The Ground that We Won

November 7, 2015 at 5:28 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I finally got to see Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smiths’ documentary film about the Reporoa Rugby Club’s mens team’s 2013 season.

The team have had a terrible 2012 season – they lost every game – and got relegated. Against a backdrop of a drought, the team sets out to: win every game and win the grade. Reporoa is dairy country, and the lack of rain hangs over the little community; the collective of relief at one of the early 2013 practice sessions is palpable.

The film is in black-and-white; early on in the film I expected the colour to slip in. But no. The black-and-white gives the film a timeless effect; but for a few details (like the quad bikes, but not the team bus) this could have been the 2003, the 1993, or even the 1963 team! The Reporoa valley on the early morning looks fabulous.

The film closely follows three members of the team: the youngest member (‘peanut’), the captain (‘Kevin’), and a member of the bench (‘Broomie’). Broomie is the oldest; possibly not by much, but he is the real find of the film. Broomie is single-handedly raising twin sons (seven years old), and running a dairy farm by himself, and finds time to go to practice, to play the odd game, and coach some of the ‘littlies’. Kevin is taking over the family farm from his parents; they are still live there, and step in when he has an injury. Peanut (if they said his real name, then I missed it) is just a young guy starting out.

We see the team at work (dairying) and at play (rugby games, rugby practice, and ‘sessions’), and some of their private lives. Peanut and Kevin are seen hooking the cows up at the herringbone shed; Broomie’s got a rotary shed. Kevin is seen helping deliver calves – he attaches a bungy cord to the exposed hoof and uses his body weight to give the calf a bit of help to come out. Broomie is often seen calling his twins on his mobile phone, while leaning on a cow, in the pre-dawn morning, checking that they are ready for school.

The film is not about rugby; it is about the role rugby plays in a small dairy community – at least for the men. It gives the lads (of all ages some structure); there is a lot of energy, and baggage of life to deal with when you are a dairy farmer – beholden to the banks, depending on fickle markets, at the mercy of the weather. Rugby provides a way for the men in the community to come together, to work off frustrations, let off steam, and pass on values. Peanuts, 17, gets a lot of stick, but it is never malicious. Honestly, some of the male bonding and coming together immediately before a game would have been recognised by the Spartans.

Peanut is learning to box, for a charity event, and like many teenagers is a bit uncoordinated, and uncontrolled. His boxing coach (also a rugby player) lays it out for him: no showing off or acting out in public; “not cool”. His coach tells him don’t get angry, don’t loose control; of course peanut does, and flays away at his coach. His coach just lets him get too extended and ‘pops’ him ; “get up … keep going”.

Broomie cuddles the twins, but certainly doesn’t molly coddle them. They have chores (make their own lunch, get dressed, tidy their room, etc) to do if they want to go to rugby practice and not sit in the car. Broomie’s lays it out: there have to be rules or its chaos. At one littlies’ practice, one of the twins, trips another player and gets sinbinned by their dad-and-coach to the car. Tears of frustration, of missing the rest of practice, and of letting dad down.

There is the bus ride to and from the game – typical of sports bus trips. The core of the team end up at the back ‘holding court’. The bus gets quite wet at times; but next morning Kevin and a helper are washing it down.

The swearing was a surprise – heaps of it in the changing room. The drink sessions after practice was not; nor were the special sessions to mark some milestone.

You don’t have to be a New Zealander, nor have played rugby to see this film. But it is a uniquely New Zealand story, that needed to be captured, before the corporatisation of farming changes the make-up of small town rural New Zealand. If you have played rugby then some of the practices and games will be a bit more interesting. [Actually, the film could not be of the 1963 team because there is lifting in the line-outs.] But the film does not try to show too much of the games – just enough to show that the players and their communities care about the result.

A great documentary film that shows a side of the New Zealand male psyche that is not seen in an increasingly urban New Zealand.

See it if you can – warning contains swearing, drinking, and carrying-on!


RWC 2011 – the Final – New Zealand vs France

October 24, 2011 at 3:27 am | Posted in Sporting Event | Leave a comment
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So I watched the final – last night. As a New Zealander, I am so glad and relieved that the All Blacks won. It was not a pretty victory, nor a big victory, but a deserved victory – 8-7 !

Once again, defence won the game. The All Blacks, did not deliver the kind of performance that they did against Australia (semi-final) and Argentina (quarter-final), but they tackled their hearts out and the forwards worked the hard tough metres.

It was a close game and the result was never assured. Both teams had a bad night with their kicking; both kicked 1 out of 4 attempts, and thankfully for New Zealand, our kick was worth one more point!

I think that the All Blacks without Dan Carter was weakened. But it speaks volumes for New Zealand’s depth in players that Stephen Donald became an unexpected hero – he kicked what turned out to be the winning penalty. Such has been the bad run of injuries to the first five-eights, that Donald who was not in the original team was called up – while whitebait fishing, so the story goes – within days of the final to provide cover for Aaron Cruden (who was also called in, from his skateboard, so the story goes) when Dan Carter was injured in training.

The pressure on the kickers must have been immense. Piri Weepu had a bad night with the boot, but made up for it in his tackling and marshaling the team – and saving a certain French try. the French kicking was equally ‘off’: only managing the conversion from close in.

Given the work done by both sets of forwards, it seems fitting that both trys were scored by forwards: Tony Woodcock and Thierry Dusautoir. The later, the French captain, was also made man-of-the-match. This was fitting in some ways, as the All Black team work, on defence, won them the game.

France were a little more inventive with their attacks; but the All Black defence was up to it. France won better line-out ball and their scrum was more than competitive; but the All Blacks tackled and tackled and tackled. In the end it was not anything fancy: just tackling hard, and sprinting back to your place in the defensive pattern, and doing it again.

Only with three minutes to go did the All Blacks snuff out French hopes: by retaining possession in the forwards, through a series of slow pick-and-goes that wound the clock down.

The win puts the demons of 1991 and 2007 to rest, and sets them up for the next decade or so. It sets the example and the bar for future All Black teams.

Finally, I think it is fitting that France, who out tackled a spirited 14-man Wales to an 9-8 win, to get to the final, were, in turn, out tackled to a 7-8 loss, in the final.

Inside Out

March 7, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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March 6, 2010 by Show_Hanger

I went to Inside Out in the weekend, put on by Sweden’s Cirkus Cirkör (circus troupe), at the Opera House.

Great show, with live music provided by Irya’s Playground (alos from Sweden).

Even though it was on stage, there was a trained goldfish and a flying horse ! – go see it to see how its is done.

The custome written music works well with the journey through life theme of the show, and all of the circus techniques on display was well worked in.

There was great static trapeze act; an amazing juggler; great tumbling; and a man inside a ring.

I haven’t seen juggling of this standard in the flesh; at times: he had 5 clubs in the air; 8-maybe-9 thuds; and 7-maybe-8 rings ! Just a delight to watch his compusre and hand speed.

The man in a roye-cyr, might best be described as a german wheel with only one ring ! Yet doing man of the tricks you do with a two ring wheel. It was a true ring – there were no hand holds. Just incredible.



March 1, 2010 at 12:19 am | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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February 27, 2010 by Show_Hanger

I went Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra in the weekend. Cherkaoui’s choreography and interplay with the monks from the Shoalin Temple (in China) was amazing.

I am not even going to try to describe the work. The monks pretty much do their thing – kung fu moves that they have been learning and perfecting since they entered the monastry as boys. But this is not a Kung Fu demonstration. What carries the work to being more than a Kung Fu demonstration, is the large coffin-like boxes on a starkly bare stage.

The boxes are re-arranged -constantly change the landscape; the monks and Cherkaoui move on them, move in them and moved them.

The monks are awesome: nimble, acrobatic; very dynamic with their floor work and I’m sure they pack a punch. There was some staff work, ‘knife’ work’ and a little bit of sword (2-handed) work. There is also a very nice monkey personification by the novice monk

Oh there is live original music, composed by Szymon Brzóska, and performed by a live quintet.


Definitely go if you get the chance: It is one hour long with no interval. So be prompt!

Olympic Hockey: NZ v China

August 18, 2008 at 6:24 am | Posted in Sporting Event | Leave a comment
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Despite vows to go to bed early, I stayed up and watched the New Zealand men’s team play China in the 2008 Olympic Hockey Competition

New Zealand needed to win this game to make their path to the semi-final playoffs a realistic one.

August 17, 2008 by

Hockey Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
New Zealand

A hugely disappointing game for New Zealand. They started slowly, never really took control of the game and were thwarted by a frantic Chinese defence.

Going into this game China were at the bottom of Pool A – having lost all their games. One can’t help thinking that New Zealand subconciously expected to turn up and collect 3 points for the win. China, in front of thousands of screaming fans, took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored two goals in the first 15 or so minutes – 2 penalty corners; 2 well executed strikes (by Yi Song – the captain). This was like every other game that they had played ! always scoring the first goal, but loosing in the end.

New Zealand started slow and never really recovered. Yes, they had most of the pocession, but you don’t get points for near misses. They did not convert one penalty corner – 3 excellent saves by the Chinese goalkeeper (Rifeng Su) kept them out. Much to New Zealand’s credit they did get two goals back – both from field play – one from a cross (Simon Child) and one from a defensive error by China. New Zealand would have lost this game against a better side – the equaliser came from a loose Chinese clearance that went straight to Shea McAleese who drilled it inside the right hand post. A better side would not have become trapped for long periods of time inside their own half.

China mounted a spirited defence – at times it was not very elegant, at times it was not very subtle, at times they may have crossed the line – why wouldn’t they ? They had previously lost 2-5 to South Korea, when they had been 2-0 up. They were winning and did everything that was not illegal (and sometimes illegal) to slow and frustrate the New Zealanders. It almost worked.

So well done New Zealand for coming back from 0-2 down.

Not so good China: they should have been able to hold out for a win.


Now New Zealand are in trouble; the path to the semi-finals now requires them to beat Germany – who are ranked number 1 in the world. The loss to Spain in the final seconds and two early goals to China may just have ended New Zealand’s chances of a semi-final playoff. Still, if they can have a loose game, maybe Germany will too – this is sport afterall!

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