Saturday, October 08, 2011

Choke, Growing up All Black and blue

On Sunday New Zealand plays in the quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup, a stage they were famously knocked out at four years ago. Today we've got a guest post from a lifelong All Blacks fan whose life has revolved around RWC disappointment.

In 1987 the All Blacks won the world cup, confirming what Kiwis had thought for a long time, that New Zealand had the greatest rugby team on the planet. I was four years old.

At four you're not really sure what's going on, you can only really pick up whether the people around you are happy or not. I remember New Zealand winning. I remember my 9 year old brother and his mates doing the Haka in the living room celebrating the great All Black victory, and I remember felling really happy. I can't remember much else from my fifth year on this planet but I remember that.

In 1991 things went a little astray. I was 8. I remember my older brother worshipping the ground Michael Jones walked on as he scored in the opener against England. I remember recognising the great All black players such as John Kirwan, smoking Joe Stanley, and Sean Fitzpatrick. I even remember being aware of Grizz Wylie. As an 8 year old my head had been filled with so many tales of the brilliance of the All Blacks that I could not even comprehend the boys in black losing.

They lost; I watched knowing that the All Blacks looked like a worse team than the fast and flashy wallabies. David Campese you gave me my first moment of sporting heartbreak, thanks.

In 1995 I was 12. By this time I was a hardened All Blacks fan. I knew all the players and like most Kiwis, I was supremely confident every time they stepped onto a rugby field. I was old enough to understand that South Africa was back on the block and that was a big deal. I remember thinking 'yeah, they look pretty good but are they a scratch on the ABs?' Not a chance. We beat them a couple of times in '94 as well.

And then there was Jonah, this monster of human being that was a myth when he 16, and thrown into the All Blacks to play France as a 19 year old. He was shown a thing or two in that game and looked like a kid, a bloody big kid, playing with men. Boy, but in the '95 world cup he was the man! We knew he could be a great player but he surpassed all of our expectations. He destroyed the Irish, decimated the Welsh and Scots, and he guaranteed his part in world cup folklore when he trampled on Mike Catt, and the rest of the English team.

There was no way we were going to lose the final to the spirited - but nowhere near as gifted - Springbok team. Have you ever seen Invictus? The ending sucks. A boring game where the All Blacks played like they had been vomiting all night. Extra time came, Stransky knocked over a droppie, let's all celebrate a unified South Africa... My guts felt like they had literally been ripped out of my arse.

I understand now the political significance of the match and the good it did for a divided nation but for me it was balls. I honestly remember thinking after this heart break there is no way the All Blacks could lose the next one. This is when I believe mine and New Zealand's absolute obsession with winning the cup really began.

In 1999, I was 16. This is the where the stigma of World Cup All Blacks really begins for me. Before this the All Blacks were just expected without question to win. In 1999 we were not only expecting this team to win, but after '91 and '95's crushing defeats, we were pleadingly desperate for them to win. Tana Umaga got injured in the first game. An over pampered All Blacks team - in many people's eyes - thought it would a be good idea to put Christian Cullen, one of or maybe the greatest fullback in modern history, into the center. No worries, Hart and Taine have got this under control, and Jonah was in form.

In the infamous semi we all expected to win without question. Jonah was at his brutal best, pulverising a couple of cowardly looking Frenchies on the way to two great tries in the first half. To be honest I remember everything and nothing about that second half, where the team which could only be described as an mystery wrapped in a enigma decided to play out of their skins and put away a clueless and somewhat guttless looking All Black team.

Oh my sweet Jesus not again, this can't be happening. Not to the French, not in a semi! It wasn't supposed to end this way! We were in a 3rd place playoff, who gives a rats nostril. We even lost that too... we suck.

In 2003, I was a young man of 20; sixteen years had passed since I could sort of remember the All Blacks winning the world cup. This was it, the All Blacks were chock full of young talent. Rokocoko was electric, McCaw was amazing, and Spencer was at his mercurial best. We had put a ton of points on the Aussies in Australia in a Tri Nations game that year. We were a playing a great brand of attacking rugby and we looked well over a class above the rest.

We managed to beat the Boks in a quarter final in that tournament and then we had the Aussies, who we already taught a lesson to earlier in the year. The ageing Wallabies didn't stand a chance. Grant Fox said there was no way New Zealand would lose that game, we just had too much fire power.

Oh, how a long Mortlock intercept try under the posts can change the mood of a nation. Piss off, you have got to be shitting me! Where had that team gone who looked as though they could play with feet tied together against the Aussies.

'FOUR MORE YEARS'... screw you George Gregan.

We won the 3rd place playoff over the French... it was about as satisfying as knowing that girl you slept with who gave you herpes doesn't have crabs.

2007. I was 24 now and had been through a lot with World Cups but the one constant was that we were by far the best team between tournaments. Surely this time, surely with a once in a generation player like Dan Carter, he would steer us to victory. We were all rested and reconditioned; we were like rugby robots that would destroy any opposition in its path. We had humiliated a hyped up Lions outfit, won multiple grand slams, and were once again the Tri Nations champions.

Even after all the previous heart breaks surely this was our time. C’mon black!

The French... France had lost the opening game to Argentina and looked like a team that had me as there technical analyst. As a result they were the 2nd highest qualifiers in their pool and had the misfortune of facing New Zealand in Cardiff, outside of their home country. The morning of that game I was staying at a friends place and his Mrs made us eggs when the game started. While I was eating the egg, McAlister scored a great try and everything was how it should be.

Once I had finished, things went south... I miss that egg.

Wayne Barnes made some calls, DC got injured, captain tackles McCaw had no answers, and that was it. Are you kidding me, in a quarter final against a French team that looked like it had trouble tying their own shoes together only a week before?

My friends place backed onto Remuera rd in Auckland. People were driving and walking by with utter disbelief strewn across their faces. To steal a line from Anchorman, ‘this is getting to be ri-god-damn-diculous!’ Oh this hurts.

It is now 2011. I am 28. Once again our nation is in a state of high tension, and has even higher expectations. So what have we learnt? That supporting the AB's in World Cups is tough, and rest and rotation as a plan is about as good as taking the queen to a school for people with tourettes.

So this is it, it’s in our country, and once again we have the team to beat and it all feels very familiar, which I find a little unnerving. Now that I'm a bonified adult who's been out in the big bad world for some time, I'm far more jaded and cynical about a lot of things. I'm not a miserable bastard, I just know that life is a lot more difficult than the 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and even 24 year old versions of me could understand.

Have I learnt my lesson about the All Blacks and World Cups? Do we Kiwis deserve all this, a lesson in humility for all our years of Rugby arrogance?

I must admit the fear of losing and all the baggage from previous world cups is still with me, and yes we are arrogant about the All Blacks, but they are a pretty amazing team who play a great style of Rugby, and you know what... This is our year, C’MON BLACK!

Tony O’Sullivan
27 September 2011

Posted by Rugbydump at 6:31 pm | View Comments (30)

Posted in Rugby World Cup

Viewing 30 comments

Rich_W October 08, 2011 8:24 pm

Great Blog. As a thoroughly disappointed Englishman I have to admit I will be supporting Wales for the rest of the tournament, for playing at nothing less than 100% effort 100% of the time. NZ Vs Wales final would be ideal, two teams who play cracking rugby and I would be happy for either to win.

But. Can you imagine a France Vs NZ final, all the history, all the pressure on the AB's, now that would be mouth watering...

Although I'm obviously gutted England are out, if I separate myself from the red rose for a second or two. Its probably enhanced the tournament.

That was a horrible second, I want England to be boringing their way to the final. Boo hoo!

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Ptora October 08, 2011 8:32 pm

Great article from NZ All Black Fan. Let go ALL Blacks.

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Lady of wales October 08, 2011 9:36 pm

Brilliant article, very funny!! Living in nz I have come to love the all blacks, but Wales has done us so proud, I would love a welsh kiwi final, bring it on!!!

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Guy October 08, 2011 10:10 pm

As a neutral (Dutch) overall rugby supporter: there are so many people in the Black team and in the coaching staff that deserve the winners medal. I would love to see them win it. Unfortunately, results in the past count for nothing in the knock-out stage. France proved that today.

At the moment I fancy Wales to go a long way too. And that would be deserved too. Tha difference between the two teams is: Wales can lose a final and come home head held high whereas the All Blacks can't. And not only because they are allready home.

If I have to back a team right now it would be the All Blacks: for everything they gave to the global rugby community over the years.

To Tony: thanks for giving us an insight into the trials and tribulations of a hardcore NZ supporter. I just can't imagine what you guys are going through the next few weeks but hell, you just gave a pretty good insight.

Good luck tomorrow (or today) and hopefully the next few weeks.

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Guest October 09, 2011 12:57 am

That is a hell of a write. Ten minutes of good reading and a valuable lesson for any fan of any team anywhere in the world. Humility is a good thing.

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Frenchie October 09, 2011 1:03 am

I gave them no chance against the English but they won...and next week they'll have another big game against a Welsh team i rate very high.

I think the Welsh are more of a threat than France, their pack is in top form and their back line showed immense quality in defense and in attack, they have strong runners all over the field.
France are back and showed they know how to win a big game. Will it be the same French team, with the same good intentions and commitment next week? It's difficult to say. If that's the case we'll be in for a tight game.

Wales looks like a better team but some could say they lack the experience at this stage of the competition, experience that France have.
To win that (typical Northern hemisphere) game you'll need to play good rugby but also play with patience and cool headed, something that Ireland lacked unfortunately for them. Had Ireland taken the kicks in 1st half we'd have had a totally different game i believe.

France saved their WC already and will play as the outsiders, something which is good for them i think . Wales are the favorites and they'll need to cope with the pressure.

It'll be a cracker of a game. Can't wait...

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Askelkana October 10, 2011 7:47 am

Well, they said that Ireland would win against Wales because they have so much more big game experience. Didn't count for much, did it?

And France weren't really that good - England were just awful. Once England got their thumbs out of their arses in the second half, France were very average (and scored only 3 points in the second half).

I hope the French truly believe that they are magnificent, since that'll mean they more or less turn up thinking victory is their right, and lose very, very badly.

Did I mention I'm Welsh? =D Seriously, bon chance for Saturday, but I hope Wales win.

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Colombes October 10, 2011 10:31 am

for me, Wales are the favorites on the current form as they seem more complete and performant since few matches. but as said before, you never know what type of french squad will step on the field. france is a mental team, more the defy is huge, more they play well. as a french, i hope they will consider welsh players as a serious threat.
whatever the result, the game will be huge. Wales have already "won" their WC as France have already saved it vs england. who will have more motivation. don't know.

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Frenchie October 09, 2011 1:04 am

Come on the Argies!!!!!

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BuzzKillington October 09, 2011 10:59 am

Hopefully France go to the final. Wales can beat France, but they're absolutely no chance of beating New Zealand.

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Askelkana October 10, 2011 7:50 am

In previous ages I would have agreed with you, but this Welsh team are something different. There is a ruthlessness and discipline, not to mention the fitness levels, that set them apart from all previous incarnations.

I am not alone in thinking (with some degree of incredulity, I admit) that this Wales could go all the way.

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Malister October 09, 2011 2:06 pm

As a french, I obviously support our team. i think that we can win games when nobody Is expecting us. And that is our force. We play with emotions and balls, not with skills. French flair is not a skillfull way to play a game. It's just shiwing that we have the sense of playing together, as a familly! We are going to win the wales, but we'll lose the final. Not against nz... Against australians! I'm sure they will won the blacks in semi final!
I wich everyone good luck, because in france, we are all fair play.
By the way, i wanted to congratulate jonny Wilkinson who was the classyest rugbymen ever seen in this world.
we can say "good game jonny, and good game england"...

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LND October 09, 2011 6:42 pm

HA! More arrogant than ever. Aus are going to the final I'm afraid.

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jimmybonzai October 10, 2011 3:50 am

I humbly request this All Black supporter film him(her)self watching the (semi)final in order to catch:

A) The ecstasy of victory
B) The agony of defeat.

Would be interesting either way...

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Tones88 October 11, 2011 1:42 am

I'm keen, it'll be pretty raw footage and if I'm in a bar or at party central it may be inaudible. But willing to give a crack, would you post it?

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Just Call Me Ehtch October 10, 2011 4:52 am

Frogs legs on toast next weekend for breakfast - tidy! Can I have a side dish of snails, by the way, pretty please? facsist waiter. he said no.

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Just Call Me Ehtch October 10, 2011 4:52 am

Frogs legs on toast next weekend for breakfast - tidy! Can I have a side dish of snails, by the way, pretty please? facsist waiter. he said no.

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Chas Fahy October 10, 2011 5:54 am

Very entertaining read Mr O'Sullivan, we the oldies think this is a great blog.

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Tones88 October 11, 2011 1:38 am

Thank you Mr Fahy, it's nice to be appreciated by the oldies.

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Frenchie October 10, 2011 6:52 am

@ Just Call Me Ehtch : M O R O N !!!

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Just Call Me Entch October 11, 2011 5:12 am

so I take it you do not get my crisp dry cutting welsh humour then?

: )

I was only winding things up for Saturday, Frenchie, don't take it literally and to heart, mon. I am only pulling your frogs leg butt....

gone fishing, gone fishing, I love my fishing looking for fishes.

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Stefan October 10, 2011 11:04 am

and they still haven't called up nick evans?

they're starting with cruden and donald on the bench, you do wonder if the all blacks will ever rue their selection criteria...

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Just Call Me Ehtch October 11, 2011 5:20 am

Yes, these injuries are starting to make NZ wobble upstairs. You will have to go some to beat the Ozzies on Sunday. Sorry Kiwis, but my money is on Oz.

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moddeur October 10, 2011 1:52 pm

This guy thinks it's hard being an NZ fan? Try being a French fan. One day your team will beat the All-Blacks or South Africa, and the next day lose to Tonga or Canada. Even during the 80mn of a match, your team will go from glitter to garbage to glitter to garbage. C'est la vie ...

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Guy October 10, 2011 7:45 pm

Moddeur, I have to agree and I sympathise with you. Especially since you wrote a few weeks ago that you also support the All Blacks. If I didn't know you were a rugby player I would ask if you have any masochistic tendencies but every player must have some of this or you wouldnt play.

Anyway mon frere: good luck next weekend. I support Wales this time but if France win I will be happy for you.

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moddeur October 11, 2011 4:39 pm

I do play rugby, at amateur level (position: hooker), and my female friends do think I am masochistic, especially when I show off my flesh injuries.
The thing I like most about this semi-final, is that Wales is an opponent whose victory cannot depress me. If France wins, great, if Wales win, good. It wouldn't be like losing for the 3rd time in a row in a RWC against the English ...

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Pixturi October 11, 2011 10:55 pm

You spoke right Askelkana... Except that I found that France were good on the first half and we "let" the English play on the 2nd... Well, I also think that M Johnson said a few things to his players during the half time!
If we prepare this game with the last VI Nations game in mind, we would loose, that's for sure.
I hope we won't! Good luck for Saturday anyway!
And, as a French, I found this article disrespectfull. Don't say that you support a team or a country when all you have is anger and hattred for the other ones. That doesn't concern rugby: you are not a supporter, Tony O'Sullivan, just an angry man. So, as a bus said in Auckland last weekend: "legalize cannabis"! You will see, defeat will pass easier!

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Bertrand Duguesclin October 13, 2011 11:00 am

I can confirm you are grossly arrogant.
What you don't seem to understand is that your crass disrespect for those "cowardly looking frenchies" is a blessing for us. It gives us just the extra-motivation we need to kick your butts in RWC from time to time.
We are an old Nation with a long history, man, and when we were playing 'la soule' in our streets and villages, your country wasn't even existing. If you persist to imagine that we can be impressed by a bunch of sheep farmers on a rugby field just because they're dressed in black, then you can be sure you'll experience some more painful disillusions in your future matches against France, guy.

...And yes, we can be arrogant too. ;)

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Lady of wales October 13, 2011 1:51 pm

I am sorry about the previous comment, I did not get this feeling from the article at all. I also don't really think it's nice to make such a personal comment. However I suppose posting anything on the intent can expose many different views and responses. I just think that the point has maybe been missed by this reader.

As a quote says somwhere "if you have nothing nice to say, dont say anything at all" :)

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