Over-achieving Makos on track for semifinal spot

PETER JONES
Last updated 09:13 08/10/2012

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The Tasman Makos certainly relish mixing it with the big boys.

Thursday's win over Bay of Plenty in Nelson was the championship side's second victory over a team from the upper echelon of provincial rugby this season - the first side to achieve that feat. Their record against premiership sides has been excellent. In their four cross- over matches they downed Canterbury first up, lost narrowly to Taranaki in a spirited Ranfurly Shield challenge, went down by a point to Waikato, the new shield holders as of Wednesday, and then snuffed out the Steamers.

I was initially apprehensive about the value of the ITM Cup crossover matches but they have worked well, allowing the lower- placed unions to match themselves regularly against the top sides and, more importantly, ensuring a gap doesn't develop between the premiership and championship. The automatic promotion relegation is also vital in keeping all 14 sides on their toes.

Tasman look well on their way to clinching a semifinal place in the championship playoffs and, given their penchant for knocking over favourites, it would be a brave punter to bet against them. If they make it into the top tier they have clearly shown they won't be daunted by reputations.

Heard a whisper at Trafalgar Park that a certain Blackadder character - no, not Baldrick - has been showing more than a passing interest in Makos standouts Shane Christie and our own Tim Perry. However, Quentin MacDonald hasn't signed on the dotted line though and may be looking elsewhere. Watch this space.

As the Black Caps made their early exit from Sri Lanka, and out of the Twenty20 World Cup, they were accompanied by the usual wave of criticism and vitriol.

No-one should, by now, be surprised by their performances. Yet it appears some cricket fans still believe in miracles and become upset whenever Ross Taylor and his not-so merry men come up short.

From this distance, and I watched all the Kiwi games - I know, get a life Pete - there seems to be something of a "retirement home" feel about this outfit.

Guys such as Kyle Mills, Jake Oram and even the once superb Dan Vettori continue to be selected for plum trips such as this. All three have performed with distinction over many seasons for the Black Caps, but it appears their glory days are done.

A coachingacquaintance once described a group of his players as "just happy to hop on the bus" and I fear there's something of this mentality in the Black Caps.

Is it time to hand the old dogs their superannuation cheques? You bet. The young guns are waiting, and deserve a chance. Doug Bracewell would be a better bet than Oram, Trent Boult for Mills and Roneel Hira, or even Jeetan Patel, for Vettori. BJ Watling got little chance in Sri Lanka - and at least he can field. The older brigade diminish the collective fielding effort, traditionally a New Zealand strength.

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It's time for a change of mindset. I know we don't have a huge reservoir of international-class players but the old adage of needing a core of experienced players only rings true when they are performing - otherwise they're just baggage on the bus.

Did anyone else find it ironic that, in the same year, a Sydney team won the biggest prize in Victorian sport while a Melbourne team did the same in New South Wales?

It wasn't the first AFL win for the Sydney Swans, that came in 2005, but they clinched their second crown in front of 99,683 fans at the "G" last Saturday.

The Melbourne Storm, who downed the Doggies in the NRL showpiece last Sunday, have also won two premierships - and had two more taken off them for salary cap breaches - but have broken new ground for a league club outside the traditional strongholds of NSW and Queensland.

There's hope for the Warriors yet.

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- The Marlborough Express

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