OPINION: In case you missed the fact, there were a few weeks this summer when rugby wasn't being played.
Hope you enjoyed the break, and just before we're fully engulfed by Super Rugby, which starts for real in 12 days time, here's a wish list for 2014.
The Chiefs to finally get some respect. At some point it has to dawn on the pundits that Dave Rennie and his men have found the secret to Super Rugby. Who can possibly not see they're not a one-man Sonny Bill band, but a team with talent from front to the back, a dynamic forward leader in Liam Messam, the outstanding super rugby first-five of the past two years in Aaron Cruden, and the sort of team spirit that took the Crusaders to the first, and so far only, title threepeat.
Less Alan Shearer more Kieran Read. There's something distasteful about a try scorer running to the adoring crowd, rather than his wrung-out mates who have scrapped for the ball Mr Fabulous has run over the line. No, I'm not advocating a return to the days when All Blacks walked back after a try looking embarrassed, but body language tells its own story, and air kissing the crowd before high fiving your team-mates spells dickhead in my book.
Dan Carter to get to the end of the year injury free. No All Black works more diligently on being fit and ready. He didn't get those Jockey ads by letting himself get flabby in the off-season. But by the end of 2013 you had a sick feeling time is creeping up on our greatest ever first-five. If he's going to play in a final at a World Cup, he needs a good run, and it needs to start this year.
Jerome Kaino to make a storming comeback. Let's be honest. There's no such thing as too many big, mean, hard-hitting All Black loose forwards.
World rugby to take concussion more seriously. Did you feel just a little queasy when you read that Craig Clarke, one of the original good buggers in rugby, has had concussion 10 times in the last 22 months? Concussion is actually a brain injury, and you'll convince me it's given its due by the IRB when we don't see a dazed George Smith staggering off the field in a test, and then 10 minutes later smacking into tackles again. I often disagree with fellow Fairfax columnist Mark Reason, but if you missed his story on concussion last month I'd urge you to check it out at http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/opinion/9625319/Rea-son-Education-is-way-ahead-on-concussion.
The IRB to do the right thing by Colin Meads. The IRB started a Hall of Fame in 2006. Without being too jingoistic they haven't exactly broken their necks to rush All Blacks into the fold. But the real middle finger to New Zealand footy is the fact Colin Meads isn't one of inductees. If you believe the IRB PR flacks who say the fact he was once ordered off in a test match because a kick he made went near (but didn't touch) a Scottish halfback, don't forget to leave the window open for the Tooth Fairy. Pinetree's 77 years old guys, and although he's in good nick, it'd be nice to give him his due while he can still comfortably fly to Dublin for the award.
A big super rugby season for Richie McCaw. "He just keeps putting himself into dark places on the field," says a team-mate, and for a return to the winner's circle for my sentimental favourites, the Crusaders, they need Richie finding those places in their jersey. To be at the 2015 World Cup commonsense says he'll need a break in next year's super competition. How great would a last super footy hurrah be this year?
- Sunday Star Times
Which 2015 NZ Super Rugby team looks best?