I remember the 2010s!

An end of the decade ramble. Apologies if I’ve missed your team or sport, but these are bits I cared about most in the last ten years.

Cricket
It’s safe to say the BLACKCAPS delivered for their fans this decade. Sure, there were still significant speedbumps at the start, but once the Hesson / McCullum then Stead / Williamson shows kicked in, we were off.

The 2015 world cup offered nearly a life-time’s worth of high points. Guptill at Westpac. Boult slicing through the Australian top order, and Southee the English. The whole semi-final. Personally, being there for most of it was huge. Going over to the final was massive. But sitting high in the Eden Park northern stand watching the sun sink over the Watakeres, while ‘More than a feeling’ came on the PA… that was a peak.

It’s too soon to talk about the 2019 world cup, but I enjoyed parts of that too.

We’re ending the decade the number two Test nation in the world. Personal highlights include that Eden Park draw in 2013, the win away over Pakistan after Phil Hughes’ passing, when the BLACKCAPS paid tribute with not playing for a day in tribute, then playing extraordinary cricket, the Hagley Park draw in 2018, the 2014 series win over India and being there for all of MCullum’s triple.

Across the decade, the best bit is Having A Plan and Being Consistent. BLACKCAPS fans have had to endure many days in our lifetime where our team wilted and didn’t turn up. Those days are gone. Sure, there have been some pretty rough times, but the Hesson / McCullum / Carter / Sandle meeting in South Africa where they set out how they wanted to play and how they wanted to be, set us up to be a proper cricket team at last. And when the first two stepped down and everyone was a little worried about how things would go, it turned out we needn’t have, and we even got better.

That’s why we now win Tests like that one v England at Bay Oval, and this one against Sri Lanka in 2015 after being miles behind. In the 2000’s, we’d have lost by an innings, now we guts it out and win. We’re lucky to be here for this, team.

Rugby
We won two world cups this decade, but it wouldn’t be the All Blacks if everyone wasn’t a little bit unhappy at the end of it.

We’re lucky that all-time greats seem to come thick and fast through the All Blacks, but being here for Richie and Dan seems genuinely special. Dan doing his groin in Wellington was an all-time shocking moment for fans, and set up the giddy distraction of the Slade / Cruden / Donald situation, helped by Piri Weepu suddenly becoming a world-class goal kicker, that somehow got us home in 2011. I’ll never forget the grim somersaults my stomach insisted on doing when watching that final, and the grim relief at the final whistle, thinking about how we narrowly avoided being a pretty ugly place to live for a while.

It was a bit easier in 2015. Everyone was fit and we played well. We got used to being a country that won world cups again.

But then came the Lions tour which was far less enjoyable than 2005, with coaches arguing and some turid tactics showing the All Blacks could be tamed. And this year’s world cup had the return of the hail mary selections and the semi final exit.

It felt like time for a new leaf, but that didn’t happen. I wish the good Waikato man Ian Foster all the best, but also worry for him. If things don’t go his way, and our way, it won’t be as much fun to follow for a while.

Oh, and the Chiefs won two titles and produced the haka of the decade.

Football
The football’s been excellent. There were two rubbish world cups and one brilliant one. And the video referees are taking a long time to settle.

Tottenham, my team, have had their best decade ever, while somehow not winning anything. Suddenly we’re making the champions league regularly, and doing amazing things when we got there. All while knocking our magical, historic stadium over and building the best one in the world. The cost of performing all these miracles built up too much, and we’ve ended the decade by sacking the man that helped make all this happen. And now we’re back to uncertainty, and business as usual. You need to enjoy the good times while they’re happening, team.

The rest
The America’s Cup supplied one of the low points, watching the San Fransico Bay wind die away, and our chances of winning it slip with it, before Jimmy Spithill rolled his sleeves up. Dean Barker weeping at the back of the boat is one of the properly shocking images of the last ten years, balanced out by the joyous Bermuda celebrations and the anticipation of another home defense and what that means for Auckland.

It’s been a rough decade for Nike - Tiger Woods had a torrid time on and off the course, but seems to have come back strong at last. And remember how shocking it was to see Lance Armstrong telling Oprah he used drugs?


Balance
I was lucky enough with my work to spend time with New Zealand female domestic cricketers last year, and hear first hand about the sacrifices required just to be there to compete. It was a real eye opener. I must confess that previously, I didn’t follow women’s sport outside the usual netball or tennis really at all in the past. There wasn’t much on. But through a lot of people’s hard work, female athletes are *starting* to get some of the same opportunities as the blokes, both in investment in their performance by sporting bodies, and crucially - being able to see it and read about it. Sport is starting to catch up to society, which is fantastic. Let’s keep pushing.

Thanks for reading - Richard

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The week's best NZ sport content

The latest in the Scratched series of forgotten NZ women athletes is Football Fern Barbara Cox, and typically essential viewing [The Spinoff]

17 BLACKCAPS who debuted in Australia and how they got on (some mixed results here) [NZ Herald]

Richard Hadlee cleaning up some kids at driveway cricket and talking Brisbane 85 and his health [Seven Sharp]

Jamie Wall on what it’s like to have a beer with Ian Foster, and why he’ll be a different kind of All Black coach [The Spinoff]

If you’ve ever wondered how media-paranoid Warren Gatland would go against uber-interviewer Kim Hill, here’s the answer [RNZ]

Video nasty

These guys call their 12 hour lawnmower race the greatest show on turf, and they are right.

Long read

The intriguing case of Canada’s biggest bitcoin house of cards, and what happened when it all fell over [Vanity Fair]

Selected weekend fixtures 

  • Day two of the second Test v Australia gets underway at 6pm our time, it’s on SKY

  • The Dream 11 Super Smash beings tonight with Stags v Knights at McLean Park at 7.10pm. There are matches all weekend, it’s on SKY

  • Football’s National Women’s League final is Canterbury Pride v Northern LIghts, it’s on Sunday afternoon at 2pm

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How to move on from 2019's sporting trauma

Studies show a triple world cup year is more stressful than moving house while entertaining on Christmas day. Make sure you exercise sporting self-care best practise by doing all of the following before the first Test v Australia starts next week.

  1. Shitpost bomb - clear the decks by posting all the trolls and memes in your draft folder at once, never mind the consequences on your personal and professional life, this is about your health

  2. Wellness retreat - changing your environment gets results. That’s why you need to leave work early this afternoon and go on a month-long solo fishing mission into the Pacific Ocean to learn about yourself. Tell your manager Sport Review told you to do so, I’ve cleared it with them, it will be fine

  3. Cleanse your environment - did you break the coffee table when that ball ricocheted off Ben Stokes’ bat? Did you crack the 50” when England scored early? Bite a piece off the couch during the netball? Marie Kondo the lot, put every piece of furniture that brings back bad memories on the berm and start afresh

  4. Talk it out - if you took the traditional kiwi approach to dealing with defeat by pushing all those emotions deep down inside, praying they never emerge until years later, now is the time to confront the demons. Get some mates, book a pub table and a taxi home and let it all out

  5. The Sport Review Cleansing Diet - two weeks of Porter ale and pistachio nuts are going to make something happen, believe me

  6. Confront your demons - have a loved one duct-tape you to the lazy boy and put a replay of the cricket world cup final and the semi-final defeat to England on loop. This is extremely experimental advice, best to set a safe word like ‘oh god oh god’ or ‘f*cking Eddie Jones’

  7. Delete all your emails - go to your work email, select all and permanently delete. I can’t guarantee what will happen, but getting out of your comfort zone is vital for personal growth

Thanks for reading - Richard

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The week's best NZ sport content

The new Crusaders logo looks like many things, including two sets of cocks and balls and a ‘design by committee’ powerpoint slide, but it doesn’t look like change says Jamie Wall [The Spinoff]

Martine Grael learned to sail at the legendary Murray’s Bay club while her dad Torben was tactician for Prada in the last America’s Cup here - now the reigning Olympic 49er champion is back on the Gulf for next week’s world champs [LockerRoom]

Our pace attack has been well settled for roughly six years now, winning us many matches on these ‘death of Test cricket’ *cough* pitches we have here [Stuff]

Liam Napier rounds up the best and weakest of this All Black rugby decade. Yes, we won two world cups but it’s not all been plain rucking [Stuff]

Video nasty

The full Simpsons’ McBain movie, cut into a very funny whole.

Long read

Randy Newman is coming to New Zealand next year - read up on the great man and his music, which goes way beyond Toy Story.

Recommendation

Were four episodes into The Dublin Murders, but it’s really, really good. The actors and setting are brooding, the black humour is tops and the plot twists keep coming. Track it down.

Selected weekend fixtures 

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When you restart the modem.

TK

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It gets better every year

As of last week, Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval is our newest Test ground, and it’s certainly the most ambitious.

Impatient to get international cricket (tick), lights (tick) and now Tests, the only thing left must be a day/night Test, which can’t be far away.

Those drone shots coming in over Blake Park’s southern end, taking in the the oval, light towers and sprawling banks before cruising out to the peninsula, harbour and Mauao with maybe a cruise ship or two are probably the sexiest tourism advertisement for New Zealand since David Lange hit Oxford Union.

Crossing the bridge to the Mount makes you feel like you’re on holiday anyway, and with the option of throwing yourself in the ocean or strolling up to a number of inviting watering holes at close of play, it’s hard to beat as a day out.

Thousands of cricket tragics, families and the barmy army rolled up for all five days in the Bay of Plenty heat. I snuck over on the Monday afternoon for the end and there were thousands there anticipating a famous New Zealand win.

New Zealand is ridiculously well served for Test cricket grounds with Hagley Oval, University Oval and the Basin Reserve (the daddy of them all) jostling for fixtures with Northern Districts’ Bay Oval and Seddon Park (Whanageri would probably do a great job too). Auckland needs to get Western Springs sorted out and get in the game and fast.

You can’t beat a kick-the-jandals-off vibe for Tests. Grass banks let you mooch around where you please - following the sun, catching up with mates or perusing the hot dog options are no hassle.

We’re lucky to have these 'boutique grounds’ developing and pushing each other to get better. If you’re near the Bay of Plenty over the summer, I highly recommend getting to Bay Oval to see it done properly.

Thanks for reading - Richard

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The week's best NZ sport content

BJ Watling’s Bay Oval double ton was deeply, deeply pleasurable. Steve Deane sings the praises of our ultimate team man, who modestly tells kids they should be like Brendon McCullum instead [Newsroom]

Ben Stanley has the story of another famous NZ innings, Mark Greatbach’s 146 not, where he defied the Australian attack in Perth over the course of about three weeks [NZ Herald]

Sportsfreak praises the New Zealand selectors, who got it pretty much all right at Bay Oval [Sportsfreak]

Ian Anderson reckons the current crop are our best ever NZ Test team - it’s hard to argue and hopefully there won’t be any doubt at the end of the summer [Stuff]

We need more women on boards - everywhere, but especially in sport where their voices haven’t been properly heard in the past and have a crucial contribution to make [Locker Room]

Video nasty

Argentinian skateboarder Milton Martinez is like the Tony Hawk game in real life. Stick around for the last trick.

Long read

Do you think ‘upgrade!’ every time you drop your phone? Here’s an ode to really, really cheap mobiles - or shitphones - that let you get hold of people but not rack up those screen time numbers [Medium]

Recommendation

We’ve been glued to mountain climbing documentaries. Specifically The Dawn Wall, which is on Netflix and Free Solo, which you’ll have to track down. They’re both about El Capitan, the vertical rock face towering over Yosemite National Park in the States. The latter in particular has several soil-yourself moments, as he’s climbing the thing WITHOUT ROPES.

Selected weekend fixtures 

  • The second Test v England starts at 11am today at Seddon Park. Sure, there are no Test championship points up for grabs, but a great chance for a series win over the world *cough* champions *cough*. It’s on SKY

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Yes coach

It’s been a rough week.

First, Mauricio Pochettino, the wonderful chest-freezer-chested Argentinian manager of Tottenham Hotspur was sacked, quickly replaced by comedy villain Jose Mourinho. If you’re not familiar with these names, think of the Obama-Trump transition and how well that’s gone.

Then, Dave Rennie, the wonderful former Chiefs coach who delivered our first two Super Rugby titles back in 2012 and 13, was unveiled as the Wallabies coach when I was naively hoping he had an outside chance at being the next All Blacks coach, or part of the crew.

Fans’ relationships with your team’s coach is a weird, almost parental one. It’s the players scoring the goals and runs etc, but it’s the coach who makes the plan. And the one that gets binned when things don’t go well.

From 2001 to 2014, Tottenham had seven managers, putting fans through an endless cycle of hope, crushed dreams, resignation and rebuilding. Rinse and repeat. Pochettino gave us consistency where once there was chaos and underachievement. Suddenly we were one of the best teams in England year after year. It actually took some getting used to.

And last year he took us to the Champions League final, via incredible, exhilarating last minute wins over Manchester City and Ajax.

And yet - despite doing all this with no money to refresh his team, when the resources got stretched past breaking point this year, the depressing avalanche of headlines arrived once more.

Top level football is obviously a ruthless business, and Spurs chair Daniel Levy is more cut-throat than most, but I desperately wanted Poch to stay and turn it around. He’s given us so much. I just wanted him to be happy.

No doubt he’ll pop up somewhere else and make a huge success of things, but this hurts quite a lot right now. We never got to see what might have been, or a chance to say sorry this happened, goodbye and thanks for everything*.

Back here, the search for a new All Blacks coach is not so much heating up as melting in the sun. NZR controls everything to do with coaching in New Zealand, with the express purpose of developing depth.

But a Christmas parade of extremely capable coaches who’ve done everything right by winning Super Rugby titles and getting overseas experience are ruling themselves out. We’re left playing musical chairs with those perennial options of Whoever’s #2 (Ian Foster, extremely underwhelming last time he was a head coach), and Whoever’s The Crusaders Coach (Scott Robertson, who is great but completely untested at international level).

Tell fans who’ve put up with Mark Hammett at the Hurricanes and Tana at the Blues in the name of developing depth that a succession plan of waiting until the last minute, then firing out a whole lot of emails, is good enough. The cream of world rugby passed us by, after a world cup where we weren’t good enough. I think it’s a bit rubbish.

Coaching is a hell of a job. In a previous life I was lucky enough to see BLACKCAPS coach Mike Hesson do his thing close up. His vision, meticulous planning and extremely clear communication skills were easily the equal of anything I saw in corporate land (Im not damning with faint praise here). He was extremely level headed about the whole thing. And he was great company, supporting Liverpool aside. It takes a brave and special person to do this at any level, let alone at the top.

Most of us would struggle doing our jobs with reporters questioning our every move and the threat of an instant sacking lurking nearby. I admire people who do it, and feel for those whose hard work doesn’t turn out for them, when they’re called into the chairman’s office. I hope your team’s coaches are going all right.

Thanks for reading - Richard

*Yes, this is an extremely strange thing for a man in his mid 40’s to sit down and type out. Ahem.

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The week's best NZ sport content

Sonny Bill Williams on being Muslim. One of the most-discussed athletes in New Zealand, the thing I admire about him is how he floats above it all [RNZ / BBC]

You want Neil Wagner on your team. The sweetest guy off the field, when he has the ball he turns into an animal, stretching every fibre to win you the game. James Borrowdale sings his praises [The Spinoff]

Dave Leggat on Lea Tahuhu, the White Ferns’ fastest female in the world [LockerRoom]

This week it’s Bay Oval’s debut as the Test ground it was always meant to be. Here’s Guy Heveldt on Mount Maunganui’s ‘If you build it they will come’ moment, and Sportsfreak on our Test grounds on debut [TVNZ, Sportsfreak]

You must read Steve Braunias’ review of Kieren Read’s book [Newsroom]

Video nasty

When my ass was nineteen and a half years old, I changed the face of professional baseball (NZFW language warning!).

Long read

From the archives - checking in with Lance Armstrong in 2014, a few months after his hypodermic house of cards came to bits [Esquire]

Recommendation

The Righteous Gemstones is the latest from Danny McBride and Jody Hill, the team behind Eastbound and Down (see above) and Vice Principals. The Gemstones are a dynasty of mega-moneyed evangelists with some serious secrets bursting to get out, and the humour is blacker than Johnny Cash’s undies. Track it down, it’s on Neon.

Selected weekend fixtures 

  • Today is day two of the first Test v England from Mount Maunganui, play starts at 11am and it’s set to go through until Monday. It’s on SKY

  • West Ham host Tottenham at 1.30am, then Man City play Chelsea at 6.30am Sunday, they’re on Spark Sport

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When you hear the number of weeks until Christmas.

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Awkward sporting questions edition

It was always going to be a tie, wasn’t it?

All very well inviting 26 people to apply for All Black coach, but what if you wind up with number 26? Didn’t think that through.

Will breakdancing form a key pillar of Scott Robertson’s All Black coach application? Is the boardroom floor suitable for backspins or will he bring his own lino?

What did you accomplish in the week between rugby and cricket? Put your All Black jersey in sealed plastic bags at the bottom of the drawer? Dry clean the BLACKCAPS hoodie? Tidy the garage? Make a spreadsheet with SKY, Netflix, broadband and all the rest on it to make sure you’re doing things right? I’m going to say you didn’t.

Has Dark Lord Of Defence And Vengence John Mitchell finished his Revenge On New Zealand programme or is he just getting underway?

Which had the biggest impact - new boss Matt Walsh on the Breakers or the 2011 earthquake on AMI Stadium?

Was NZR aiming for a ‘family reunion photo with cousins you’ve never met’ vibe with this effort?

Thanks for reading - Richard

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The week's best NZ sport content

If it’s possible to make a long awaited debut at the age of 19, Amelia Kerr arriving in the Big Bash League is just that - and she’s made a huge impact as Bridget Tunnicliffe finds out [RNZ]

It’s ten years since the All Whites qualified for the 2010 World Cup with one of WestPac Stadium’s greatest ever nights - so where are those players now? [NZ Herald]

Anna Connell on her rugby journey, from rejecting it wholeheartedly to working within it through governance and also Twitter [Newsroom]

Check out the latest footage of Te Aihe up on the foils - looks v quick [NZ Herald]

Video nasty

Blackadder v the Bishop of Bath & Wells.

Long read

How do you find people floating in the sea? Michael Lewis meets an expert, and finds out what it feels like when the US government decides it’s not an essential service any more [Bloomberg]

Recommendation

White Silence is a six part podcast thoroughly examining the Erebus disaster from RNZ and Stuff. There’s archive material alongside recent interviews, skillfully told. Highly recommended.

Selected weekend fixtures 

  • The All Whites play their first game in 18 months against Ireland in Dublin at 8.45am this morning, so you might as well go back to bed, it’s on SKY

  • The Breakers play Perth at 7pm on Sunday, it’s on SKY

  • The first Test v England starts next Thursday at Bay Oval in marvelous Mount Maunganui, it’s on SKY

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When someone sends a meeting invite for 4pm Friday.

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