AS I SEE IT (22 April)

By Terry O’Neill.

Many sports involve physical contact and often only a faint margin exists between physical contact and violence.

Alleged rugby player violence in a game is under initial scrutiny by the referees/umpires who control the game. Once cited, a player is then brought before the sport’s local ruling body which is charged to come to a decision on the alleged violent incident.

Punishments can range from a warning to suspension for a number of playing days up to virtual banishment from the sport, whether the person is a player, administrator or, importantly, a spectator.

How spectators conduct themselves is particularly relevant at the onset of the winter sports season noting that violence is not exclusively a winter sport issue. The NZRFU has initiated a campaign on its policy to deal with violence that will be mirrored by other winter and summer sports.

Violence from the sidelines is usually vocal. Unfortunately incidences arise there amongst spectators and also involving players.

And where are these aggressive loud-mouths? Attend a Saturday morning winter sport and in due course they’ll cut through the air, often parents exhorting their protégées to greater heights, a loftiness the parent never achieved themselves if they had indeed played the game.

Most parents/grandparents are the great models to youngsters they should be, and are sincerely commended.

Positive support at games is the focus in “My Parents Are Ugly“, a NZRU booklet, and it reaches beyond “advice” to players. Surprisingly referees/umpires are abused by critics sometimes basing comments on aged rugby laws now obsolete.

The percentage of abusive spectators is low but their impact can be out of proportion to numbers. Fun for the players, and for their parents, is the essential element in sport. And it’s the referees, those people giving up their time, who ensure everyone else can enjoy the game.

And who at the game moans each referee rule against their darling’s team? Some spectators, and even team officials who should know better, scream “not straight, sir“, “offside, sir“, “knock on, sir“, “hands in the ruck, sir“, with a derogative title substituted sometimes, and could be forty to sixty metres away. And there are the “off-side shouters” who encourage a mob not always in a position to judge.

We welcome the pleasant banter between supporters of competing teams as part of the game. However some sports websites spell out what is, and is not, acceptable and, I hark you, they offer an electronic form to register complaints about bad behaviour.

Ever watched a game without a referee/umpire? I haven’t either. The question asked sometimes is why those public-minded individuals bother when they have to deal with yahoos and mean-minded grandstanders of ignorance.

A prerequisites for referees is not that they can walk on water. They make mistakes. Just like you, just like me.


AS I SEE IT (15 April)

bronson ross aisi

By Terry O’Neill.

Rugby scrum front row activities can ensure many rugby props do not compare with an internet dating Adonis due to cauliflower ears and noses not centred. But one rugby prop who doesn’t fill these bills bolsters the front row for Ulster, that former local broth of a boy, Bronson Ross.

There’re those with perception who recall the former Irish Bar now known affectionately as Fat Sally’s. The original proprietors were Eugenia and Rob Ross. Eugenia is one of the McGeown clan headed by Anne and the late Jimmy who migrated to New Zealand from Belfast, Ireland, to settle in Oamaru where Bronson was born in 1985.

Bronson left St Kevin’s College and eventually made his way to Dunedin and played for the Dunedin Club, and aged 22 embarked on his OE to Europe. After two years with the Scottish Boroughmuir club, he represented the Spanish Guernica club, and joined the English Coventry club at the start of the 2012/13 season. Bronson’s form came to the notice of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe who attracted him to join the Irish club which included eminent players like Jared Payne, Ruan Peinaar and Franica van der Merwe in its ranks. He made his debut against the French club, Toulon, in January last year, and has currently played 26 games for them. Bronson, now 30, plays tight or loosehead, and is 1.83 metres and weighs 118 kilograms.

But Bronson’s rugby aspirations deviated slightly when online he met Belfast girl, Leanne Reilly. In March last year Bronson and Leanne, on a romantic getaway, stopped at Dundrum castle at Bronson’s insistence. At the top of the tower Bronson got down on one knee. Just tying up his shoelaces, thought Leanne! After their wedding the pair discovered an earlier family connection – their respective grandfathers, Jimmy McGeown and Bobby Reilly, both played for the local hurling club, Davitts GAA in Belfast.

Bronson relishes the opportunity to play top level rugby. “I have always wanted to play at this level and I’m delighted to be part of the best rugby operation in Europe. And my mother is from Belfast, so it’s almost like playing for my second home.

His first start for Ulster against the much vaunted French club, Toulon was significant.

They don’t come any more difficult than against Toulon. When you’re doing the hard yards in the pre-season and you are working your way up, they are the games you dream of playing in. The lads are great, there’s a good vibe, good banter, great facilities, a great place to improve my rugby . . . to earn those starts and to climb the pecking order by right rather than opportunism.

Props are often known for their longevity, uncompromising attitude to their code.

So Bronson, when Ulster has lost its attraction, there could be a place in the North Otago front row!


AS I SEE IT (8 April) 

hockey nz olympics rio
By Terry O’Neill.

Professional sport centres on money. Who gets how much. 

And this is especially so in an Olympic year.

New Zealand hockey’s generous supporter Sir Owen Glenn has come out firing about Hockey New Zealand because it asked its current Olympic players to plead/beg sponsors for funds to finance the build-up to Rio. $12,000 has been bandied about as individual obligations. There are obvious questions. “What about Sport New Zealand’s high performance system? Doesn’t it allocate funds to sports?”  It does. But what  it doesn’t indicate is that the goose which lays the golden egg is light on eggs.

Consequently Sport NZ’s budget is reduced by a $4 million dollars through the fall in returns from lottery grants.

The government has come under criticism in spite of its investment of $62 million in High Performance Sport NZ, which in turn made funding decisions based on targeted performance results.  

Women’s hockey receives $1.3 million in High Performance funding with individual players receiving between $9000 and $20,000. Men’s hockey will get $700,000 from HPSNZ , a $300,000 drop from its previous level. The fall-off in support for national lotteries, and the absence of large payouts, has dimmed lottery buyers’ spending.

Meanwhile local rugby kicked off last Saturday with no red cards issued, a few yellow cards and no blue cards.

Blue cards? These could become part of local rugby if an innovation from the Northland Rugby Union is adopted nationally.

Head knocks and concussion are increasingly before the public. Northland introduced a system whereby a player who receives a head knock is asked a few questions by a team medic/physio and, if required, the referee then gives him a blue card which means that the player is effectively out of the game for 21 days. This has real merit.

rugby blue card front

rugby bvlue card back

Blue card front and back

Rugby opening day last weekend resulted in high scoring from Old Boys and Athletic Marist and an entertaining performance between Maheno and Kurow.  It may have been due to opening day collywobbles.

No match liaison officer was publicly named at the Stadium on Saturday, so supporters were kept in the dark over team or number changes making the provided programme far from accurate. That, combined with the lack of a Public Address system, meant that point scorers faced a bit of a lottery at that venue. At the Maheno Domain there was no such problem I believe, but at Weston no programme was available for supporters.

Not a good beginning.
I’ll excuse it because it’s the start of the season. But will rugby supporters?


AS I SEE IT (1 April)

virgin cola blue can                  

By Terry O’Neill.

The new Springbok rugby coach is to be announced today.

After months of uncertainty following South Africa’s exit from the rugby World Cup last October and former coach Heyneke Meyer’s decision to stand down, Allister Coetzee apparently is the firm favourite although Rassie Erasmus or Johan Ackermann have support.

On a less serious sporting theme may we acknowledge today harks back to the Roman Hilaria, the Indian Holi Festival and the medieval Feast of Fools first recorded in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales in the 1300s. You know his story of the vain cock Chauntecleer who was subtly tricked by a wily fox, and it heralded that date for playing harmless pranks on family and friends.

The media have not been slow on that date to call on the good sport in us all. Back in the 1980s the evening newspaper The Oamaru Mail responded to a hot topic and published a photo of a substantial industrial building on Oamaru’s Cape Wansbrow connected by conveyor belt down to the wharf in the harbour to indicate the proposed cement works’ construction would enable cement to be exported. Absolute outrage gave a new meaning to indignation. 

It was the Otago Daily Times that pictured a tractor and plough rooting up Carisbrook’s hallowed turf. Phones scorched many ears in the furore that followed.           

And the Guardian newspaper introduced a “British Weather Machine”. This discovery would control weather within a 5000 kilometre radius – good news for the Brits with a guarantee of long summers with rain falling only at night.

The BBC’s 1957 “spaghetti tree hoax” was either a joke or hoax to newspaper. In 1996 Virgin Cola ran an advertisement in British newspapers suggesting that, in the interest of consumer safety, it had integrated a new technology into its cans so when the Cola passed its use-by date, it would react with the can to turn it bright blue. And Virgin Cola warned consumers to avoid purchasing all blue cans. Meanwhile opposition company Pepsi had recently unveiled its newly designed cans which were bright blue.  Sporting?

Recently a line of socks, “Fatsox”, was advertised as a weight loss product incorporating a nylon polymer, Flora Satra Tetrazine, previously used in the nutrition industry. Apparently as the wearer’s body heat rose and blood vessels dilated, the socks drew “excess lipid from the body through the sweat from the feet”.  So, after sweating off the fat, the wearer simply washes the socks, and fat, down the plughole. The franchise is available for these in North Otago.

But above all, after enjoying a tad of sporting fun and belly laughs, remember the Feast of Fools ends at noon today after which the instigator is the fool!


AS I SEE IT(24 March)

nanny state

By Terry O’Neill.

Are we becoming the world’s“cotton wool country” an extension of the old “nanny state”? Before we begin to leap in the air in an over indignant protest against what too many will claim are “ infringements of our rights” let’s take a good look at the first health and safety reform in a couple of decades.As you land back on your feet for the first time, the new reforms refer only to paid employees not volunteers. So any person who owns and/ or is a paid organiser of an event ,comes under the new rules. Thus if anything goes wrong the owner is liable for prosecution but the new compliance requirements are bigger and prosecution is higher.So does this mean that organisers of  the Coast to Coast,Christmas parades,school activities, multi sport races, bike races and marathons may  become things of the past as the owners/organisers fear personal liability prosecutions.Many such people are calling in auditors to check their events against the new reforms.

Locally this mean that any event which is run by a paid organiser comes under the new reform?It’s just not limited to workplaces which have paid staff, but the law does not apply to a group of volunteers where nobody is paid as an employee.

It is believed by many that the reforms are really the product of the Pike River mine disaster where twenty nine people are killed, but government denies this stating that its concern is about the high level of deaths and serious injuries in the workplace. So why place paid individuals such as school teachers responsible for the health and safety of students placed  in the same basket as national industry?And why are ordinary New Zealanders being asked to bear the brunt of the increase in workplace deaths.

With fines of up to $600,000 some principals have considered putting their personal homes into trusts so that they will not have to sell homes to pay fines or maybe to avoid gaol times in extreme cases.But others say its simply a case of the more detail being released to assist clarification.

Will this mean that clarification will create a more sensible application of the reforms? Apparently not as such reforms will apply to sports clubs who employ staff.Examples from one bowling club would suggest the opposite.It’s been informed that any steps must be painted so players and visitors could see that they were steps, and signs had to be put up in the shelters warning against sitting on the top rail,in case someone falls off.And the coat racks had to be taken down in case someone impaled themselves upon them ,while any pointed edges had to be wrapped with rubber so that people will not be injured.So if you have a club that runs tournaments more dollars will be required to get your facilities up to scratch.

George Orwell of 1984 fame will be smiling wryly I’m sure.



AS I SEE IT(18 March)





By Terry O’Neill.

Waitaki Boys High School First X1 and Valley will meet in tomorrow afternoon’s Borton Cup final,the major trophy for the North Otago Cricket Association which was formed in 1899. In the first season six teams,Oamaru A, Oamaru B, Tureka, Capulet, Waitaki Boys High School and a Ngapara-Maraewhewnua combined team.In the first season a series of home and away games were played to decide the initial champion. Because of a lack of grounds most games were played at Takaro Park and Tureka was the first champion.It wasn’t until the end of the second season that a trophy was presented to the winner of the senior competition. The North Otago Cricket Association however was in 1919and John Borton an Oamaru club member who donated a trophy. This trophy was referred to as,”The North Otago Cup” or “The Association Cup” but it was generally called the” NOCA Cup.”The advent of prohibition and the lack of adequate grounds saw cricket virtually defunct in 1909 and it was the opening of King George Park and the return of soldiers from World War 1 that saw senior club cricket restart.Waitaki Boys High School was the first winner of the relaunched competition and was presented with the old trophy at the end of the season.Waitaki Boys stored the Cup in the front block at the school but a major fire broke out and the trophy was lost. Frank Milner, the rector of the school presented a new cup to the association as a replacement ,the Borton Cup.

Waitaki Boys has won the senior trophy on four occasions, 1905/06, 1919/20, 1925/26(Colts), and 1967/68.

Mr Borton was a well known and successful farmer during the 1800’s.This Borton Cup was then used until 2011 before it was lost by the holders, Union.A replica of the Borton Cup now in use is engraved with the names of the winners of the senior competition since that very first season in 1899-90.

Waitaki Boys High School first won the trophy in the 1919/1920 season but it had to wait until the 1967/68 season to reclaim the trophy.If successful in the Borton Cup final tomorrow fternoon it will be only the third time that it has held the cup.

The Valley Cricket Club’s origins reach back into the early 1900s with the Waitaki Sub Association based in the Waitaki Valley which saw a population boom during the building of major dams at Waitaki, Benmore and Aviemore with clubs such as Kurow and Hydro(based in Otematata) taking part in a competition with at one stage the Kurow club taking part in Borton Cup competition in the 1930s.Such was the strength of “country” cricket that at one stage more than half of the North Otago Hawke Cup team were country members.

As the dam projects began to wind down cricket clubs began to struggle to find members.Eventually only three teams were left, Kurow, Otematata and Duntroon.These three teams decided to combine and form a new club to take part in the Oamaru competition.The team was called the Upper Waitaki Cricket Club but during the 1970s it changed its name to Country and up until the 1980s had managed to win the Borton Cup on five occasions.In 1991 it joined with the Weston Cricket Club to become part of the Valley Sports Organisation which involves other sports such as rugby and netball.

Since this amalgamation the Valley Club has won the Borton Cup on five occasions,1994/95, 1997/98, 2003/04, 2004/05, and 2006/07.



AS I SEE IT (11 March)

ancient mariner

By Terry O’Neill.

Hot arid conditions may push humans into out-of-character behaviour.

This is well-documented in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s graphic 18th century poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in which the albatross which guided the ship out of stormy waters was blamed for the it’s  becalming. The ancient mariner shot the albatross, his crew died all around him, and he paid the penalty by the albatross being hung around his neck. A situation, one would think is a long way from a dry and dusty Weston Park sports ground.

To the ancient mariner in the doldrums all he could see was “water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink”.

The Valley cricketers and rugby players would agree whole heartedly, although it’s not the potability of the water that’s worrying them, it is its availability. The extremes of dry weather created a playing surface almost resembling concrete. It is ironic to note that the main oval also has drainage difficulties and is about to have its drainage system restructured.

The problem facing the Valley Sports Club as it caters for a multitude of players in summer and winter, is its inability to irrigate the surfaces which have reached the stage of being unofficially classified as “dangerous”, especially for contact sport.

Apparently local illegal water users, recently identified, have contributed to the problem and now must use the water registers or measures to monitor the flow to their properties.

To some the Waitaki District Council has become the ogre because this sports ground is under its umbrella. The WDC has demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with sports groups. This was illustrated in practice, particularly in the recent Hawke Cup cricket challenge between North Otago and Hawkes Bay, when it came to the party prior to the game and poured an estimated 650,000 litres of water onto Milner Park, cricket’s temporary main ground while a new ground and block is being developed at Centennial Park.

Hopefully Weston Park, which will be out for the next three weeks, will be able to benefit from a satisfactory solution to its predicament.

The worst scenario for the club, or the WDC, would be for OSH to step in and close the grounds because of this condition.

Doses of aqua pura. That’s all.

Bic Runga, Tim Finn and Dave Dobbyn have the solution in their song, “YOU JUST ADD WATER”.

Another magnificent cause for celebration in North Otago! An amazing array of talented young sportspeople was on display as the sporting awards were announced on Monday   evening.New Zealand under 19 cricketer Nathan Smith took the major award,Supreme Sportsperson of the Year.At the other end of the age spectrum Bruce”Bruiser” Rowland was deservedly awarded the Denis Birtles Memorial Award for his forty years of rugby refereeing. A great night amidst a galaxy of talent.


AS I SEE IT(4 March)

By Terry O’Neill.

What? Volunteers made redundant?

Volunteering is an integral New Zealand response whereby people selflessly offer services, skills and time for the benefit of others. Every community has people who do their bit with grace, skill and charm.

It can be a two-headed coin. Each volunteer gives to meet a particular need and is often surprised to receive a sense of accomplishment, fellowship, and contentment, the blessings of true generosity.

 A recent Oamaru Mail article on Girl Guides in North Otago suggested the national body is “revitalising”, whatever that means, so it can fulfil its goals of developing self-esteem, confidence and leadership, and a centralised business and administration arm will reduce the work of volunteers in these fields. But to maintain the national “ivory tower”, annual fees for each Girl Guide must be increased from $180 to $300, though in some cases there may be a decrease. Some local guide leaders believe the fees may push the movement into an elite club beyond the reach of many including loyal families with Girl Guide members throughout generations.

When former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon introduced the “think big” philosophy mixed results evolved, and now it appears some organisations which survived, and indeed grew, applied this philosophy in a very practical way. The Society for the Intellectually Handicapped (IHC), Save the Children (SFC) and Riding for the Disabled (RDA) are but three which experienced, and resisted in some cases, the nudges or heaves towards centralisation. Many local branches had a rich complement of competent volunteers before top-of-the-tower decisions effectively attempted to bypass this invaluable resource of experience and support. “Bigger would be better”. Maybe.

Centralisation appears to require paid “executives” whose salaries enable them to direct and organise the remaining, often disillusioned, volunteers. And this rejection of volunteer input ultimately affects the vitality and growth of local support for the national body and its dedicated services.

It’s a New Zealand “thing” to support financially what we believe to be worthy  organisations. I wonder how many find it offensive when a wealth of attractive glossy material regularly is sent out to squeeze even greater donations from already dedicated supporters of the institution?  Exactly how much of each regular donation contributes to such simplistic unsolicited expensive-looking material.  Many charities come to mind.  Surely regular voluntary subscribers could be spared this practice? Sincere volunteers and supporters are too valuable to be treated with disrespect.

Sports bodies are feeling the impact of a smaller volunteer base, and I don’t apologise for bringing this up again. Often loyal supporters hold positions of responsibility for long periods, and are the butts of criticism because nobody is willing to ‘step into their shoes’. Eventually, burnt out, the stalwarts eventually take their skills and drop off the code’s radar into oblivion.

In these days of semi-professional sport, there’re suggestions from some volunteers that those getting paid should do all the work!  But is this just a cop out?


AS I SEE IT (19 Feb)

Waitaki Aquatic Centre

By Terry O’Neill.


A Smorgasbord (Swedish) suggests sandwich and table, so we have a mixture today.

Regularly I am privileged to propel myself through the waters of the Waitaki Aquatic Centre, one of the district’s most used sporting facilities.

Waitaki Aquatic CentreAnd we are indebted to Adair and David Rush whose foresight and enthusiasm motivated the fund-raising for the complex. With the rise in drowning statistics and reduction in the number of school swimming pools, mainly due to lower funding, this pool is needed more than ever for basic life skills.

At the other end of the learn-to-swim focus it produces high class young swimmers including a number of qualifiers for the national junior age group championships in Auckland later this month.

Swimming demands discipline. Local competitive swimmers train usually from 6.00a.m to 7.30a.m with many from afar breakfasting at the pool before heading for a full school day, and back for a further training later with coach Narcis Gherca. It is interesting to note that North Otago will supply more swimmers to the coming national age group championships in Auckland than South Canterbury and Dunedin!

Is it time to look at establishing a sports complex to replace the Waitaki Recreation Centre in Orwell street? Its beginnings in the 1980s arose at a joint Oamaru Borough/Waitaki County meeting as an exciting compromise to meet community needs and the requirement for Waitaki Girls’ High School to replace its obsolete gymnasium. The Rec’s seen much better days.

Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College have gymnasia used also by community sports teams. The three schools are major contributors to North Otago’s economy and a new complex would certainly be an added attraction for pupils from outside the region as well as for locals. Maybe it will be thrown “into the too hard basket”, but we are the custodians of our future.

North Otago cricket won the Hawke Cup last weekend defeating Buller. Hearty congratualtions!

This trophy is competed for by the 22 minor cricket associations in New Zealand, and is divided into four zones. Each zone plays a round robin tournament and zone winners may challenge the current holder. North Otago first held the trophy in the 2009/2010 season appropriately 100 years after it was donated by Lord Hawke. Last weekend’s win means North Otago must prepare for its first challenge, from Hawkes Bay, in a week’s time.

Rugby League completes the smorgasbord. The competition begins on March 3rd with the Warriors playing West Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium at 9.30p.m. The “leaguies” also have new rules to interpret this season. There’ll be differential penalties for incorrect play of the balls. The old ploy of forming walls to prevent charge downs on field goal attempts will allow referees to penalise for such obstruction. The “shot clock” will be introduced with teams now having 30 seconds for scrums and 30 seconds for dropouts or the offending team has to concede a penalty.Now that’s something that rugby doesn’t have yet.



Onwards and upwards methinks.



By Terry O’Neill.

The local rugby season kicks off on 2nd April. Leading up to it local clubs will mirror other Heartland clubs and battle to e


nsure full premier squads, an increasingly difficult assignment.

Polynesian players are an integral part of the Heartland scene. Many unions made derogatory comments about North Otago’s inclusion of Pacific Island players but North Otago was simply the forerunner of today’s necessity. A couple of seasons ago former All Black and Mid Canterbury lock  Jock Ross told me that some Mid Canterbury clubs only survived in premier ranks because of inclusion of Pacific Island players. Similar to all other Heartland unions.

The all-important necessary visas for Pacific Island players are not easily obtained and often are only for a set time. In some cases Pacific Islanders arrive on student visas to attend school, and play rugby, and others can apply for work visas under a skills’ shortage category or there is the specific purpose or event category, a rugby visa, for one year that may be renewed.

The North Otago Rugby Union does not actively recruit Tongans who generally arrive because of family or friends here. NORFU CEO Colin Jackson said the Union tended to go to Europe, USA or Canada for recruitment and over the past eight years more than 70 players have been under this scheme in North Otago.

Putting aside claims from some white rugby supremacists, without Polynesians there would be no premier rugby locally because of our small population base. Polynesians’ natural talents see many promoted to the top of the North Otago rugby tree to fill the gap created by the lack of other skilled young local players.

But it’s not one way traffic. Over the last two northern seasons local players, Jeremiah Shields, Keegan Anderson, Kayne Middleton, Thomas Shields and Jared Whitburn, all spent a rugby season overseas. It’s not only a rugby experience they benefit from, it’s a life-enhancing experience too.

In addition local rugby clubs Athletic, Kurow, Excelsior, Maheno and Valley have made direct contact with overseas rugby unions and clubs and obtained players.

It’s a conundrum how Immigration NZ treats Pacific Islanders. For instance, French, Italian or Argentinian players may live here for a year or eighteen months without any problem while most Pacific Island players work visas entitle them to be here for only six months and they’ve got to head home if they have no other suitable employment skills to offer in New  Zealand.

Clubs and minor unions don’t seem to receive much support from the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. When will NZRU boffins realise that to ignore the deterioration of New Zealand’s rugby base will not augur well for those higher up the rugby food chain? And in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji  how long will they be able to retain their World Cup status?