Editorial: Topsy-turvy for sport nuts

GRANT SHIMMIN
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2013

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OPINION: To be a fan of sport in New Zealand, it would seem, is never to be bored.

Which is not always a good thing, to be fair, because that absence of boredom stems to some degree from the fact that the results of New Zealand teams tend to be so unpredictable.

In truth, though, that can be part of the beauty of following sport in New Zealand, and the performance of the Black Caps in Saturday's first one-day international in South Africa is a case in point.

The national cricket team had just lived through the ignominy of two test defeats, each by an innings, in double-quick time, in the Republic.

Going into Saturday's match they were the butt of many a joke not just here, but in South Africa too. Former test star Kepler Wessels said in the build-up on Saturday night that the Proteas would expect, on the basis of the test series, to win each of the three matches in the series comfortably.

One tweet advertising the dwindling number of remaining tickets for the match in Paarl, close to Cape Town, included the addendum, in brackets, "and no, you can't pay by the hour".

Exactly who made up those words is unclear but, clever as they are, they smack of a good deal of arrogance too.

Which will make the Black Caps' victory - in part because they scraped home by the skin of their teeth - all the sweeter. It's certainly not redemption and it doesn't solve seeming leadership crisis in the sport, but it is a degree of respite, for the players and, probably more importantly in truth, the longsuffering fans. Not all is lost, though there's much still to be done. It's something to build on, particularly the stunning debut bowling performance of Mitchell McClenaghan.

Of course, though, true to the nature of New Zealand's unpredictable sporting fortunes, there is misery elsewhere. This time it's football fans' turn, with the Wellington Phoenix in freefall, emphasised by a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Sydney FC on Saturday night.

Sadly, there are also suggestions of dysfunctionality at New Zealand's A-League club. It's hard to see it being turned around without some significant changes at the top, which probably start with part-owner Gareth Morgan realising that he can have no influence over how the club plays, but that he can help to improve their fortunes by bringing in quality players.

At the end, then, of a topsy-turvy sporting weekend, it's good to be able to say thank goodness for the Breakers, who recorded their fifth straight road win and took their record in the Australian National Basketball League to 14-3. That's something to be proud of.

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- The Timaru Herald

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