Pon­sonby af­ter that old magic

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

With only two matches re­main­ing Pon­sonby are in dan­ger of miss­ing out on the cham­pi­onship stages of Auck­land’s pre­mier rugby com­pe­ti­tion.

It’s not time to hit the panic but­ton yet, how­ever a slip up against ei­ther East Ta­maki or Col­lege Ri­fles could see them miss out on a qual­i­fy­ing po­si­tion from the white pool.

The 34-20 loss against Gram­mar TEC on May 9 leaves Pon­sonby in fourth place – the last qual­i­fy­ing spot.

And Pon­sonby as­sis­tant coach Mark Hooper is not minc­ing his words.

‘‘The equa­tion’s easy – win the last two games,’’ he says.

Gram­mar TEC are look­ing the team to beat with an­other con­vinc­ing victory in the Alan McEvoy rugby premier­ship.

The Gram­mar ma­chine kicked into gear with a dom­i­nant sec­ond half per­for­mance to record their victory against Pon­sonby.

Gram­mar re­main un­matched at the top of the white pool and the win books them a place in the next round start­ing at the end of the month, which un­der the new for­mat takes the top four teams from both the white and blue pools.

Gram­mar coach Joe Snee is shak­ing off the favourites tag de­spite be­ing the only un­de­feated side this sea­son.

‘‘Def­i­nitely not – we haven’t seen half the teams.

‘‘It’s a good start but we’ve got a long way to go yet,’’ Snee says.

Round five’s match got off to a crack­ing start with an in­ter­cept try to Pon­sonby’s Ben Mered­ith within the first few min­utes.

The right wing plucked the ball off the Gram­mar attack and ran 40 me­tres to score.

Gram­mar hit back with two tries of their own through an amaz­ing chipand-chase move re-gath­ered by Ben Lam to score and Taleni Seu dot­ting down in the cor­ner.

A Mur­ray Wil­liams penalty kept Pon­sonby in front 13-12 at the break.

But the sec­ond half be­longed to the hosts with three tries bury­ing any hope Pon­sonby had of leav­ing Orakei Domain with the points.

Both teams were se­verely tested by depth, with a num­ber of play­ers out on na­tional du­ties for their re­spec­tive un­der-20s sides.

Pon­sonby’s hurt locker is also mount­ing with more than a dozen play­ers out, in­clud­ing four first-choice locks.

De­scrib­ing it as a ‘‘ridicu­lous’’ sce­nario, Hooper is still look­ing on the bright side.

‘‘The guys com­ing in are do­ing a good job for us.

‘‘We ran out of puff to be hon­est, but the at­ti­tude is good,’’ he says.

Not long ago Pon­sonby was the most revered side in the com­pe­ti­tion, with 10 ti­tles be­tween 2001 and 2011.

Hooper says the le­gacy is talked about and it’s some­thing that can be a mo­ti­va­tor.

‘‘You’ve got to make sure you’re living in the now,’’ he says. In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Thomas Bach was al­most in­sult­ingly pa­tro­n­is­ing dur­ing his whistlestop visit to New Zealand last week.

Bach sug­gested New Zealand, ‘‘a great sports coun­try’’, should be able to host an Olympic Games and chal­lenged us to mount a bid.

Even New Zealand Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Mike Stan­ley, seated next to him, was sur­prised and said he doubted we would want to go down that path.

What would Bach say if he popped into Solomon Is­lands cap­i­tal, Ho­niara? Would he sug­gest that coun­try, too, could host an Olympics, just to make his hosts feel warm and fuzzy?

When Mon­treal hosted the 1976 Olympics, the city in­curred a debt of NZ$1.6 bil­lion ($12b in to­day’s terms), fi­nally clear­ing it only a few years ago.

When Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, its debt was about $20b.

Rio de Janeiro, next year’s Olympics host, will be seek­ing $16b from tax­pay­ers to help cover costs.

Bach knows how fi­nan­cially crip­pling an Olympics can be – se­cu­rity alone for the 2012 Lon­don Olympics was $2b. It in­cluded 13,000 po­lice, 17,000 mem­bers of the armed forces, 10,000 pri­vate se­cu­rity staff, and naval and air as­sets in­clud­ing sur­faceto-air mis­siles.

The idea of New Zealand coun­te­nanc­ing all that, even with­out the mas­sive spend­ing re­quired for sta­di­ums and trans­port, is pre­pos­ter­ous.

It re­minds me of Mike Moore as Min­is­ter for Sport in the late 1980s form­ing a task force that in­cluded his mate, busi­ness­man Bob Jones, to study the fea­si­bil­ity of New Zealand host­ing a win­ter Olympics.

The group con­cluded the con­cept was fea­si­ble.

Amazed, I asked Jones if he could re­ally imag­ine New Zealand host­ing a win­ter Olympics.

‘‘We only said it was fea­si­ble, not that it would hap­pen,’’ he said.

In the spirit of Bach, Martin Sned­den, who headed the 2011 Rugby World Cup or­gan­is­ing team, has sug­gested New Zealand is ca­pa­ble of jointly host­ing a Foot­ball World Cup.

This idea is mind bog­gling.

Sned­den sug­gested New Zealand and Australia might co-host, but Australia be­longs to a dif­fer­ent con­fed­er­a­tion and is in­el­i­gi­ble to host in 2026 or 2030.

But Rus­sia is host­ing the 2018 tour­na­ment, Qatar the 2022 event.

Mer­ci­fully Sned­den’s idea won’t need to be dis­cussed se­ri­ously for at least an­other decade.

It will be a long time be­fore New Zealand hosts any ma­jor sports event.

The Rugby World Cup will be in Ja­pan in 2019, prob­a­bly South Africa in 2023 and Europe in 2027. A United StatesCanada bid and one from Australia would have pri­or­ity over New Zealand, which means we’d be look­ing at about 2043 at the ear­li­est.

New Zealand would be bet­ter tar­get­ing the Com­mon­wealth Games, as­sum­ing that con­tin­ues in the long term.

A re­gional – rather than city – bid would be fea­si­ble. Even then, it will be a while away.

The Com­mon­wealth Games will be on the Gold Coast in 2018, and Dur­ban seems a rac­ing cer­tainty to host in 2022.

Gram­mar TEC’s Ben Lam tries to break the Pon­sonby de­fence.

Pon­sonby’s Ry­oto Naga­mura runs into heavy traf­fic.

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