Gnarly Old Bastards

Shhh! Just between you and me, Ned’s on a secret mission to the northern hemisphere. I’m not saying that Shag is involved, but let’s just say that it involves secret caches of Maketu Pies behind enemy lines. To cover my undercover moments, I’ve selected a few choice moments from the Road To Redemption.

Originally published 28 May 2010

The NZRU’s plan for the 2007 Rugby World Cup was based on the assumption that “the best prepared and talented team would win the RWC”. (para 3.18, p.9, Independent Review of the 2007 Rugby World Cup Campaign)

It’s nonsense, of course. There is no evidence that it is true or ever has been true or ever will be true.

On page 7, at para 3.2, the report makes the critical observation, and then skates right on by: “The RWC finals are knock-out matches (with all the uncertainties that entails). Professional sport is not “fair” and results cannot be guaranteed.”

“RWC finals are knock-out matches.”

Who wins knock-out matches? The youngest: the fittest: the strongest: the fastest: the prettiest? No.

They’re won by two muscles – the head and the heart – that cannot be strengthened by a conditioning programme.

Knock-out matches are won by gnarly old bastards who have one last shot at glory. Who have tasted the bitter herbs of defeat during a long career, and are damned if they’ll do it again. Who will play with the smarts needed to smother the other team, to choke the life out of their game plan, to grind them into the turf, and to crawl our way to victory, one desperate inch at a time.

Not every player on the field will be old and gnarly, but the core of the team should be. The ones who will call the plays, direct the troops, lead the charges. Lead the charges: throwing tired old bodies into battle one last time without thought of hurt or future. Calling “On me!” so that a tide of irresistible black engulfs a dispirited, disjointed defence.

A upane kaupane whiti te ra!

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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