Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A last chat with a top bloke

Sometimes fate conspires in the most amazing ways.

On Tuesday, December 29, Barb and I attended our niece's wedding in Wanaka. The service was beautifully done by Monsignor  Paul Mahoney.

I first knew Paul when he was a lawyer in Invercargill and I was a cadet reporter doing my court reporting experience. He was a friend of one of The Southland Times' advertising staff, the late Brian Harvey, and would often join our Friday night drinking group at the Hokonui Bar at the Kelvin Hotel. Sport was our most common interest and remained so through the years.

He also played Saturday afternoon cricket for the Marist club while I played for the Union club. Paul decided to follow his desire to take up the priesthood and I left Invercargill for greener journalistic pastures, some of them with a few prickles.

However, it was delightful to have Paul come up to me while we were waiting for the service to say hello. We chatted briefly and agreed to speak after the service.

We duly did, standing in the glorious Wanaka sunshine and caught up on the past 34 years. Paul was unchanged and the superb gentleman he always was. It was a delight to renew our acquaintance.

Sadly Paul died in his sleep that same evening. The Vicar General of the Dunedin Diocese according to his death notice, he was a fine friend and my sympathies go out to his brothers John and David, each well-known members of a significant Southland family.

Vale Father Paul Mahoney.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Almanack continues to hit the mark

Earlier as New Zealand's cricket season may be getting, especially on the international front, some things remain the same and at the forefront is the New Zealand Cricket Almanack.

The inestimable diary of New Zealand's summers, whether in the southern or northern hemisphere, is in its 68th year and it remains as invaluable as ever in all its chronicling of the men's and women's games.

Editors Francis Payne and Ian Smith have built the Almanack to the point where it is difficult to imagine, especially as newspapers further retrench, a more ready reckoner of the game.

Websites may be fashionable but there is something to be said for picking up an almanack, consulting the contents page and going straight to the required information.

It also has the advantage of acknowledging significant milestones in the game, especially at the less resourced first-class level, while also ensuring that in most instances the deaths of players unknown to many of a younger generation are suitably acknowledged.

In a changing media world it is difficult to imagine how the game could survive without this outstanding ready reference for New Zealand.

It also acknowledges key performers in games with Trent Boult and Brendon McCullum named as players of the year while the promising players were Jacob Duffy, Will Young and Henry Nicholls, who was most recently named in New Zealand's one-day squad to play Sri Lanka.

New Zealand's World Cup performance is captured and it bears repeating again that the side produced the highest run scorer in the tournament (Martin Guptill – 547 runs) and the best bowling performance (Tim Southee – 7-33 v England).

Among some of the statistical points were noting during the year was Peter Fulton's breaking Jeremy Coney's record of 18 catches in a season for a province. Fulton took 20 for Canterbury.

It was a big year for Fulton who achieved 100 first-class appearances for Canterbury while also becoming the first player to score 7000 runs for the province. Only Bert Sutcliffe (five) and Matthew Bell (three) and Fulton (three) have passed 200 runs as many times for their provinces.

When Tom Latham scored a Test century against Pakistan it was the third occurrence of a father-son century in New Zealand Test history. Rod Latham scored a century against Zimbabwe. Walter and Richard Hadlee and Ken and Hamish Rutherford are the other combinations to have achieved the feat.

The gems continue and it is difficult to imagine how the breadth of New Zealand's involvement in cricket around the world nowadays could be better captured than in this 'must-have' tool for serious cricket fans.

Captain-in-waiting faces a big challenge

Kieran Read is undoubtedly the All Blacks captain-in-waiting now that Richie McCaw has opted for retirement.

It promises to be a challenging time for a new skipper, although Read has had plenty of exposure to the role before during periods of absence from his Crusaders and All Blacks team-mate.

A player with his own star quality, and a World Rugby Player of the Year, Read seems assured to follow in the traditional captaincy role of the All Blacks.

The 2016 team will be a rebuilding season. A solid core of experience has departed what had been a solid All Blacks camp in the wake of the 2015 Rugby World Cup success.

Signs are that the selectors have had an eye on exactly the situation they will find themselves in ahead of the tour by Wales, and the annual Rugby Championship series.

Read is a central part of the rebuild which has as its first big test the tour by the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

It is timely that as he prepares to take on that challenge that a study of his career to date offers a reminder of what has contributed to Read's make-up and readiness to assume the toughest job in the country.

Matt Elliott's 'Kieran Read – Tribute to a Great Eight' tells that story and highlights the Auckland-born Cantabrian's rise through the ranks, his choice for rugby ahead of cricket and his place in the All Blacks' great side.

It does rely heavily on comment from other sources and lacks input from Read which is probably due to the fact that he will have his own story penned sometime in the future.

But the guts of his story to date is there in well illustrated form and will help tide fans over until the rapidly arriving onset of a new rugby season.

Kieran Read – Tribute to a Great Eight by Matt Elliott. Published by Batemen. Price $39.99.