Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There are those you can’t help but like. That they are an irresistible force of nature need not be debated as nothing one does ever prevails upon them to dampen down their impact on the sporting universe.

The world is their oyster, allowing their appetite for success to ravish the trials and tribulations that life hurls their way. For a smile is only a heartbeat away, genuine humility makes a splash every day.

You wish you could find something to tear them asunder with, for they are oh so perfect. But, infuriatingly, you can’t because they’re just so damn likable.

Talent and a down home attitude go hand in hand for these types.

And in this vein I am here to announce to the world of sport my unabashed admiration for all that is Irene Van Dyke.

You see, I am particularly taken with Irene. It is not so much about aesthetics, either. It’s not that she doesn’t look the part but, as we all find out eventually, looks come and looks go. There has to be more than the trivial for the fans to procure a meaningful and lasting connection with their favourite stars.

All too often the aspects of the beautiful can be misleading, drawing the weak in, trapping the minds of the gullible, and leading to false adulation.

Just as outer appearances can leave one standing on shaky ground with the bitter aftertaste of the superficial lingering, there, on the flipside, is the inner glow of Irene melting even the most ardent cynic’s sporting heart, to balance the ledger.

True, the primal urges of the Neanderthal are what matter most for some, that is to be sure, but the shallow are more than welcome to the lite side of life if they so choose.

That is their prerogative, of course.

Many of us desire more from our heroes, though. Substance is what we crave.

And Irene Van Dyke is laden with a wealth of heavy hitting moral decency.

You see, it is all that the great lady stands for that I so adore. There is more to this champion than a ninety-five percent shooting rate. Take a spade into the inner sanctum of her soul and you will be sure to find a heart prospering with pride - yet, not a little prejudice – along with a healthy dose of kindness all interspersed with the work ethic of a trojan and the ruthless ambition to stay at the top of a game she has dominated for nigh on two decades. But all within societies boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

No wonder she’s a superstar, and popular too, what with a sparkling personality that jumps out at you, ensnaring your attention. She is the lady with the biggest and most endearing of smiles that can be found as it bounds effortlessly along life’s highway picking up willing passengers and treating them to the delights of one of this Country’s finest even before they get to experience the sheer magnificence that the best of the best talent we possess has to tender.

Here we have an ageless wonder who is arguably the greatest netballer of all time, yet the proud New Zealander succeeds in achieving this while managing to display an attractive demeanour, too.

A winning talent with a winning personality, united they stand.

These qualities remain steadfast on their ground, refusing to be isolated, but that’s our Irene for you. No matter the situation, nothing is too much trouble for the Wellingtonian. Never one to leave any given scenario untouched by her magical personality, a smile from Irene is all that is needed to disarm the surliest of demeanours. She’s a natural is our Irene, the nicest of the nice, by no chance is she mean.

While some champions are as appealling as a long soak in a bath full of acid, others are pleasant - maybe too pleasant – but don’t possess the killer instinct within. They try their darndest but for whatever reason don’t have the x-factor that searches out that extra one percent needed to reach the dizzying heights of Irene; For it passes them by unseen. Effort was never one to evade these folk, but they could not scrub up when it mattered most.

Not Irene, though.

She is the total package in the right kind of way. Star quality exudes in excess from the pores of this 6ft 3in wonder woman. She’s nobody’s girl Friday, though still a consummate team player. The lead singer, but without the diva like displays of petulance in the form of insecurities that pores out of lesser mortals.

Forty years to the good and here she is as sprightly as ever. Year after year, she keeps getting better. Her foe pound Irene to a bloody pulp, yet she maintains an air of dignified grace under fire, shooting yet another dagger at the winning chances of a flushed, haggard foe, then flashing that wondrous smile for the entire world to see. Oh how it must rile her opponents, snap their will and send them spiralling into the heated realms of despair.

Why doesn’t she retire and save them from this savage beating of the mind that she hands out with monotonous regularity? I mean, it’s not really fair on the opposition, but that’s what I like about Irene, she is her own woman.

Clearly enjoying what she does, the wife and mother of one has no intention of being told that she is too old for this netballing caper. For so long now Irene has had to suffer calls for her retirement. Despite this her disposition remains as sunny as ever.

Nothing gets her down as she carries on her merry way living the life that has seen her praises sung for many a year, and, more than likely, will for many more to come.

She’s got the talent, the personality, the attitude, the smile, she really has got it all.

Yes, that talent, that personality, that attitude, that smile – now that’s why I like Irene. For she is the best there has ever been.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Round ten is upon us, four and five, the New Zealand Warriors are still alive. Eleventh on the ladder, two from three, they’re on a roll. Good form has met their acquaintance, they’re in it no matter what the toll.

Further surges of momentum beckon. Win against the Roosters tonight, and their season could take flight. West Tigers next week, then a bye, six points is there for the bite.

Opportunities abound to seek out courageously when they come around. Their chances are rated as sound.

Lose and it may not be over, but life will get a lot harder, there’ll be nowhere to hide, suffering may be coming in with the tide. Playing catch-up is never the desired way to go, consistency is the building block from which success grows, in more ways than one.

Team selection meets that criterion. Except for Nathan Friend, of course, who bravely played seventy-five minutes with a broken jaw last week. Toughness appealed to the dummy-half, but it would be rough to expect him to back-up.

He could never be replaced, many could try until they die, forty tackles made per match, if only his replacement could emulate this on Friend’s patch.

Alehana Mara by name, he’s got a friends job to tame. Eighty minutes is not his go, or else he would blow. His workload will be shared with Lewis Brown, for shorter stints allow his attack to flow, where he can glow. Wait for the opportune moment, with speed off the mark to burn and tiring opposition forwards backpedalling, then it will be Mara’s turn.

Ideally suited to coming off the interchange bench at the twenty minute mark, perhaps the element of surprise could be utilised with Brown to start and Mara to later enter the park. The young man has potential to run riot, but be careful, as defence is not to be sacrificed.

A mighty team effort prevailed against Brisbane on defence. Effortless it appeared, but take nothing for granted. Premiership contenders build as the season takes shape, improving on the previous performance in ever expanding increments.

Here, tonight, is the chance to ramp up last week’s effort to another level. To take the bull by the horns and display a ruthless streak, allowing no consolation tries in, plugging the occasional cavity in the middle of the ruck that was exploited by the Broncos.

And the Warriors will have to be on their guard up against a big aggressive forward unit in Sydney City who will willingly take on the home side up the middle.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Since the beginning of Rugby League time one thing has always been a given in this great game, and that is the need to set a base. Go forward; set your opposition on the back foot and then let those fancy little nimble footed backs loose to do their thing.

Generally this is deemed to be the responsibility of the forwards.

And fair enough, too.

They’re big, bulky, weigh a tonne and have scant regard for those that deem it necessary to impose their presence on the path of said angry big men. For sure, they’re not fleet of foot but they do a valuable job all the same.

On Saturday at Mt Smart it was the backs of the New Zealand Warriors that fronted up.
It’s not that the forwards didn’t do their job against the Brisbane pack. Indeed, they did. But it was a brutal affair. Unlike the previous week’s match-up with Melbourne where the forwards were able to dominate their opposites for long periods, this time it was different. Brisbane may have a young pack, but they are big and strong and held their own with the home side.

This is where the backs came in. Show ponies this lot are not. One for all and all for one is their motto. Willing workers were to be found everywhere. Manu Vatuvei, Bill Tupou, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry and, in particular, Jerome Ropati bled for the cause.

When the pressure went on from the visitors in the third quarter, and the forwards were finding the going tough their mates out the back willingly stepped in to give a helping hand. A mini-crisis was averted due to the fine work ethic and unselfish attitude of the entire backline staff.

They dug deep, it worked a treat.

What with that, and a superb defensive effort, it amounted to a well earned victory against one of the form teams of the competition.

Speaking of defence, what a transformation the Aucklander’s have undergone during the last few weeks. Against Brisbane their sliding defence was at its optimum efficiency. They slid well, no one came out of the line and the inside defenders continued to slide once the ball had passed them, hence being able to cover any ball runner cutting back on the angle.

The 2011 vintage had a superb record on defence. Despite this it always looked somewhat frantic. Yes, it generally held, but they often seemed to be making harder work of it than it should have been. This is not to denigrate the efforts of a fine side. After all, they did get to a grand final.

What is interesting though was the ease with which the Warriors defended against Brisbane. There appeared to be a composure to their work when under attack that was not there in past seasons, even 2011.

So, more of the same please.

And with only one change – Alehana Mara in for an injured Nathan Friend - to the side to meet the Sydney Roosters this coming Saturday night, it is an ideal opportunity to continue building on what one senses is about to become a formidable unit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Some people have all the luck. Take rising star, Andrew Luck, for instance. Luck just follows this guy around. Luck seems to meet his acquaintance at every turn. There’s luck here, luck there, luck everywhere.

Don’t blame him though; he was born with all the luck in the world.

It is outrageous that one person can have so much luck in such a short life. First the bilingual (he speaks fluent German) Luck had the good fortune to be gifted with these deviously sublime attributes, then, luckily for him, he wisely decides to dedicate himself to making the most of these luckily attained talents.

Of course, he was cajoled into using these abilities, wasn’t he? Surely he was. Luck was clearly on his side when his parents and teachers pushed him to be all that he could be. But what’s this I hear you say; everything that Luck has achieved was of his own doing. Nah, that can’t possibly be, it has got to be luck. Quite simply no one is that good without the guiding hand of luck on their side.

Or are they?

Maybe Luck worked hard. Maybe the twenty-two year old practised, practised some more, and then some. Maybe he is the sort that if he does not succeed at first, to try try again.

No, of course it wasn’t that. Come on, it had to be luck. How could it be that someone could get this good through the misguided notion of hard work? Surely not out there in the real world. It’s not as if things come about through anything but luck.

I mean, what luck that Luck was lucky enough to get all those great offers from the likes of Stanford University. Luck, again. Not to mention having access to top class coaches throughout his burgeoning career. And, unlike others, he was recruited by a top coach.

All the lucky ones are. Just by chance, it seems, they’re a magnet for recruitment officers the Country over. Dollars are been splashed out on a plethora of youngsters all in the hope that they might get lucky with one. And that they certainly were with Andrew Luck. They struck gold. Oh what luck.

But never mind talent, never mind hard work, it doesn’t pay. He does not require such quaint little notions. Only a fool stands to attention, adhering to the principles of a life of dedication; much better to abscond in haste from the gravity of hard work through into the animation of luck. And why bother with such frivolities when you can rely on luck. After all, luck’s all you need.

As he grew up into what has turned out to be a 6ft3” colossus of a man, the Washington DC born quarterback got luckier by the day. As they say, one day you’re the cock of the walk and the next, a feather duster. Not Luck, though, he is lucky. Gifted with a triple cone of natural talent, he kept breaking records. In 2011 alone he was lucky enough to break his own record of 32 touchdown passes when he lifted that to a new high of 37.

The lucky bugger.

Just to prove how lucky he is, Luck set a school (Stanford) record for total offense with 10,387 yards, breaking the previous mark by 500 yards. And to top it all off he won the Academic All-America of the year award.

So, he is a brainiac, as well. But it is not as if he has to work at that side of his life, either. Surely that came naturally to him, too.

More luck, I guess.

Where will it ever end?

For, sport’s disdain continues to ignore him as the froth of success gradually seeps through to the surface and into winter’s playground where, with any luck, his talents will continue to stay on the boil for many a year to come.

For sure, the Indianapolis Colts will be hoping so. Even they have been helping themselves to a dose of luck. First cab off the rank in the recent NFL draft and who was the first player up? Yep, you guessed it, Luck. What luck. Luck and luck united and the result was pure luck, I would imagine, that the twenty-two year old just happened to be the first picked in the draft for a piffling 22 million dollar four year deal, last week. Of course, this had nothing to do with hard work whatsoever.

How could it be in a sport where luck rules?

Then again, when you think about it, no one has ever achieved their potential without hours and hours of hard slog, blood, sweat and tears and all that. As Luck no doubt understands, all the talent in the world can only get one so far. This explains why Luck has such a splendid attitude to everything that comes into his existence.

It also explains all those hours of practise he has put in to reach the heights that he aspires to. He wants success, craves it, which is why he goes out of his way to work towards the apex of his chosen profession.

As for luck, in the end you have to make your own. Andrew Luck has done exactly that.