Mr Brown’s boys

September 1, 2013

The Otago rugby team  and the Ranfurly shield they won were welcomed back to Dunedin last week by a crowd of 1000 and a banner reading: “Welcome Home, Mr Brown’s Boys”.

The province has celebrated but coach Tony Brown and the team have been focussed on something more important than celebrating the win – retaining the shield.

. . . There is no point giving up the trophy in week one after having waited more than 20,000 days to have it. The first week has been a great ride and no-one wants to jump off so quickly. . .

Forsyth Barr Stadium has been renamed Tony Brown’s place for the occasion.

We were at Carisbrook when it was dubbed Tony Brown’s place for a Super 12 final in 1999.

Unfortunately the Highlanders weren’t able to beat the Crusaders that day.

All my fingers and toes are crossed that the party at Tony Brown’s place this afternoon when Otago defends the shield against the Hawkes Bay Magpies, has a much happier outcome.

Go Otaaaago!

P.S.

Alwyn and I have a bottle of Otago or Hawkes Bay wine of the winner’s choice on the results. I’m happy to accept the same wager from others who doubt Otago.


Final, final farewell to Carisbrook

August 6, 2011

We were at what was supposed to be the final test at Carisbrook when the – All Blacks played Wales last year.

However, Christchurch’s earthquake mounted munted Jade Stadium which gave the ‘Brook a final, final test against Fiji last month.

Rfdunedin reminded me the final inter-provincial between southern rivals, Otago and Southland will be played there today and his memories of its past brought back some of mine.

My first visits were when I was a student, standing on the terrace.

It would have been a couple of decades before I went back in the early days of the Highlanders when it was stacked full of All Blacks – Taine Randell, Jeff Matheson, Tony Brown, Marc Ellis, Josh Kronfeld . . .

There were other rugby tests and some cricket matches too.

But the highlight was watching Otago win the NPC. I think that was John Leslie’s last game for Otago and he was given the ball for the last play of the game which was a kick for a penalty.

A stadium doesn’t make a team but here’s hoping the new Forsyth Barr one creates even more good memories.

For far more informed and detailed memories, Brent Edwards recorded his for the ODT last year.


What’ll we call the new stadium?

June 21, 2010

Dunedin’s new stadium has been controversial.

Some people think there’s  nothing wrong with Carisbrook, some don’t like the new location, many object to the cost.

I support the new stadium and its location in the north end of the city, close to the campus which is such an important part of the historical, cultural and financial fabric of Dunedin.

Saturday was very mild for winter in this part of the world – 16 degrees at lunchtime. But that’s unusual for winter and it wouldn’t be unknown for some summer days to struggle to get that high,

The idea of a roofed stadium which takes away worries about weather for event organisers is a good one for a venue which is suitable for a variety of sports, the arts and other entertainment options.

On Saturday we joined the thousands who accepted the invitation to visit the building and were impressed with what’s been achieved so far.

Wellington’s stadium is better known at the Cake Tin, Carisbrook was the ‘Brook or House of Pain.

It’s officially called the Forsyth Barr stadium and while I appreciate the need to give the major sponsors their due, that’s a bit of a mouthful and I suspect it won’t be long before it gets a nick name, but what’ll it be?


The last test

June 20, 2010

The first game I can remember watching at Carisbrrok was a match between Otago and the Lions.

It would have been 1975ish, in the days when touring teams toured the provinces.

I can’t remember the score though I suspect we lost. It wasn’t the only Otago loss I’ve watched but I also saw some wins, most notably the day the team captained by Taine Randall won the NPC final.

We used to go down to Dunedin regularly for NPC games and in the early days of the Super 12 but in recent years we’ve had other priorities.

But we went down again for Carisbrook’s 37th and final rugby test match last night.

The city was buzzing and turned on a glroious day – blue sky, sunshine and almost no wind. The mild temperature would have been welcomed by the teams playing nude rugby in the afternoon.

As part of the pre-test entertainment, Colin Meads and Otago’s favourite sons Josh Kronfeld and Jeff Wilson told us there favourite memories of the ground.

Deborah Wai Kapohe and Judd Arthur sang the national anthems – powerfully.

Wales scored first and second, then the All Blacks found their feet.

After the final whistle, with the score at 42 -9, the City of Dunedin Pipe Band marched on to the ground to play Auld Lang Syne, Jeff Wilson dug out a piece of turf to be taken to the new Forsyth Barr Stadium and the celebration finished with a fireworks display.

The ODT editorialises in tribute to Carisbrook here.

Jim Mora chatted to Ian Galloway and Ron Polenski about Carisbrook here.

UPDATE: Keeping Stock pays tribute too.


What’s in it for us?

August 23, 2009

North and South editor Virginia Larson tells us in this month’s editorial she requested an interview with All Black captain Richie McCaw.

I wanted to find out what makes a leader out of a young man; what people and places shaped him in his childhood; how he bears the hopes and expectation of thousands every time he leads his team into the arena.

After some exchange of emails with McCaw’s agent, a final phone call came to this: “What’s in it for us?” said the agent. Well, there was no money, of course, and on the spot I couldn’t guarantee a cover . . . But didn’t he value a thoughtful, in-depth profile to be read by close to 3000,000 people . . .

Clearly, he didn’t. Access denied.

If the All Blacks, want to gain back the place they once had in New Zealanders’ hearts, the question isn’t what’s in it for them but what’s in it for us, the public.

My father and brothers weren’t interested in rugby, they preferred sailing. But radio commentaries provided a background to my childhood Saturday afternoons because my mother often listened to them, especially when her nephew was playing for University or Otago.

I didn’t watch a game until I was 17 when the prefects from Waitaki Girls’ were invited to watch inter-school matches at Waitaki Boys’. It didn’t really matter what was on, it was an excuse for an afternoon out of class and with boys.

A few excursions to Carisbrook when I was a student followed and there were also some late/night early morning parties when we crowded round a black and white television to watch a test from overseas. But the attraction was not so much what was happening on the field as the opportunity for fun with friends.

The next memory I have of rugby was 1981 and the Springbok tour. While some people a little older than I am feel it was a defining issue, I didn’t. I was in my first job as a journalist and reported on local reactions, and happened to be in Christchurch with friends when there was a test somewhere which we watched on TV, but it was not a major concern or interest for me.

I was overseas the following year, returned home to be married and have vague memories of gatherings with friends at our home or theirs to watch the odd test in the next few years.

It wasn’t until 1995 when we hosted an AFS student from Argentina who played rugby that I watched a live game. That was a World Cup year and the All Blacks toured New Zealand, stopping in provincial towns to meet their fans. I took our student who could speak only a little English, to meet them. His excitement at exchanging a few words in Spanish with Eric Rush and shaking hands with Sean Fitzpatrick brought home to me the strength of their influence and international reputation.

The Super 12 competition started the following year and we travelled down to Dunedin and Christchurch to watch several games. We watched a few NPC games  at Lancaster Park and Carisbrook too, including the one when Otago didn’t win the Ranfurly Shield and one when they did win the NPC competition.

Then what happened? The season got longer, the competition didn’t have the same attraction and frustration at the way rugby interfered with other functions grew. I’ve watched a few North Otago games but last year went to Dunedin only once for an NPC game, this year I half-watched a Super 14 game on TV and haven’t yet watched a test.

I know just enough about the game to sit through a match, but I need an emotional connection to enjoy it. I might have that with Valley which is our local team and North Otago, but I no longer have it with any teams higher up. I’d be hard pressed to name any Highlander or Otago players and couldn’t name more than a handful of All Blacks.

Part of the reason for that might lie in a comment from Graham Henry which caught Alf Grumble’s attention:

“. . . I guess the product’s not too great and that’s disappointing.”

When I read that I begin to wonder if Karl du Fresne really had been in the All Black dressing room when he wrote:

The meeting opened with a team official launching a withering attack on player A, who had been seen in a Durban bar wearing a non-approved hair gel. The player’s excuse – that he had a new executive assistant who had packed the wrong makeup kit – was contemptuously brushed aside.

Next, player B was fined for having turned up late at a promotional appearance to launch the ABs’ new personal fragrance range, evocatively named Scrum. . .

It didn’t used to be a product. The players were heroes but not plastic celebrities. They were real, grounded people connected to and respectful of the public who admired them.

At least some of the current All Blacks might still be like that. From what I know of Richie McCaw, who grew up in the HakaValley not far from here, he definitely is. But his agent has let him down and has also let rugby down.

When the agent had to ask, “what’s in it for us?”  and the coach talks about the product they’ve both lost sight of what’s important.

It’s not a product it’s a game. The All Blacks aren’t royalty who command attention, they’re players who need to connect with the public if they want to win back fans.

I’m writing this on Saturday evening. The All Blacks will be playing the Wallabies soon. I might turn the TV on to watch the national anthems and the haka and to see if I can catch sight of some people I know in the crowd because they happened to have important business in Sydney this weekend.

But I won’t stay awake for the game and while I’ll hope that New Zealand will win, that’s no more than I’d want if it was the national tiddlywinks team playing the Australians.

I’m over rugby which isn’t of any great concern if it’s only me. But it’s not. A lot of people, especially women, share my lack of interest and that ought to be of great concern for the Rugby Union who wants us all to get behind the World Cup.

They haven’t got long to get us enthusiastic again. They could start by realising that unless they can persuade us there’s something in it for us, there isn’t anything in it for them. A good first step would be for that agent to phone North and South to arrange a time that suits the journalist for an interview with Richie.


Carisbrook wins heritage status

September 30, 2008

The Historic Places Trust has conferred Category 1 historic status on Carisbrook.

Trust Otago/Southland manager Owen Graham said:

that given Carisbrook’s heritage value and iconic status as a sports ground, alternative re-development options such as creating a public reserve area merited full discussion.

“There is significant scope for sympathetic re-development,” Mr Graham said.

“Although the needs and pressures facing Carisbrook’s owner might result in change to its existing use, it is important to the community that Carisbrook’s character is retained for the benefit of generations to come.”

 The Dunedin City Council had opposed the registration, concerned about the impact it might have on redevelopment options it it succeeds with its plans to build a new stadium at another site. But registration by itself doesn’t offer any protection to Carisbrook.


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