Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Super 14 is ripping you off

And you may not even know­ it. [also posted at The Dropkicks]

A fortnight ago, a workmate based in our NSW office revealed via the company S14 email group the price he was expected to pay to see his beloved [Yeah, I know, WTF?] Waratahs in the flesh. I was amazed. [You can see the full list at the bottom of this post]

$37.30 NZ to see the Force at home? Really? A team which cannot hold onto its players and is not even the premiere rugby team expects you to pay 'as little as' $37 and as much as $80 for 80 minutes of rugby? What does it get spent on, John Mitchell's shaving creme?

When I looked at NZ, I was not surprised that the High
landers had the lowest average, but I was taken aback that they didn
't have the cheapest tickets.

What is the image that pops into your head when you think of the typical Highlanders fan? If you're anything at all like me, it's students. If you've ever b

een to Dunedin, you'd know that the student quarters are around Castle St. I was down there last year and it cost $25 to get to Carisbrook - there weren't any free buses as you'd think. In fact, there weren't any buses around game time. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but I couldn't find them and didn't see any when I got there. So unless you have a car, you're looking at $45 just to get to the game and get in. You can see the distance in this map, just look at all the traffic lights!




The Chiefs and Blues seemed very decent to their fans, with $15 and $12* tickets on offer respectively. The Chiefs play at arguably the best ground to watch rugby in the country, and both have a backline studded with All Blacks. The Crusaders have the most expensive tickets in their half-stadium, which makes you wonder a. whether the majority of seats left are expensive or cheap and if this is why so few people go and b. how much does AMI pay Vbase for naming rights and how much of this winds up at the CRFU?

Before shifting focus to South Africa, I'd like to remind you that the South African Rugby Union has a deal with News Corporation [in this article from 1996, to the tune of 360m GBP] which may or may not be paid to unions and stadiums to pay for fees and that Coca-Cola has recently paid 450m RAND [$83,189,932.31 NZD] for Ellis Park. With t

hose factors in mind, it's bloody cheap to go and see a South African team - even the Bulls - play a game of footy. I'd even argue that News Corp are getting superb value for money, as the SA-based games are always well attended and that would be a very marketable aspect, as opposed to the obviously empty NZ and AUS stadiums.

Match attendance is always scrutinised by the media and used as a way to justify their argument that support for rugby is dying, yet stadiums continue to increase their prices. They aren't the only business which does this, but it simply beggars belief. Why would you raise prices when you can lower them by $5, potentially increase attendance and make more money than you would?

  I posed that exact question to several unions, a couple of journalists and some fellow bloggers. With each union I also questioned them on local issues, for example; with the ORFU, I raised the point about students and I pointed out to the Waratahs that they had the cheapest average price in Australia. I emailed the ARU, wondering how prices could be so uncompetitive in a country which is dominated by AFL, rugby league and cricket. I even contacted our head honchoes, the NZRU. I did not receive a single reply - unless you count the NZRU's standard autoreply.

Why not? I'm a consumer. I want to ensure I'm getting the best value for money I can. Heck, I attend all the Hurricanes matches out of some misguided loyalty that it just isn't the same to watch them on TV when they're playing in my town. I made them aware I was a blogger, and gave them the figures I've posted here [just not in the nice shiny format Noizy provided], so ignoring me didn't mean I wouldn't write this. This article may seem like a thinly veiled attack on the unions despite my best intentions, but that is because I had no way to keep it fair and balanced without a comment from those involved.

I've pondered this silence since I began my research - I even gave them an extra week before I wrote this - and still can't figure it out. It's almost like they don't want you to know. It may sound like a conspiracy, but I've had one journalist friend tell me that they couldn't be involved with this as if the NZRU found out, their company could lose access to them. 'The great black poppa doesn't like being told off by its subjects', I was told.
But I did receive correspondence from some Aussie bloggers.
Moses from Beer and Sport picked up on the Force's prices: 
"I'm amazed that the most expensive tickets will gain you entry to the worst ground in the comp where you can watch the worst forward pack in Super Rugby reverse across an oval. Go Force!"

And Juan from Green and Gold Rugby pondered this about NSW:

Do the Tahs charge less than the other Aust teams because they never use the full compliment of 15 players each game, they seem content to only use the forwards?

There was only silence emanating from South African bloggies, which was maybe a good thing because they'd just change their minds later on anyway [like with the NZ Maori tour, or the Super 14 expansion]

So I guess it comes down to us, the paying customers, to decide. Is NZ justified in charging so much in relation to South Africa? Should we be charging as much as AUS? Hell, would attendence increase if prices were dropped? Are television audience figures a good example when you consider there can be more than 100 people watching a match in a bar? Do you feel that your unions engage your province, be it through holding matches throughout it [I'm looking at you, Hurricanes, Auckland and Canterbury], doing the old-fashioned school-tour or simply the 'take a kid along' promotions? Is it a problem of the product being 'boring', or the high charges imposed on consumers by stadiums?

I have many, many more questions to ask but in order to keep you engaged, I'll keep it brief. Discussion in the comments is more than encouraged though and here, as promised, are the numbers:

FranchiseCheapest [in $NZ]Costliest [in $NZ]

* unclear if this includes mandatory $7 child ticket, otherwise the next cheapest is $20.These also do not take booking fees or concessions into account.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lies, damn lies [Team Kiwi Racing follow-up]

A little over a week ago, I wrote this post. The follow-up aspect of this post centres on this quote from a press release published on the TKR website:
'Team Kiwi Racing announced today it will offer five of New Zealand's top drivers the opportunity to compete in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship this year in the TKR All Black machine.'
Yet in the ongoing theme of TKR changing its mind and contradicting itself, this comes from a press release dated Thursday.
'Talented Kiwi driver Johnny Reid... will be testing the TKR All Black V8 Supercar at Queensland Raceway today along with Dean Fiore... and Steve Owen. An announcement if Reid is the successful driver or not for the 2009 in the TKR car will be made shortly.'
The crucial points are: Owen and Fiore are both Australians, and the season begins next weekend. Who will pilot the black beast if not Reid? Surely it would be Owen and Fiore, who obviously fit the 'five of New Zealand's top drivers' requirement. It's also worthwile noting that David John is apparently not in charge of TKR anymore, instead, his accountant, Mike McDonald is. Also, at this week's testing in Queensland the TKR machine was simply last year's Supercheap Auto car with a black fern on the bonnet. Not a single sponsor's decal to be seen.


Friday, March 13, 2009

V-Day draws ever closer... [Ford V8 Supercar preview]

Indulge me for a second and forge­t about the BLACKCAPS, Super 14 an­d N­RL. The best­ sports series in the world, IMHO, is about to kick off next weekend.

In a backward town in Australia, where driving across town means changing time zones, ­28 V8 monsters will power up and take to the track over three days.

For me this means the end of summer and the start of the sporting season proper. All the silly season rumours have been confirmed or quelled, and the last bean of curiosity has been picked as a result of photos taken by those who attended this week's testing at Queensland Raceway.

First up, Jamie Whincup. He's in the gun seat this year. Last year he drove phenomenally and had incredible luck - barring Hamilton, where he sat out after getting tagged by Todd Kelly in qualifying.

He's the defending champion and deservedly so - he drives like a bullet shot from a very high calibre rifle.

His team, Triple Eight Race Engineering/TeamVodafone, are under the pump a little this year. Late last year Ford announced they were withdrawing their funding of the team [guess they saw the Global Financial Crisis (capitals for scary emphasis) coming] and their team then seemed to go out of their way to criticise Ford. They will this year find out if their fan base was so large because they were with Ford, and winning, or because they were TeamVodafone and had the combination of Whincup and Craig Lowndes.

Next up is the young Shane van Gisbergen. While he hasn't achieved big-time success yet, he's the one I'll be rooting for after Mark Winterbottom [couldn't find any testing pics of him]. Why? Plain and simply, he's the future of NZ in V8's. He is a weapon in the wet, which is a skill I admire greatly, and he's driving for a Kiwi-owned team which has a history of turning nobodies into winners [Marcos Ambrose won two championships for them, and they nurtured Mark Winterbottom].

The only potential flaw I see is that he's getting teamed up with our next subject, Alex Davison.

Alex has had an on-again off-again relationship with the V8's. He tried driving a Perkins-prepared Commodore in 2005, with poor results.

He and Gisbergen both have limited main-game seat time and while they are professional drivers, I wonder how well they'll be able to dial in their cars in practice. Potentially this is where SBR's relationship with Jason Bright bomes in - more on that later.

Davison has been driving with his brother's [Will, who has taken Mark Skaife's spot at HRT this season] former team Dick Johnson Racing since, at the Bathurst, Sandown and Phillip Island endurance races.

Taking Will Davison's place at cult-favourite DJR and vacating the SBR seat for Alex is James Courtney.

Courtney is the V8's answer to an F1 driver - in fact, he 'almost' made it to the top-tier single seater series.

But almost isn't good enough, and now he's pottering around in torque dinosaurs for a ridiculous sum of money. The odd situation here is that Courtney is contracted to Ford, while his team DJR do not receive Ford money.

Courney received an insane amount of hype when he first entered the game. It's easy to see why - Marcos Ambrose was leaving and Courtney had a similar - but more successful - career. But over the past few years, he's yet to rack up a round win. Admittedly in same cases bad luck has robbed him, but he also has a tendency to drive too aggresively and put his car in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Second kiwi to be profiled is Fabian Coulthard. Now, I honestly thought his Paul Cruickshank racing team was going to be doomed to obscurity - they had little funding and a driver on his final year when they first set up.

But the two years of data gathering they had done when combined with Coulthard - Who is an absolute rocket in Porsche GT3's, but seemed to struggle when he drove for Paul Morris Motorsport in a Commodore - it just seemed to click. He acheived good, solid, top half results for most of the year and hopefully with a second car in his team and a driver [even if it is the trainwreck-waiting-to-happen Michael Patrizi] to share data with, he'll continue to get good points - maybe even march up the field.

The only change I wish to see him make is to become more aggresive. He's a ridiculously smooth driver and his lines are beatuiful, but he missed out a few passing opportunities and lost a few places last year when he wasn't willing to take a risk.

Finally, as promised, Jason Bright. His Britek team didn't work out as he intended, so he's back to the original arrangement with SBR-prepped machines, in search of good results. I'm guessing this is a two-way partnership, with Bright being somewhat of a mentor to van Gisbergen and Davison, and possibly the three working together with setups over the race weekend. Not saying they neccessarily need it/can't learn off other drivers, but logistically it appears to make sense.

The few times he had a car stay intact for a race last year he finished in the top 10, so with a better car, maybe those will turn into top 5's?

His biggest bug last year was qualifying. A lot of the time the crashes he got into were a result of starting so low down the order.

So, these are the 'Ford' drivers I'd be expecting to do well this season. Leave comments and I will do a similar writeup on Holden's top prospects [HAH!] if you like. :)


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to explain cricket

Written for Massey University's student magazine Magneto. The first in a series of 'this sport explained to a retard student' articles.

So, it's the end of summer now and the Rugby season has kicked off. But the cricket season is still persisting. Or is it the other way around? Anyway. In order to help you impress the sportsperson in your life, here's an explanation of what the willow and cork game is all about.

First things first, you'll have to learn the different types of the game. This is easy. There's Test, One-Day and Twenty20. Test cricket is a four, or five-day long match, in which each team gets to bat and bowl twice. They have an unlimited number of overs, but if the team to bat last does not get enough time to attempt to win, the match is deemed a draw. One-Day cricket is limited to 50 overs, with each team batting once. Twenty20 is limited to 20 overs each.

Still with me? No, you aren't. I've just prattled on about overs and batting and bowling and other such shit. You've got a vague idea what they are, but that's not going to help when old man Pete quizzes you about Hindelbottom's 6.4 run rate against slow off-spin seamers on a firm pitch in England.

So, to break it down even further. An over consists of six deliveries by a bowler. A bowler is the person who throws the ball at the batsman. The batsman is standing in front of wickets - three sticks, which he is trying to stop from being hit by the ball the bowler is hurtling his way. Each bowler is limited in the number of overs he may bowl in the 50 and 20 over versions.

There are all kinds of rules regarding the way a ball can be bowled, and how the batsman can hit it. For example, a bowler cannot have his elbow bent any more than 15 degrees as he lets the ball go - to do so would mean he is throwing it. Likewise, a batsman cannot simply stand in front of the wickets to stop the ball from hitting them. To do so will have him ruled as being out, under the Leg Before Wicket rule. The best way to avoid a Leg Before Wicket dismissal is to have a team full of people who have had legs removed through gangrene, or blown off by mines.

A Leg Before Wicket dismissal is decided by the umpire. Umpires are always fat, and look like the weird old fat guy who sits in the four-seat space on the bus. They also wear big hats, to prevent them from the hot sun. This is important because umpires are actually made of Goody Gum-Drops icecream. When a batsman is out, the umpire will extend his forefinger, and raise it above his head. For an explanation on 'extending the finger' refer to the Wikipedia article titled John Hopoate.

Being out means that a batsman has fucked up majorly, and he now loses his opportunity to try and hit any more deliveries. He has to walk back to the changing rooms, and on the way he'll generally swing his bat and look emo.

But some batsmen don't do this. Generally this is because they've done what is called 'fucking smashing it'. 'Fucking smashing it' is the act of scoring a high amount of runs for that batsman's team. A run is scored two ways.

Firstly, running between the wickets - remember, those things the bowler tries to hit with the ball - there's two of these on any cricket pitch, positioned around 16 metres apart [a standard cricket pitch is 20 metres]. Batsmen can 'stroke' the ball with their bat - don't try it on your partner though - and then run from one set of wickets to another. This will commonly result in adding one or two runs to the team's total. There is also a boundary rope, which is set around the edge of the pitch. If a batsman hits a ball and it bounces once or more before going over the rope, it will automatically add four runs to his team's score. However, if he hits it over the rope without it bouncing, six runs will be added. This is the easiest way to 'fucking smash it'.

It is the bowler's job to make and get all 11 of the opposition team's batsmen emo by getting them out. He also attempts to stop them 'fucking smashing it'. He is helped in this by his Fielders. These are people who stand somewhere between the wickets and the boundary, and will try and stop the ball if it is hit their way. They can also catch a ball if it has not bounced or gone over the boundary, and the batsmen will be out. The closer to the boundary this happens, the more emo the batsman becomes.

There is also a Wicket-Keeper. He is positioned behind the batsman and it is his job to hurl abuse at the batsman. Batsmen are notorious for their self-esteem issues and incestuous relations with their parents, so a Wicket-Keeper will commonly utilise this material. He will also catch any deliveries which the batsman does not hit.

After both teams have 'fucking smashed it', one team is declared the winner. This is the team who scored more runs than the other. That team is then rewarded by being given lots of money by television companies, because lots of people have watched them play the sport. Are you completely confused yet? Good. Next up: The Duckworth-Lewis system.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

pestering Daniel Gaunt on Facebook

11:07pmNaly D
Hey bro, just wanted to say congratulations on the NZGP win, and good luck in the Fujitsu's. Racing against Steve Owen should be a better learning experience than all of those rented drives anyway

thanks dude

11:16pmNaly D
No sweat, I'm loving the fact that we finally have guys around my age racing overseas.

11:17pmNaly D
You must have a pretty hectic schedule ahead of you, if you're contesting the next round of the GT3's, then Fujitsu the next weekend? Are you doing testing for McElrae over here or wracking up the airpoints?

yea we testing on 11th, then back to nz to finish gt3 season

11:23pmNaly D
Jeez! That's a bit of a mission. Good luck, sorry to hassle ya late at night!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Team Kiwi Racing make no sense... No sense at all.

I make no secret I don't like David John and the current Team Kiwi Racing establishment. They aim for that 'underdog' tag, but for many years they've been outed by the public, fingered by their former drivers and taken to court for their dodgy business dealings, while managing to maintain a stable base of casual V8 fans, who don't realise the team is actually getting no results.

The latest press release from Fortress TKR suggests that John has forgotten about these fans and is just gonna do whatever he wants anyway. After all, wadda you know about running a V8 team?

"The questions that were asked of the New Zealand public where [sic], did they want the team to chase results this season (which would require the services of an Aussie driver with previous V8 Supercar championship experience) or are the public happy to see the TKR machine run in the second half of the field while providing the opportunity for Kiwi drivers who simply do not know the Aussie circuits or have the experience/track time in a V8 Supercar". Said Mr John

Despite there being plenty of support for putting an Aussie in the car for one season and getting results we have decided to keep providing Kiwi drivers with opportunities to break into the top Touring Car Championship in the world.

So in a brief history of TKR, you've been operating for nine years, you've thrown out one long-term driver in favour of another who left when you didn't pay FPR, Ford and Holden AUS will not sponsor you, the Ford factory team [FPR] and Stone Brothers Racing have both taken you to court for monies owed, you've been using kiwis [bar Adam Macrow, Steve Owen and Fahad Al Musalam] for these years and yet your best round result since 2005 was when Owen drove at Indy last year, gone from Holden to Ford to Holden, your owner has been declared bankrupt and yet you still manage to hold on to a licence, denying other teams the chance to compete and now you decide to put out a spun press release painting you as some sort of patriot, when we know a green kiwi driver will be cheaper than someone with experience. This is ignoring the fact that four drivers are in the series this year, and one only had a small link to you.

What the fuck?


Friday, February 20, 2009

2009 Super 14 Week 2 Preview

Hurricanes v Highlanders

The Hurricanes struggled last week, despite looking the business on paper. Retaining possession simply has to be a key focus for them this weekend. Meanwhile, the Highlanders got off to the perfect start to the game, before minor errors and a lack of playing maturity cost them - a situation many of the senior members will be familiar with after last year. The Highlanders nosedived in a big way once Cowan and Mackintosh went off the field last week and the same should be true this week.

One to Watch:

Two actually. Shoemark is who the Highlanders have been needing for a few years, but can he do the job without Cowan? Meanwhile Victor Vito, who had a solid Air NZ Cup season, debuts in the Number 8. I hope he doesn't become the new loose-trio whipping boy.


Waratahs v Chiefs

These two teams both always seem to start the season off with a flourish. For the 'Tahs the season becomes about consistency after about Week 4, while the Chiefs disappear from the radar about then due to injuries. Unfortunately for the Ian Foster coached Chiefs, they've been affected by injuries already, while the boys from NSW are at home and at full strength.

One to Watch:

Timana Tahu. After a decidedly average debut 2008 season, he's gonna need to prove himself against the promising Tom Carter and Rob Horne.


Force v Cheetahs

The Cheetahs play a very fast, fluid style of rugby, while the Force, through John Mitchell's influence, are a percentage-based team, full of technical overlaps. The Cheetahs are a team I don't really like to write off and the Force blew it all last weekend, but the WA boys should be too much for the South Africans.

One to Watch:

Falie Oelschig. A typically underrated South African, he is a very capable defensive kicker and has a great pass.


Stormers v Reds

The Reds have a habit of talking themselves up over the off-season, while the Stormers seem to be more of the strong silent type, rolling into town, kicking ass, then departing. Expect to see that at their home ground this weekend.

One to Watch:

Scott Higginbotham, a boy the Reds have highlighted as a future Wallaby. For good reason too, he's a promising backrower.


Brumbies v Crusaders


The Crusaders looked very, very shaky in their first game against the Chiefs, committing a high amount of handling errors and struggling to keep up with the pace of the game. Meanwhile, the Brumbies were rattled by the Highlanders in the first 20 before getting into their stride, before almost losing the match in the last ten. This match is made all the harder to pick with the injuries announced by the Cru' during the week, but the Brumbies do look class and tend to settle into their season quickly.

One to Watch:

Casey Laulala. Had a good performance in the first match and is set to dominate the Crusaders midfield without Carter and Brett interfering anymore.


Bulls v Blues

Another close one, but the Bulls did look a lot more stable this season without all the off-field controversy. The Blues are now coached by a decidedly average [decided by me] tactician, Pat Lam.

One to Watch:

Bryan Habana. He's simply the best player in world rugby on both defense and offense.


Sharks v Lions

An easy match to pick. The Sharks will definately make this year's playoffs and if injuries are in their favour, which they tend to be, they should be in the final. The Lions meanwhile will hold a street parade if they crack the top 10.

One to Watch:

All of the Sharks are future Springboks, if not already.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why the NZRU should not go to Denver

As was reported while I was on holiday, it appears that Denver is pushing for the long-discussed, never-realised All Blacks match in the US. Over the past two years this has been linked to New York, Chicago, Boston and now Denver.

Well of these places, it most certainly shouldn't go to Chicago or Denver.

Denver has a huge basketball and football college fraternity. Going off anecdotal evidence from an ex-American flatmate of mine, it will be very, very hard to tap into that market. Rugby Union enjoys a small following in the Denver area, and Carl Hayman's long lost brother also lives there, but I think simply running over to Mile High Stadium and hosting a match between two countries that they think are joined together is a dumb idea.

Instead, I would like to see the ARU and NZRU each send an Under-20 or Under-23 team, maybe even a combined Oceania XV, and have them go on a college tour. UCLA have a huge team, as does the University of Connecticut. The UCSC Slugs would be keen for a match I imagine and having seen the BRFC play, I imagine some Air NZ Cup teams would struggle in a match against them, let alone any youth team.

The costs would be a lot lower than sending NZRU contracted players over too, I'd imagine. Heard of billeting? Yeah, I thought so. Oh and you've got a much higher chance of getting a crowd to an eventual All Blacks, Springboks, Wallabies, Welsh, whoever match by getting the kids talking to their parents about it [Imagine 'Hey dayad, I played rogbay agenst some noo zealenderz today. Man, they're fayast'... Ok that was New York, but near enough to Boston.] than just showing up with posters reading 'OMG EXTRAVAGANZA LOLZ COME SEE TWO OF THE BEST TEAMS IN THE WORLD PLAY A SPORT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND'.

Although, it's not like I expect either union to lose money from the venture. If there's something Steve Tew does exceptionally, it is run a business. If anything goes ahead, I expect the USRU will have agreed to pay a lump sum to the ARU and NZRU, with the USRU allowed to keep a percentage of the gate takings. Because it would be a very optimistic or stupid person who decided to expand their sport to other countries without thinking about possible financial repercussions when the fans in that country didn't start rolling up. [Please refer to Exhibit A]


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cah Crash Chooseday


Friday, January 30, 2009

Those Childhood Summer Daze

Sometimes I forget that it's summer. Working media hours will do that to you. Then, on my way back to work after leaving a Treaty of Waitangi conference at Victoria University, I saw this.