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.
NZ had to go to Brisbane for this Sunday game; the ABs scored 8 tries to 1! Winning the first World Cup was now only a week away!
Swansea and Wales
33 internationals for Wales 1890–1901
One of Wales’s first rugby heroes, W.J. (‘Billy’) Bancroft was a brilliant fullback. He was a master at punting and scoring points from place - or drop kicks, and was an elusive runner. He played all his club football for Swansea, where he was idolised as one of its most famous sons.
In a statistical sense he is remembered as the first player to drop kick a penalty goal in an international, v England at Cardiff in 1893, Wales’s first home win over England.
Bancroft played his 33 internationals consecutively – a feat made even more impressive when it is remembered that he did not play against France or teams from New Zealand, Australia or South Africa and had the possibility of only three internationals per year.
Billy Bancroft was small in stature – only 5ft 5in (1.65 m) tall. His brother Jack was also a Welsh international fullback, playing 18 internationals between 1909 and 1914.
Fiji played its first test match is bare feet. Until what year?