the general outline of Gen 1-2 in terms of order, reject any notion of evolution, but argue for creation over a longer period. Another term which falls into this category is "Intelligent Design" which refers to those across a number of the religious persuasions whether Christian or not who believe there is a great designer, reject evolution, but do not accept the literal perspective of young earth creation. Others are comfortable harmonising 'God created' with evolution, arguing for theistic evolution i.e. God caused the development of the living world through a process like evolution but not purely natural selection.

Now I have my own view on this which aligns more with the second position above, but I would not die for the detail. I don't know enough about evolution, about the intention of Genesis, about the complex arguments involved. I am totally unimpressed with macro-evolution and do not want to compromise toward what is not proved, evolution being a scientific philosophy rather than emperical science any more than literal 6 day creation is. So for me, if I was asked 'do I believe God created the world over a long period of time but in principle according to the order of Genesis 1-2 I would answer, probably. However, I would not die for it. I would not split a church for it. I would perhaps argue for my position, but I would not get all passionate and flip my lid over it.

However, I would get hot under the collar for the notion 'God created the heavens and the earth'. Now this is a premise the Biblical account is built on. The universe is not a product of chance or a deistic uninvolved God, it is the product of a creative, loving being who created this glorious univers and probably others ones, and placed us on this planet as the apex of his creation as his beloved children to live in eternal relation with him. We screwed it up, but he still loves us and is determined to save us while preserving our ability to say no if we so desire. The 'how' of creation is beyond me and not necessary to an authentic Christian faith.
I am dismayed at the fundamentalism of many Christians over all this stuff. It is dumb as it divides us, means we give a confused voice to the world, and often employs dodgy science, exegesis and theology from people at both the more literal and evolutionary end of the argument. Let's stick to the big picture that the Scriptures affirm and we can agree on, and by all means discuss the issue, argue for our view and challenge one another's thinking. But let's not obscure the essential: 'God created the heavens and earth!'

Nicky Samuels and Shane Reed

Nice work Olympic Committee in picking these two to fill the places for Beijing. They have gone for the highest ranked of the Kiwis. Currently Reid is ranked 12th and Bozone 34th. In the women, it is a closer, but Hewitt is ranked 6th and Samuels 14th. So although Samuels has won more national races this season, Hewitt is a proven performer in the international theme. Bozone is the man of the future but Reid is a happening thing for sure. We have a great team for both men and women, so go the Kiwi's, bring home the bling!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Decline of Rugby in NZ

Do those who run rugby realise the dilemma they are in? I do not think they do. Talkback radio and my own experience supports that rugby in NZ in huge trouble. The kids are dropping out, the game is in a mess and people are incredibly disillusioned. There are many reasons:
1. The game is dangerous: this is an old chestnut that reduces interest from many parents, smaller kids. While huge efforts are made to improve it, it is still a game that causes injuries.

2. Polynesian dominance: this goes with 1. above. Skinny small kids will play in the weight based competitions, but the open grades are dominated by the Polynesians who mature early and dominate physically. This is not a racial criticism as they are to be congratulated for their talent. It is a real issue, causing many to give the game away.

3. Rule Changes: Rugby needs to look at the example of soccer, settle on a set of rules which they believe are the best possible rules for the sport and leave them! ELV's are the next round! I find it utterly frustrating that every year I have to relearn the game. What must it be like to change the game. Yet the tackled ball area is still a disaster. Time to stop all the changes.

4. Disillusionment with the All Blacks: Last years RWC was a total disaster. Graham Henry spent 3 years building the best team in the world and one of the best All Black teams of all time. He then inexplicably decided to do everything differently in the year of the cup. They did not play enough, did not develop combinations and were simply not ready for the moment. As expected Carter, McCaw and others are back to their dominant best this year. Then the NZRFU decided unbelievably to retain Henry and allow the world's best coach to go to the Wallabies. Ridiculous. Not to mention Gatland who has shown what he has in Wales! I agree with him that we are arrogant in terms of rugby. A huge number of NZers are fed up with rugby, its dominance, its arrogance and its failure to produce.

5. Other great sports options: There are now other great sports which NZers have discovered. League unlike rugby does not change its game year in year out and it is reaping the rewards. Netball is a great watch. Golf, triathlon, swimming, roller blading, cycling and other sports are being discovered by Kiwis. Soccer is increasingly attractive to the young and growing in its influence. Rugby is losing its dominance whether those in the game admit it or not.

6. Sky TV: While it is great to be able to watch continuous rugby through the weekend on channels set apart for it, the vast majority of NZers are not exposed to the game except delayed tests and the world cup. This is raising generations of NZers who do not know the game, do not understand it, do not enjoy it and have developed other interests. I will continue to argue that it is a major mistake for rugby to not be seen in peak hour with live matches on free to air TV. I see the netballers have gone with Sky for their new competition. This is a major mistake unless there are going to be key live matches on Free to Air. This is a major problem.

7. Breakdown of the traditions of the game: Rugby has made a fatal error as it has gone pro. It has turned its back on its traditions instead of building on them. For example, club rugby has been neglected and is breaking down. The traditional tour has been dumped for the repetitive limited competitions the Super 14 and Tri-Nations. The traditional provincial loyalties have been overridden with new "super" competitions that lack heart and loyalty. Similarly the NPC is now a second rate competition. It may now be too late to go back and the money-grubbing media have now got rugby in its grip, but this has led to a loss of support.

8. Season Length: The season is way too long, and too complicated. There is confusion among all but the faithful between the Super 14 and the NPC. What is the difference between the Crusaders and Canterbury? It is weird to all but those who know. Why on earth are they playing in the middle of the cricket season. Start in March! There needs to be 3 month window between the end of all rugby and the beginning of the next year. There needs to be a simplification of competitions. There needs to be progression from club to province to Super rugby to Internationals. These things MUST be resolved and resolve quick.

9. Loss of the best players: It is tragic to know that over the last few years so many brilliant players have left our shores and that they cannot play for the AB's again. Luke McAlistar is the classic example. For me, he is unquestionably the best second five in the world, yet we will not see him again while he is in Europe. Surely, he can be available for the AB's. To me it is time to let them play and become truly professional.

10. Other issues: My dissillusionment with rugby has increased with the problem of sport funding. My kids are high achievers and have sought funding for their sports careers, yet they continually miss out to rugby. Why? Rugby are loaded compared to other sports? This annoys me greatly.

So in conclusion, there is far less interest now and the interest is dropping. I for one am for the first time in my life (46 years old) unable to raise my interest. I couldn't care less who is winning and do not care whether the All Blacks are dominant or not. It is boring and I am fed up with the continuous changes. I have always loved cricket and rugby, but now my interest lies firmly in cricket. Cricket is undergoing a renaissance which is in no small part due to the decline in rugby. Rugby faces major challenges and it better get it sorted soon or it will no longer lay claim to being NZ's national sport, for me at least.

Rob vs Mahe, what a weak ending!

I should comment on Mahe vs Rob one more time even though it was decided weeks ago. Well done Mahe! Awesome! I am glad that he is going to the Olympics and I believe he will win. I still believe that Rob is his match, but the old heart went on the day. I think it is a good outcome because now they will both return with medals, hopefully gold! Go Kiwi!

Pregnant Man?

Yeah right! It was on TV news tonight that a man had become pregant. It turns out that "he" is in fact a woman who has taken testosterone, had a mastectomy and has lived as a "man", while retaining his female sexual organs. So what is the fuss all about? "He" is a "she"! Why on earth is this on television news as the lead story. This is a great example of what Rod Thompson called a "thin culture" when he spoke at the BCNZ chapel last week! This is nonsense. What we have is a woman getting pregnant! It is a tragic example of the state of the media. The "man" had appeared on Oprah telling "his" story. It illustrates the poverty of our world! We are in serious trouble in western society.

Aside from those extraordinary situations where people are genuinely biologically trans-gender, in my view there is no such thing as "trans-gender" in ultimate terms. We are made in the image of God male or female. We can have all the operations and take all the hormones we like and we may appear to have crossed from one gender to the other. However, we remain what we are in created terms. This provides a dilemma in terms of the way we respond to such people. I say, we love them and accept them as they are and show them grace. We do not stand in judgement over them, but walk with them seeking to help them find wholeness. Jesus hung out with the most unusual people and loved them.

I had an interesting experience many years ago in a Christian band that played churches and camps etc. We didn't have a drummer, but our bass player had a friend who was a drummer having drummed in a very good prominent band. The only problem was that he was now a "she". We decided to go ahead and give "her" a chance and she played with us. "She" was great, playing well, and we became friends. "She" was extraordinarily messed up though. We had a problem at one gig where "she" met a person and returned the next day as a man and was recognised. Anyway, the point was that "she" grew in that time with us I think and it was a good decision.

So what do you think?