Chiefs know chances like this don't come along every day

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 04/08/2012

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OPINION: Congratulations to Gregor Ashby for his superlative gold-medal triumph in the Jumping to Conclusions category.

In late February, Mr Ashby wrote to the Waikato Times to express his dismay with the Chiefs following their opening match of the Super Rugby competition.

"A new year, a new coach, new players. Bugger, same old, same old," Mr Ashby wrote.

He went on to outline that Dave Rennie's troops would fail to thrill supporters - while perhaps unwittingly putting them down to clinch a playoff spot.

"As I predicted, it will be sixth again," he wrote with a sense of impending doom, while berating their lack of skills and the absence of a hard-nosed, professional attitude to training.

"The only positive to come from the game as I see it is Chiefs fans will soon be paid to go to the game."

Now there are 23,000 ebullient Chiefs supporters who would be delighted to be handing over $40 for a ticket to tonight's season-ender, rather than pondering the horror of having to fork out something in the high three figures to a scalper.

The letter is yet another cautionary tale of the perils of reading too much into a small sample size of performances. It's something most sports followers are prone to do.

Kiwi sports fans are a hilarious mix of reactionary outrage and blind optimism. When things go wrong - a la the majority of the NRL season for the Warriors - the outpouring ranges from venomous hatred to wrist-slitting despair.

Yet prior to participation, most expect wondrous things. Pre-Olympic predictions of how the Kiwis would fare in London suggested an unparalleled medal haul, with many believers backing that faith by putting their money where their mouths are, to the delight of the TAB bookmakers.

One week into the Games it's become apparent that medals are harder to get than a straight answer from a politician.

I wrote recently of the almost-yearly struggles of the Warriors, so I can understand the frustration of fans as yet another campaign slides towards fruitlessness.

New coach Brian McClennan has been unable to find a winning formula, but chief executive Wayne Scurrah rightly gave him his backing this week, illustrating that formula wasn't an easy one either for Bluey's predecessor Ivan Cleary, who took the side to one grand final in seven seasons.

"Ivan had seven years, Brian hasn't even finished his first yet. People need to keep that in perspective.

"I'm not flying the white flag and saying we have got it wrong this season with Brian at all."

With the Warriors, patience isn't just a virtue, it's a necessity. It's been a similar case for Chiefs fanatics, so it's understandable that this year they've been rapturous in their adulation for Rennie and his coaching brigade of Wayne Smith, Tom Coventry and Andrew Strawbridge.

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Plenty have been quicker than Usain Bolt to point out that Rennie has guided the local heroes to as many grand finals in one season as previous boss Ian Foster did in eight.

But success in 2012 is no guarantee of further riches for the franchise. While Rennie appears to be building the solid foundations, that house can become unstable due to any combination of injuries, form, player movement and just plain bad luck.

The 2012 Chiefs need to seize the moment tonight.

The opportunity to grab glory, win a title and make history doesn't come along very often.

Just ask the Warriors - or any Olympian.

- Waikato Times

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