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.


Sadness and gladness of the Last Post

anzac poppy 2016

This was an editorial in one of the national newspapers for Anzac Day 1997…I can’t find any notes I may have made identifying the paper or the author…

The Last Post always makes me cry. I can’t help it. There is something in those crisp clear notes ringing out in the sharp-edged air of ANZAC morning that takes my breath away. It sets up a curious chemical reaction in the soul, where sadness and gladness are fused together and one is lifted out of oneself and into the unending reverberations of history.

The bugler speaks to the dead – the “glorious” dead – inscribed on countless cenotaphs and roadside memorials from one end of New Zealand to another. Not that there is anything glorious about dying. In the paintings of our country’s battles, the death of young men, far from home, in agony and fear, is seldom portrayed with much accuracy. We spare ourselves the horrors of war – and rightly so. Veterans of the real thing seldom speak of what they have seen and heard lest their words conjure up again the screams, the blood, the shattered flesh, the cries of “Mother!”.

The Last Post speaks to the silence beyond death; the space in which we contemplate the meaning of the final “sacrifice”. The Last Post asks us to ask ourselves “What did these young men die for?”

When I was a little boy, I would spend my ANZAC Days drawing pictures of soldiers climbing up the rocky hillsides of the Dardanelles. And, over the vivid colours of the battle scenes, I would print in the laborious hand of the young: “For King and Country”.

I do not think that there are many today who would die for the House of Windsor. But, in the silent crowds of young New Zealanders – more every year – who join the old diggers on ANZAC morning, I sense a longing to serve, to sacrifice, to give something back to their country.

The generations of New Zealanders born after World War II have been spared what the United Nations charter calls “the scourge of war”. It is a mixed blessing. To be sure, we have never had to hold our friends in our arms and watch them die or receive a telegram informing us of the death of a loved one. But neither have we experienced the powerful sense of unity with which a nation at war is infused, not the bonds of comradeship forged when men and women from all walks of life are brought together and transformed into a  fighting force.

Most importantly, the post-war generations will never know what it feels like to play for history’s highest stakes – when the issues of ultimate significance hung in the balance.

I often ask myself: “Is political activism a substitute for war?” “What is it that we go on protest ‘marches’?” “Why do we seek out those moments of ‘confrontation’?” When we see that line of helmeted police officers, their long batons drawn; when we experience that lonely thrill of fear, that sudden rush of adrenalin, are we not, in our own way, playing soldiers?

People often ask me: “What’s wrong with today’s young people? Why aren’t they protesting like we did?” My answer is brutally simple: “Because of what we did” Our generation has reduced those “issues of ultimate significance ” – Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom from want, freedom from fear) down to just one: the freedom to buy and sell. Once a year, on ANZAC Day, we call forth the dead and invoke the myths that animate our nation. In the half-light of dawn, as the bugler draws out our tears and we “remember them”, remember the living also, and never forget that there are greater things to die for than a balance sheet.

And remembering other young soldiers in other wars…

Notebook next to the bed

Bonus assignment: do you keep a notebook next to your bed? Good. Tomorrow morning, jot down the first thought you have upon waking, whether or not it’s coherent.

Inspires such confidence,

Rare as a huia .


I had seen this design when friend posted hers online. The huia now sadly extinct – or perhaps roaming with the moa in deepest darkest Fiordland  – enshrined on the New Zealand sixpence, now also rare. Here, painstaking cut from the coin and mounted on pounamu, New Zealand greenstone…combined with other thoughts, things on my mind, sleep-addled? @ 0448 this morning…

Seven Wonders

The WordPress Daily Prompt: Khalil Gibran once said that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

Every once in a while the Doctor Who writers smack the nail fair on the head…

Blink was one episode so clever in its inception and execution; the one word test from The Snowmen another…subtle, challenging, provoking…

Seven words.

In no particular order.








The challenge is not whittling a list down to seven but building it up…I stalled at four (not saying which four) for quite a while.

If eight words were allowed, the eighth might be ‘you’. But ‘you’ becomes redundant…

AS I SEE IT wc 486

fr-rwc 11

By Terry O’Neill.

Why is winning or losing in sport, or indeed in life, so important?

Why are we competitive? Does competitiveness evolve since birth or does an element in society promote this streak? Some very young children don’t display it. Yet maybe it is a throwback, a feral one that’s uncomfortable to acknowledge, harking to the realities of grim personal survival.

Why do we play sport? “It’s fun”. “My friends play.” And a degree of competitiveness develops, and with those who support and follow the play, attitudes towards winning and losing. May we in New Zealand strive to model honour in winning, nobility in losing.

Imagine you were an English or Australian rugby supporter at Twickenham for the England/Australia match. Reactions to the result would vastly vary. The English fan base would likely be demanding the head of English coach Stuart Lancaster, whilst Australian supporters could smugly afford to be generous, an aspect of our emotional makeup sometimes difficult to apply.

Take the 2011 All Blacks World Cup victory in the final over the French team. The build-up was extreme. New Zealand political journalists said a loss would be catastrophic and implied an All Black loss might bring about the downfall of the government. Fortunately, maybe, the All Blacks won, the sun rose again in New Zealand the following morning, and supporters could afford to be magnanimous despite a solitary point being the winning margin.

Did New Zealand win or did the French lose? Lancaster’s England team lost by a wider margin to a better team on the day. Handling defeat takes more stamina to cope with than a victory. But we can learn from losses.

According to “Jonathon Livingstone Seagull” author Richard Bach, “losing is what learning is all about. It’s not whether we lost the game but how we lost and how we are changed because of it, and what we take away from the loss is something that we never had before to apply to other games. Losing in a curious way is winning.”

And from Bill Crowder of “Sports Spectrum”, “Playing a superior team or individual and losing ensures we learn more than if we played and defeated easily a series of teams of lower ability. Today’s culture celebrates winners and sacks losers. Sport is part of life which is filled with victories and defeats and we should learn from both. Victories should teach us humility and losses can teach us character.”

Some claim that if it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, why is the score recorded? Or consider the approach of former top woman tennis player Nartina Navratilova: “Whoever said, ‘it’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.”

Or maybe take the English rugby loss like Trev who twittered after the England loss, “considering all Australians are descendants of British criminals, I’ll take the Aussie win as a home win.”

In winning or losing, a sense of humour may be a healing balm .



AS I SEE IT (25 Sept)    


The Slippery Slope – Tongariro Alpine Crossing 15 September 2015 (C) Adrift Outdoors.

By Terry O’Neill.

The inevitability of gradualness. A significant statement used to indicate a specific slippery slope as illicit actions, apparently condoned, lead to a deteriorating moral climate.

Formal protocols are part of rugby organisation and this year North Otago introduced a NZRU one designed to assist club and representative rugby during the game. It clearly sets specific areas for players, coaches, medical staff and water boys during play, and this strategy is overseen by the match manager wearing a high visibility vest appropriately labelled.

Protocols are only as good as those appointed to enforce them. No matter how essential, they fall apart when administrators fail the challenges of their duty.

An instance smacked of this at Levin Domain last Saturday when no other than Horowhenua-Kapiti coach Jared Tanira went outside the boundaries where he was required to be during the game. Nobody indicated to him he was absolutely out of order. Would the North Otago coach be accorded the same privilege?

Who was the match manager? The logical choice was Union CEO Corey Kennett but that day he was also the Horowhenua-Kapiti manager as well as liaison manager for North Otago! My queries lead to assistant referees on the sideline, all local referees. None was inclined to tap their Tanira on the shoulder and point out the error of his ways.

If the NZRU are going to inflict such protocols on local unions, these will be toothless if not respected and applied fully and equitably by unions. People involved will ignore them if they judge them to be bureaucratic puff.

Eventually the inevitability of gradualness sinks to deterioration of what was once highly prized, integrity and honour in the sporting code or a particular aspect of our society affected. Think of other examples of retrograde steps when protocols or laws are modified or not fully addressed as required.

Similarly there are attitudinal trends locally. We’re constantly aware of people thumbing their noses at laws and bylaws because experience has taught them those laws are not followed up. The illicit seems to become acceptable.

Individuals with enough arrogance for their personal convenience may feel we owe them a right to park vehicles across footpaths, yet obstructed pedestrians have a right to walk there. Consider those who park on the street facing the wrong direction. Note cyclists not bothering to wear the required safety helmet, drivers using cell phones on busy highways and intersections, and so on. Sadly maybe NZRU’s sensible forthright directives on game protocols might go the same way, into nothingness.

One highly respected and endearing North Otago rugby character, whilst involved before today’s technology, ran on the field at breaks in play to pass on words of wisdom to players, water bottle in hand. Towards the end of the game, after another incursion onto the field, the referee called the miscreant aside, and whispered: “If you’re going to come on as a water boy put some bl…. water in the bottle.”

Once upon a time the referee was the judge of what was, and was not, acceptable.


Does New Zealand’s legal system favour some ahead of the rest of us?

ICCWC15As I See It By Terry O’Neill.

Does New Zealand’s legal system favour some ahead of the rest of us?

2014 Junior World Cup promising rugby star Tevita Li (19) was caught drink-driving in Auckland last May. Last week the Blues-contracted player was discharged without conviction by Judge Gus Andree Wiltens as long as he paid $210, the costs to establish his blood alcohol level. Judge Wiltens took into account that Li completed The Right Track programme and alcohol counselling, and justified his decision because, “A conviction would prove to be a real impediment to what so far has been a stellar career. All indications are that you can go a long way in rugby.”

A conviction possibly would restrict Li’s international rugby travel, and if he pursued a career overseas, teams may overlook him because of that black mark against his name. After his rugby days a clean record would keep the door open for his intention to follow his father into a police career. Another Blues player, George Moala, recently found guilty of assault with intent to injure, appears for sentencing in May, and will apply for a discharge without conviction. Try telling an ordinary 19 year old club rugby player that’d be a fair deal.

Recently I commented on former Olympic triathlete Kris Gemmell. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Gemmell a 15 month ban after Drug-Free Sport NZ had appealed the NZ Sports Tribunal’s decision not to impose a sanction on him for missing a drug test in August, 2012. Last week the Tribunal cut his ban to 12 months stating his conduct would not be a violation under the new rules confirmed January 2015. Gemmell, basically vindicated, lost his International Triathlons Unions athletes’ committee role plus his position as its Global Head of Partnerships for the world triathlon series. He retired from international competition after the World Cup in 2012 but remained on the drug testing programme because he intended to involve himself in long distance racing.

Who had the self-righteous knife out at Drug-Free Sport NZ? Another graceless Tall Poppy blitz.

The Cricket World Cup kicks off next week amidst concerns for security during the tournament. If visitors seek easy access to NZ over the tournament period, visa-free entry is permitted provided an individual’s cricket interest is proved with, say, game tickets. This visa-free entry is primarily to allow ease of movement for cricket fans between NZ and Australia. Many “cricket supporters” from countries for which visas are usually required to enter NZ, have apparently used the “loophole” for easy entry. By last week 94 people had travelled here under the arrangement and others were prevented from boarding flights to NZ. Several Chinese passengers emphasised their intention to attend games and produced Cricket World Cup tickets as evidence but, ironically, those games were scheduled after their NZ departure dates.

And what a temptation to anyone “terroristically” inclined.


Note: this version differs from that published in The North Otago Times.

Why Lessons Learned Programmes Don’t Work

Budgetary battles are raging across the US Department of Defence and every service and agency desperately rounds its soapboxes, sacred idols and hobby-horses into a defense circle…it’s a desperate, no holds barred struggle for the survival of the most precious as opposed perhaps to the most needed. Unsurprisingly, this results in a steady dribble of pro/con article on the various issues or perceived issues. This one struck a chord as the five stated reasons resounded from my years in the lesson learned field…you’ll need to read the artcile itself to see that author’s take on such ‘initiatives’…

Five Reasons to Boycott the Air Force’s Savings Initiative : John Q. Public.

1. Your Time is Too Important.  The lessons learned programme may be more form than function i.e. regardless of best intentions, hopes, dreams and aspirations, it does not have a clear and effective method of initiating and embedding the behavioural change that heralds the ‘lesson learned. In this is the case and sadly, so many of them and other ‘continuous improvement’ programmes are, then your time may be better spent contributing to the organisation in another way, possibly as simple as just doing your day job to the best of your ability, and fostering a local climate for change in improvement around your immediate work area.

2. Your Participation Will Harm the Air Force’s Credibility. Or whichever organisation you represent…there are few things worse for an organisations credibility than a broadly and publicly promoted programme that visibly does not work…”What? you can’t improve your own improvement programme..?

3. The Program Enables a False Impression. An improvement initiative by its very existence promotes a perception that things must improve. Unless, however, the lessons learned programme is well-designed, well-implemented and well-lead, it is almost always doomed to fail. Once again, some time more would be done to improve the organisation if local change was encouraged and fostered – it is only very rarely that a large scale programme does not result in cookie cutter ‘solutions’ that are inflicted across an organisation and while maybe fixing one problem, create ten more.

4. The Initiative Is Itself Wasteful.  Absolutely and more so if it includes an incentive programme where staff are or may be rewarded for offering suggestions under the guise of initiatives and innovations. Without a good system and excellent leadership, the great risk is that staff will fixate on the reward and dedicate more and more time to dreaming up innovations than just doing their job and resolving issues when they encounter them. Moreover, just because something is called an initiative, does not mean that it is: in fact, the more strident the initiative narrative, the less likely the programme is to be innovative and more likely it is to be just another bureaucratically-inflicted drag-producing waste of time and resources.

5. There’s no reason to associate oneself needlessly with failure. Yes, sad but true. Despite all the good intentions, if the programme is tainted – and let’s face it, most improvement initiatives are even before the ink on the initiating directive dries – then why flog a dead horse or allow it to undermine by association those things that do work.

Don’t get me wrong…I am dedicated to lessons learned concepts and practices (I hope so after all these years!)  however initiating and embedding change in even a small organisation is not a simple thing and nowhere as simple as the loudest advocates might, in their simplistic ignorance, have us believe. Like any programme seeking to change a status quo, it must first understand the environment in which it will be conducted, who the people are (outside of the Borg, there is rarely any single collective group of ‘the people’), what shapes and influences them, what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are, and it must really understand how the organisation actually works (as opposed to what has been chiselled into process and procedure files.

So, when the innovation initiative evangelists coming knockin’, just think carefully about what they are really selling…

My child has a peanut allergy. This is what a lunchbox did to her


My child has a peanut allergy. This is what a lunchbox did to her.

I’m sorry but, while not unsympathetic, this just annoys me…yes, it is really sad but trying lump responsibility on to the rest of the world for what happened to this little girl is just wrong. It is symptomatic of the “my problems are everyone’s problems” attitude that typify our growing inability to take responsibility for our own problems.

In this instance, the little girl did not eat any nuts but her allergy was triggered by exposure to another child who had eaten something nut-based.

Sorry, Mum, but if your children has a disability is is YOUR responsibility to keep them safe and ensure that they can live as normal a life as possible. Wrapping your little girl in cotton wool or glad wrap is not going to help prepare her for life especially if she does not  eventually outgrow her nut allergy. Even if all daycares, preschools, schools and after-schools totally ban all nut products and derivatives of nut products and and apply bio protective measure that CDC would be proud of, that will still not protect her from casual contact with nuts, nut derivatives or nut byproducts…

It may be that she does need to become like The Girl in the Plastic Bubble in order to avoid contact with the elements that trigger her allergy but it is your responsibility as a parent to implement the measures necessary to protect her from exposure to those triggers. Reasonably one might expect those with whom she is in regular contact to work with you to implement and apply those measures and to reduce as much is reasonably possible the opportunities for such exposure…But is is not reasonable, especially when it appears that she is so sensitive to the allergenic triggers to expect everyone that she may encounter during a day at school to also avoid all exposure to nut-based elements that may trigger her allergy…

We need to stop simply following our emotions in sharing such links and start thinking about what we are actually doing. This is a family that may actually be in need of some serious assistance to mitigate  the effects of this little girl’s allergy but that assistance is not going to come from some knee-jerk Facebook link sharing…use your brains, folks, they are there for more reason that to keep your ears apart…

Daily Prompt: Luxurious | The Daily Post

What’s the one luxury you can’t live without? Photographers, artists, poets: show us LUXURY via Daily Prompt: Luxurious | The Daily Post.


Well, it is hardly something that I can not live without as I have clearly done so for some time but it would be luxury to be able to just sit here on a warm but rainy day with a good book and watch the grass grow…


I always seem to be so busy now between maintaining and developing the section, looking for work (this is always a good time for that – not!!), trying to get some writing done, and also fitting in just some plain old ‘me’ time…I think that I will have to start enforcing some me time to just keep the balance right and rocking gently back and forth here would be a good place to start…