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 11 October 2011
It feels like that moment as you tremble on the edge of the wharf, willing yourself to step forward to the plunge. I could stand there forever, rocking between the safety of land and the thrill of the fall.
The All Blacks’ progress to the semis has been straightforward. There were no great fears in pool play: even if we had lost to the French we were mighty odds on to go through to a quarter-final.
The Bargies were the least frightful opponent we could meet there. Even with a dour first-half behind us, and Slade injured, I felt tense but not threatened.
But now a semi against an old foe that knows us too well. That on a couple of measures – Super XIV and Tri-Nations crowns – has had the wood on us this year.
If it wasn’t for the horological certainty that 9.00pm will arrive all of its own volition on Sunday, I would almost want to stay trembling on the precipice. Wanting to go forward to victory, fearing a fall to defeat. Better surely to remain eternally poised between them?
At the Aussie-Jaapie quarter-final on Sunday I was sitting next to a Kumeroa dairy farmer who had pretty much started drinking when he’d finished the morning’s milking. By the afternoon he was well full of bonhomie at the ineptitude of both teams. Über-confident that neither of them represented a real threat to the All Blacks.
There’s a certain logic to it. The Wallabies were woeful at getting the pill and holding on to it. They kicked it back willy-nilly when their only potency is ball in hand for their gliding backs. Their front row is a shambles, their lineout laboured. Only Pocock’s pilfering stands out.
And yet, and yet. They won, with barely 24 percent of possession and 44 percent of territory. Their scramble kept them in the game, all the way to kicking the vital penalty in the 71st minute.
You could hear the hiss of air going out of the Bokke fans then. A nine minute deflation from hope to resignation. Four more years.
I know that feeling well enough from five lost campaigns. It’s the feeling you have dropping towards the water, when gravity has taken over, and you know that this is going to end in cold.
My hope rests in those five falls already taken. By now I am inured to cold: standing wet on the wharf in a spring breeze is actually colder than landing in the winter water. Jump, just jump. Savour the falling feeling, let loose your loudest rebel yell, and lean back to make the biggest damn splash you can.