Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
10 August 2014
Sunday night on the couch at around half past eight at my place has always been a bit of a ritual. Its always been the time to settle back and enjoy 'quality theatre' on New Zealand's TV1. This last weekend having a film about a familiar and warm rugby memory for New Zealanders in that timeslot might have been a risk. But 'The Kick' was a delight. I never moved for its near two-hour duration.
Seeing our famous All Blacks characterised so well, in a solid storyline about Stephen Donald being at first not wanted by the All Blacks for the 2011 Rugby World Cup - and then, because of injuries to those who had replaced him, recalled from a lonely whitebait vigil to become a national superstar was very well told. Perhaps the only quibble was the ending; Donald's great kick in the final versus France, while wearing a tight rugby jersey, had already become part of our great All Black story. But 'The Kick's' dramatisation of it recalled our excitement in a new way.
I loved the Stephen Donald character (played by fit young actor David de Latour); especially the scenes of him havin' a few beers at home to cover his disappointment at not having been picked in the All Blacks since he had had a shocker v Australia in Hong Kong in 2008.
I also thought the depiction of his mates Mils Muliaina and Richard Kahui were spot on, while the bloke who played Graham Henry was the best of all (grim faced and stony like 'Ted' was for the seven years of his All Black coaching time).
The scenes of World Cup games being played by actors then intercut with actual match footage was seamless; too often in any film of sports stories the actors involved cannot match the commitment and energy of actual athletes so authority is diminished. But in 'The Kick' that did not happen. It crossed my mind that using so much IRB Rugby World Cup footage must have cost the producers plenty. I hope they think it was all worthwhile.
I know the production staff of the movie were pleased with what they got; I said hello to producer Danny Mulheron in a plane one night and he was grinning with the progress of the action. Then I saw writer Tom Scott having lunch one day; he too looked chuffed.
They have every reason to be pleased. They have captured a beaut New Zealand rugby story very well. I hope 'Beaver' Donald is pleased too. His life changed with that winning moment for New Zealand on Eden Park. From Hong Kong's zero placement he went back to lifetime hero. Now the story of his 'comeback' is there for everyone to celebrate for all time.
Andy Haden and Frank Oliver conjured up a lineout dive v Wales in Cardiff to fool the ref into giving NZ a penalty; that later led to a 13-12 AB win.
After an unauthorised tour to South Africa in 1986 by senior All Blacks (the ‘Cavaliers’), players who toured were banned for two test matches. The New Zealand selectors therefore had to cast further afield for a team to play a test against France in Christchurch and in a following game against Australia at Wellington. They opted in choosing from younger or second-string players who were active around New Zealand.
The relative youth and inexperience of the new team soon earned it the affectionate nickname ‘Baby All Blacks’. The team’s popularity was ensured when it beat France, 18–9 and lost narrowly, 12–13, to Australia.
The Baby Blacks included a number of players who were to become seasoned All Blacks: David Kirk was their captain, while Joe Stanley, Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Frano Botica, Terry Wright, Mike Brewer and Andy Earl all represented New Zealand for years.
Which New Zealand Tennis Sponsor's representative always included two of his 'own' invented words in his speeches at the Heineken Open prize givings in the 2000s - and what were the words?