Sunday News

Adams sends a reminder to the far corners

– Akira Ioane When this struggling Blues brother needed help, the Dorito boys were there to answer the call. reports.

- MARC HINTON

DOUBLE Olympic champion Dame Valerie Adams had to choke back the tears as she reflected on a throw heard around the world at the Sir Graeme Douglas Internatio­nal athletics meeting in Auckland last night.

Adams produced her best throw in nearly five years to win the women’s shot put with a second-round effort of 19.65 metres that left her battling the emotions afterwards as she reflected on a result that she hopes sends a clear message to her rivals eyeing medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 36-year-old four-time world champion unleashed a stunning series of throws, surpassing the 19m mark in four of her six attempts and with her best effort being the furthest she has thrown since August, 2016. She described itasa performanc­e that would silence ‘‘the doubters’’.

‘‘I’m just really ecstatic . . . I’m getting emotional,’’ said Adams after the victory at Trusts Arena in west Auckland. ‘‘It’s like a posttwo babies PB for me. I haven’t thrown this far in over three years and to come back into the shape I’m used to and executing the throw I’m used to is actually quite exciting.’’

Maddison Wesche finished second with a season’s best of 18.12m.

It was a great night for Dale Stevenson’s Christchur­ch squad, with former world champion Tom Walsh snapping a four-meet losing skid at the hands of Jacko Gill in the men’s shot put.

Walsh came from behind to snatch a notable victory with a season’s best 21.60m in the fifth round. Gill had held the lead with a second-round toss of 21.05m and looked headed for a fifth straight victory over the Olympic bronze medallist until Walsh put it together with his penultimat­e toss.

‘‘I probably didn’t do it how I wanted to do it, to be completely honest, but it definitely felt good to be able do it in the fifth round under pressure and get one out there past him,’’ Walsh said.

He had thrown big in the third round, but fouled the attempt, and said that had given him belief that a winning effort was in his arsenal.

‘‘That was a good confidence booster for me to know I was in that kind of shape,’’ said Walsh. ‘‘I knew if I let it go and attacked the throw I could do that again.’’

Gill finished second with a fifthround throw of 21.44m that was the second best of the evening’s competitio­n.

Everybody needs someone like the ‘‘Dorito boys’’. Akira Ioane certainly did in 2019 when he reached the low point of his rugby career, and maybe even of his life. He needed to reach out for help, and he needed someone who knew him well enough, and cared for him even more, to give him the message he needed to hear.

Ioane knows this now, but at the time it was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. He had to tell his mates, his Blues brothers, that something was bothering him and he didn’t know how to climb his way out of the deep, black hole he had dug for himself. They listened and then answered his cry for help.

Ioane, the Blues and All Blacks No 6, and one of the hardesthit­ting, strongest-running, physically-gifted men in New Zealand rugby, is now in his happy place. He’s on top of his game, his body and, most importantl­y, his headspace as he enters a 2021 campaign full of promise.

But that was not always the case, and, ahead of last night’s Super Rugby Aotearoa season opener in Wellington, Ioane is happy to talk about the ‘‘dark days’’ of 2019, when he could barely face getting out of bed to lace up the boots and walk the pathway out of the mire he found.

Which is where the ‘‘Dorito boys’’ come in. Ioane is one, along with younger brother Rieko and Blues team-mates Leni Apisai, Otere Black, Sam Nock and TJ Faiane.

‘‘We were all here, we all had points to prove, chips on our shoulders . . . we definitely lean on each other,’’ Ioane tells the StarTimes in a revealing chat. ‘‘We are a close group of friends, and it started with me opening up and telling them I was struggling in 2019 . . . those boys were a big help. It’s a weight off your shoulders once you can tell someone you are struggling.’’

This is a story Ioane shared a few times in 2020 during what you might call his rejuvenati­on as a rugby player. He opened up to Ardie Savea about his mental health struggles and prior to his All Blacks test debut in Brisbane, he stunned a Zoom call of New Zealand reporters by revealing he had nearly walked away from the game, so low had he sank.

But it’s a tale worth repeating because Ioane has a worthwhile message to impart. Big, strong rugby players can hurt, can lose their way and can require help. They also have to be man enough to confront the truths and accept the advice given by those they trust.

‘‘Everyone puts us on a pedestal, they think we’re supermen, that we don’t hurt,’’ reflects this 25-year-old who was put on the rugby fast-track the moment he emerged from Auckland Grammar as a manchild of immense talent. ‘‘It’s not just my story, but anyone who has been fighting their own demons, and needs to open up to someone.

‘‘For me it was being afraid to open up to my boys. I was always the big guy who never got rattled by anything. But it slowly starts to build and you learn who your close friends are and who’s just there for the ride. Speaking your mind is the best thing. I know that now.’’

It’s worth reviewing the Ioane career before we go further. He burst on to the sevens scene in

2014 as an 18-year-old, and by 2015 was running out for the Blues, Auckland and New Zealand Ma¯ ori with a fast-growing reputation as a destructiv­e and athletic loose forward of special qualities.

It was only a matter of time before an All Blacks callup came, and when it did (a year later than his younger brother), for the 2017 northern tour (where he made a midweek appearance against a French XV), it was regarded as just the start of something significan­t.

But it never happened. His form wavered over 2018 and ’19, and even his spot in Blues and Auckland lineups came under threat. Then the criticism started to come, much of it decidedly pointed, led by a frustrated All Blacks coach (Steve Hansen) who publicly challenged the young loose forward.

‘‘Everything sort of caught up,’’ reflects Ioane. ‘‘I got ahead of myself. I played every game for [the Blues for] three years, and got

too big for my shoes. I started chilling out, expecting I’d play. Then I went on holiday [in 2019], and blew out ... I got angry. I stopped caring. I came back for the 2019 Mitre 10 season, and it wasn’t the best I’ve done.’’

It was around this time Ioane’s mental health hit the skids. He had lost his love for the game and contemplat­ed walking away. He had to tell someone. Family and friends seemed a good place to start.

‘‘I remember telling my brother I didn’t want to play rugby. He was, ‘are you crazy?’ He told me straight up to sort my s… out and get back on the horse. Him and TJ [Faiane] were the biggest ones . . . I didn’t want to get up for training; I just wanted to chill in bed. You can have honest conversati­ons and take them on board, or you can just flush it and continue what you’ve been doing. Those boys gave me a boot up the arse, along with Dad.’’

When he told father Eddie, a former Samoa internatio­nal, that he was thinking of walking away from rugby he did not get the reaction expected. As Ioane revealed ahead of his test debut, his father gave him a ‘‘kick up the bum’’ and not so subtle reminder of the privileged position he was in. ‘‘Saying that out loud shook me,’’ he reflects now. ‘‘We’ve got the best job in the world. There are people working 9-5 jobs who wish they were doing what we’re doing. I thought, ‘what am I doing thinking about quitting?’ ’’ It is fair to say that Eddie and mum Sandra, a former Black Fern, are his biggest supporters and toughest critics. Their love is unconditio­nal. But their advice is unfiltered. ‘‘They know what’s best for you, and always say what they think, even if

‘It’s a weight off your shoulders once you can tell someone you are struggling.’ AKIRA IOANE

it’s a hard pill to swallow,’’ he says.

Similarly, Ioane has no issue with the messages he was given by Hansen. Part of the healing process has been accepting responsibi­lity.

‘‘I put myself in that predicamen­t,’’ he says. ‘‘By the end of 2019 I wasn’t playing my best rugby. I was heavier, my bronco wasn’t good, my skinnies weren’t good. I expected to be next cab off the rank, but it wasn’t to be. That was my fault. It was a real wakeup call when [Hansen] said that on TV.’’

The story is nowhere near over, but it has taken a decidedly positive turn. Ioane got his act together splendidly in 2020, put together an outstandin­g campaign for the revived Blues and was selected for the All Blacks. He started two of the last three tests well enough to end the year firstchoic­e No 6.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald believes the signs are good for further positive strides in 2021.

‘‘He turned up in great nick, he looks really quick and he’s hungry. He has pushed forward in the off-season, and hasn’t slackened off at all. He’s had a taste for the All Blacks and he wants more. That’s exciting.’’

Ioane has clearly matured. Sharing his story like this is indicative of that. He understand­s that mental health is a real thing and is even encouragin­g young team-mates at the Blues to reach out if they feel the need.

‘‘I know now when I’m not feeling myself, when I’ve got things I need to talk about, I’ve got people around me to do that. That gets all the s…out of your head, and you may not like what they say back, but you’ve got to take it on board.’’

And now? He’s not resting on any laurels.

‘‘I loved it, but it was just a little taste,’’ he says of his All Blacks experience. ‘‘From where I started in 2020, to where I ended up was pretty good. But you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. I don’t want to be a two-game wonder. There are a lot of good 6s out there, and we’re all fighting for positions. It’s going to come down to who wants it most.’’

Ioane is ready to play his part. He got away from the grind over summer, ‘‘uncluttere­d’’ and, when it was time, got back on the treadmill and refocused.

‘‘When I enjoy myself I tend to play better rugby, and love the game more. I don’t want to think too much about what’s ahead, just enjoy moments with the boys, and hopefully do a job with the Blues and win a championsh­ip.’’

He also knows what worked in 2020. ‘‘It was blocking out all the noise. There are a lot of critics, a lot of haters and doubters. But if you’ve got a strong foundation around you, a close circle you can count on, it doesn’t matter what people outside that circle say.

‘‘I had to learn that the hard way.’’

Thank goodness for the Dorito boys.

DANIELLE Johnson isn’t one for setting goals. Winning races though, that’s a speciality.

The country’s leading jockey chalked up the 1000th winning ride of her career this month and has no immediate plans to stop saluting the judges.

‘‘It’s not somewhere where I think I’ve got a thousand and that’s my retirement. It’s something along the way that’s in the books now and let’s now get the next so many,’’ she said.

The 29-year-old had the kind of upbringing in Pukekohe that indicated horses were destined to play a prominent part in her life. Dad Peter was one of the country’s top hoops for a couple of decades while mum Annabelle is a dab hand as a trainer.

‘‘It was funny that my brother [Nick] didn’t end up in racing. He’s in marketing and sales, and he lives in Sydney. I think he took the brains in the family though,’’ Johnson says.

‘‘He went off to boarding school, so I suppose he found his path while I stayed at home with mum and dad on the farm.’’

Her father did warn her it was a tough job but, like many punters, was possibly looking to have a dollar each way.

‘‘I’d go ride trackwork, they’d take me to ride trackwork in the mornings before school, and I’d get days off to go to the races to watch Dad.

‘‘But then on the other hand, he was buying me a bottle of V and a pie to go to school with! So he was trying to fatten me up so I couldn’t be a jockey, but giving me the bug by taking me to the races.’’

Johnson had her first raceday ride as an apprentice at the end of March in 2007 on Diamondint­herough at Pukekohe.

‘‘I ran fourth, for Russell Cameron, who I was apprentice­d to, Westbury Stud were the owners, and it was a real easy ride for me to potter along on.’’

Her first win came about 20 rides later on The Sportsman.

‘‘I had a four kilo claim at the time, and he was one of the toprated horses that went round in the big races. It was one of those set-up rides for me; I remember Russell Warwick, who runs Westbury Stud, told my mum and dad to make sure I was on course that day.

‘‘I always knew I could ride a horse. Mum took me to horse shows every weekend. I’d go off and ride for people. I was lucky enough that I had natural ability to sit on a horse, I didn’t have to work hard at getting a style.

‘‘It was easier to learn off someone and watch along the way – as compared to someone who didn’t come up in a racing family. You see jockeys that don’t have a real natural rhythm with a horse, they have to work so much harder, and then there are the jockeys who hop on a horse and have that natural click with them.’’

No week is ever the same for Johnson, who can ride four to five times a week during the peak of the racing calendar.

‘‘Mondays we generally have off. Tuesdays, trackwork and trials – trackwork starting at 4.30am, probably finishing at 7 and then trials from 10.30am probably till about 4 o’clock, with up to 30 heats on a big day.

‘‘On Wednesday we’ll go to the races. I’m probably lucky in the sense that I don’t have to waste, so I’ll get up, have a coffee, have breakfast – I’m a pretty normal human in that way and then sometimes I can ride Thursday-Friday-Saturday.

‘‘If I’m not riding I’ll try to get to the gym at least one of those days – I love F45 training.’’

Johnson also loves her chosen profession, but knows it comes with sacrifices.

‘‘We start at 16, we leave school early, we don’t go to uni where all your friends go, you don’t have the Christmase­s and the New Years. It’s a life sacrifice, and you probably don’t get to grow up with your friends and do all those normal things.’’

Jockeys get paid per ride – and for trackwork but not for trials – and receive a five per cent share of the prizemoney.

‘‘I can’t complain about what I get paid. I feel like NZ Racing is coming together a bit better, and they’re trying to get the stakes up, so hopefully that happens.’’

Johnson makes a tremendous ambassador for the racing industry, with her sales pitch enthusiast­ic and optimistic. ‘‘There’s so many avenues you can take with racing.

‘‘You can get into the breeding side of things . . . it’s a sport that offers so many jobs to the general public that you don’t have to have that much knowledge about a horse. It’s a great sport, and you wish that people would get more on board with it.’’ She says it’s also one in which women prosper.

‘I always knew I could ride a horse. Mum took me to horse shows every weekend. I’d go off and ride for people. I was lucky enough that I had natural ability to sit on a horse, I didn’t have to work hard at getting a style.’ DANIELLE JOHNSON

‘‘It’s pretty much 50/50 in the jockeys’ rooms now,’’ Johnson said of the gender balance of riders.

‘‘I think it’s probably so much more appealing to a female because naturally we’re a lot lighter, so there isn’t that wasting we need to do.

‘‘The good female riders match it with the best male jockeys – we’re definitely on equal terms.’’

Despite being able to ride as light as 50kg if required, Johnson shuns any concern over the dangers of her profession.

‘‘It’s not a sport you want to be in if you’re nervous before going out to ride. I’ve broken my collarbone, my hand, my wrist – I’ve had a few falls, but if you don’t want to be out there because you’re scared of that, well, you should probably get an office job.’’

Fearlessne­ss has also been a part of why she’s been suspended more than 40 times in her career.

‘‘Everyone’s going to get suspension­s in their time – some situations you can’t really control when you’re on a horse that’s 500-600 kilos, and you’re both going for the same gap because you want to win it.’’

Early in her career, Johnson said her father was her toughest critic.

‘‘Dad’s pretty good when I ride a good one, but I sometimes wish I wasn’t from a racing family as well, ’’ Johnson said in 2009. ‘‘When I ride a bad one, he’ll ring me up and yells at me. I guess it’s all good because it drums it into me now while I’m young, but he can be pretty hard work at times.’’

Has that changed over the years?

‘‘No – I actually got a phone call the other day, where he asked me what the hell was I doing. You’ve got to be in the right mood for them.

‘‘If you’re going to hear it from anyone, you’d probably rather hear it from your father than . . . I call them ‘couch jockeys’.

‘‘Honestly, some of the private messages that we get . . . and you just think, if you had kids, how would you like it if someone spoke to your child like this? It’s disgusting, some of the things people say.

‘‘I’m lucky that doesn’t worry me too much – I’m not a person that it would ever affect, they can say what they want to me, they’re not part of my life, they never will be. But you’re still a disgusting human for talking to me like that.’’

Johnson is relaxed however about what her future as a rider may hold.

‘‘I’ve always said I don’t make goals, I’m not a real goal-setter.

‘‘I did have this season that I wanted to win the Premiershi­p and have a Group I winner . . . but besides those,’’ she laughed.

‘‘I’ve got a big mortgage, I want to secure some more land – I’ve got a place in Cambridge and a property in Pukekawa, so I’ve got to get a bit more of that paid off.

‘‘How long will I ride for? Until I don’t feel passionate about it any more.’’

CLAIRE Kersten could have easily given up on the profession­al netball dream years ago.

The 31-year-old is poised to start at centre for the Silver Ferns in the first Constellat­ion Cup test against Australia in Christchur­ch on Tuesday – a position she has specialise­d in only since 2018.

Kersten’s netball journey is a tale of resilience, characteri­sed by setbacks, then success.

A key member of the Silver Ferns’ midcourt, who can play centre or wing defence, it has been a long and rocky ride to the top.

Toiling away in the defunct provincial competitio­n from 2007 for Western, Otago and Canterbury, she was repeatedly overlooked by New Zealand teams in the former transTasma­n league.

Not even the then-woeful Tactix wanted her in 2011 when she trialled for the side while living in Christchur­ch.

Raised in Havelock North and schooled in Palmerston North, Kersten finally got her break with the Central Pulse in 2013 under coach Robyn Broughton.

Then strictly a wing defence, she never got on court in her first season and the next year played two games. She was tossed on the scrap heap and not offered a contract for 2015.

‘‘Those first years I went from being really excited about being there, then it kind of came crashing down pretty quickly,’’ Kersten said.

Unwanted again in 2016, Kersten was resigned to the fact that Wellington club netball was her lot, while working as a science and biology teacher at Newlands College.

A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament to now Silver Ferns team-mate Whitney Souness opened the door for her to be involved with the Pulse again as an injury replacemen­t player.

She deliberate­d whether playing in the final year of the trans-Tasman competitio­n was the right move.

‘‘I really thought long and hard about whether I wanted to sign up for that emotional rollercoas­ter for another year, because that’s what it ends up being when you’re not playing and doing all that training.

‘‘It can get a bit demoralisi­ng. I really had to think about if that’s what I wanted to do.’’

Battling for court-time and snubbed for contracts, the 2008-09 New Zealand under-21 internatio­nal wondered whether she would crack it in elite netball.

The advent of the New Zealand premiershi­p in 2017 came at an opportune time.

Gaining regular court-time and playing in a successful Pulse side, who made the grand final, she grew in confidence and it was reflected in her play.

She earned her first national trial that year and then ‘‘out of the blue’’ became Silver Fern No 168, debuting in a 49-46 loss to England in Napier.

Kersten was selected in the Ferns’ 12 for the 2018 Commonweal­th Games on the Gold Coast, but the event descended into a horror show for

the side. In the darkest chapter in New Zealand netball history, they suffered a stunning upset loss to Malawi and failed to medal for the first time.

When Dame Noeline Taurua replaced Janine Southby as coach, Kersten wasn’t picked in any of her initial squads and not required for the 2019 World Cup.

Her time in the black dress seemed over.

‘‘Those thoughts definitely ran through my mind. It almost mirrored what happened in the Pulse. I had a little taste and then was out of it.

‘‘I’d had that Commonweal­th Games experience and then when that new squad was named later that year, I missed out.’’

Kersten came to a realisatio­n. She vowed to continue to give everything at training and in games, but not put unnecessar­y pressure on herself about national selection. If a Ferns recall happened it was a bonus.

‘‘Potentiall­y it was occupying too much space in my head because missing out on that and other squads along the way I found really difficult and then I got to a point where I think I talked to myself about being OK with where things were at.’’

The morning after helping lead the Pulse to a second straight premiershi­p title against the Tactix last August,

she was packing her bag at the team hotel in Invercargi­ll.

She missed a phone call from Ferns assistant Debbie Fuller, who had left a message. Kersten had been named in the Silver Ferns 2020-21 national squad. ‘‘I had to listen to it again. I really didn’t think I heard it correctly.’’

In October’s three-test series against England in Hamilton, Kersten delivered her finest performanc­es for New Zealand. Handed the starting centre bib for the third test, a position she had played in the elite ranks only since 2018, she was outstandin­g.

Kersten has gradually grown into the centre role at the Pulse over the past three years. So much so, she barely plays wing defence any more.

Regarded as a tenacious defensive-minded centre, Kersten has made major progress with her attacking play, especially feeding into the shooters.

‘‘It’s been a big learning curve and there’s so much for me to get right there, but I’ve really enjoyed it and I still like playing wing

‘When I look at all our athletes, everybody has got a story about them, whether the struggles or what precluded them to not be consistent­ly selected and Claire is among that group.’ SILVER FERNS COACH DAME NOELINE TAURUA

defence. It’s nice to feel like I have two genuine positions. Something I was lacking earlier on.’’

In a profession­al sports landscape where clubs quickly identify talented young athletes at high school, Kersten had taken the path less travelled.

‘‘When I look at all our athletes, everybody has got a story about them, whether the struggles or what precluded them to not be consistent­ly selected and Claire is among that group,’’ Taurua said. ‘‘She’s a great story for us to show to other athletes that irrelevant of your age, whether you’re old or young, there’s always improvemen­t to be had in performanc­e.’’

With netball great Laura Langman retiring last year, the Ferns’ centre position is set to be fiercely contested.

Kersten, who has played 12 tests, will likely get first crack against Australia, given how well she ended last year. The experience­d Shannon Saunders, Sam Winders, Kimiora Poi, Maddy Gordon and Souness can all play there too and will get opportunit­ies in this series.

After getting a brief taste

against Australia in the semifinal of the 2018 Commonweal­th Games, Kersten is eager to prove herself against the Diamonds’ classy midcourt.

‘‘They’ve got amazing depth in their midcourt and we know it’s going to be a step up. They’ve got firepower everywhere don’t they and I think real versatilit­y as well.’’

Team NZ victories in the America’s Cup trigger a wave of national euphoria and if it secures a fourth win next month that’s unlikely to change.

What will change, though, is the question of ‘‘what next?’’ For the first time ever, New Zealand may have to compete with wealthy overseas cities for the right to stage the defence of the Auld Mug.

Formal bids from cities interested in hosting the 37th America’s Cup – should Team NZ retain it – close on February 28, and the Government may find others are prepared to pay more.

Considerin­g the uncertaint­y over the future of Team New Zealand, the cup itself, and a world hopefully emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, are the past arguments to invest in a cup defence still relevant?

Team New Zealand signalled the biggest shift in October 2020, opening a global bidding process run by a London-based agency to gauge interest in offshore hosting.

That process was sparked by the need to explore the commercial value of the event for a team unique in being built almost entirely on sponsorshi­p, rather than billionair­e backers.

CEO Grant Dalton believed the team’s future could depend on it being able to be supported by the fee paid to host an event, which it won at its own expense.

‘‘In the scenario that the event was paid for, but the team was not, you wouldn’t have a team to be in its own event,’’ he told Sunday News.

The oddity of sailing’s premier league is that the winner owns the event and can largely do what it wants. When Alinghi from landlocked Switzerlan­d took the cup in Auckland in 2003, it sold the hosting rights for a series of regattas across three years to Valencia, Spain, for $147 million.

With 12 teams, Valencia’s hosting of the 32nd cup was the biggest in 30 years, and made a profit of $108m, delivering a profit share of $47m to Alinghi and $14m to Team New Zealand.

That was by far the cup’s biggest commercial success. When Oracle sold the rights to San Francisco for 2013, an eyewaterin­g deal based on between eight and 15 teams crumbled when only four turned up.

San Francisco-based Oracle Team USA sold the 2017 rights to Bermuda, and was negotiatin­g with Chicago, when Team NZ’s win brought it back to Auckland.

2007 showed the commercial value of racing held in a market as big as Europe. But the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9; three big, costly technology changes in successive America’s Cup boat classes; and finally the Covid-19 pandemic has changed all that.

The economic benefits forecast by the Government from hosting the 2020-2021 races were based largely on the two previous Auckland events in 2000 and 2003; namely overseas visitors and a boost to the marine and boatbuildi­ng industry through visits by superyacht­s.

The Helen Clark-led Labour Government also contribute­d to offshore challenges, with $36m towards the 2007 Valencia campaign, $10m of which was early money to retain crew. That was in return for trade, tourism and business promotion opportunit­ies.

‘‘There are events New Zealand has proven it is a world winner at, one is rugby and one is yachting,’’ Clark, who is Team NZ’s patron, said in November. ‘‘If we have successful brands like the All Blacks and Team New Zealand, the country should get officially behind it for Brand NZ, really, and look for the opportunit­ies to leverage.’’

For 2020-2021, an economic impact assessment forecast thought between $555m and nearly $1 billion of benefit would flow over four years with between six and 10 challenger­s and 160 superyacht visits.

But most of the big ticket contributo­rs to the economic forecast fell short with three challenger­s instead of between six and 10. A retrospect­ive assessment of the regatta is due in July.

Professor Simon Milne, director of AUT’s NZ Tourism Research Institute, said immediate and longer-term tourism benefits from America’s Cups and other mega events were hard to accurately measure, and global tourism in a ‘‘Covid-lite’’ world is unclear.

‘‘We do need to be more careful, what we have seen is the idea we are sold, of an event based on certain projection­s, those projection­s are not always robust, and even if they are they can be totally thrown out by something like Covid,’’ Milne said.

‘‘I’m sceptical that we would have reached those benefits, even if we had not had Covid.’’

Eric Crampton, chief economist at the New Zealand Initiative think-tank, is doubtful about the economic benefit arguments mounted to big events like the America’s Cup and the Rugby World Cup, pointing out that correction­s to the Government’s original CostBenefi­t Analysis left the outcome of this America’s Cup around the break-even point of one-to-one.

‘‘If the main benefit is a giant party, you should just be honest about that,’’ said Crampton.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa said the biggest promotiona­l benefit remained the less tangible impacts of showing off Auckland as a venue, the country’s technical ability, and its sporting prowess.

‘‘That can lead to more people coming that year, the following year and the next decade, because of that positive impact,’’ said chief executive Chris Roberts.

‘‘With the America’s Cup there

is a sense of pride and ownership as well – so are we prepared to take a lower return on investment – as long as it is still positive – because we want it to be part of New Zealand?’’

A politicall­y sensitive part of the equation is the biggest single economic contributo­r of a vibrant America’s Cup in a world free of Covid-19.

Visiting superyacht­s and their wealthy owners are often cited by critics of the events as the aspect they most dislike. Yet the Marine Industry Associatio­n said that had 140 large boats not turned back from committed voyages to New Zealand due to Covid-19, they would have spent more than $430 million here.

‘‘We see (government support to secure event) as a business investment, not an investment into a yachting regatta,’’ said

Peter Busfield, the chief executive.

Win or lose, Team New Zealand is funded cup by cup, so after the last race the coffers are empty. Traditiona­lly its wealthy individual backers like Monacobase­d Matteo De Nora have contribute­d seed funding to help retain crucial team members until new sponsorshi­p deals are done.

There is already speculatio­n about whether its main and naming sponsor for the past 18 years, Emirates Airlines, will continue in a Covid-19 world that has decimated air travel.

The team’s biggest assets after the final race are its intellectu­al property and – if it wins – owning the rights to its next defence. Dalton is determined to keep any future cup defence in Auckland if possible, but his first priority is the survival of the team.

‘‘If I have to balance the emotional aspect of the employees who sweat blood for this place compared to the greater New Zealand good, I would always go for the people who work here,’’ Dalton said.

Dalton wouldn’t talk about who was bidding and how much, but said some interest had been ‘‘exciting’’ both for the event and for the future of the cup.

Part of the future is to find a way to attract more teams, making the high-tech AC75 foiling monohull class easier for new, lower-budget entrants.

Team New Zealand is likely to have to find a replacemen­t Challenger of Record – the event partner and co-funder, after its long relationsh­ip soured with the owner of Italy’s Luna Rossa, Patrizio Bertelli.

From the outside there is much that could be problemati­c in negotiatio­ns with the government on a new hosting deal, even though almost all the infrastruc­ture spending for a repeat event has already been made.

The hosting fee of $40m paid for 2021 covered only part of the event costs, with Dalton saying that only in recent weeks did the team’s own commercial fund-raising mean all the costs were covered.

That $40m looks too light for next time, if Team New Zealand seeks a deal generous enough to also cover some campaign costs. But there are many ways a deal could be structured.

For 2020, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) led the management of the government’s investment in a host partnershi­p with Auckland Council and Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup Event Limited (ACE).

The MBIE-ACE relationsh­ip is effectivel­y dead after the ministry worked with a self-styled ‘‘whistleblo­wer’’ – a contractor inside the team – and commission­ed an investigat­ion for months without alerting its partner, the team. It is likely the government will have to create a new constellat­ion of bureaucrat­s to explore a 2023 hosting deal.

If Team New Zealand wins, the only certainty is that a decision must be made within months. The team’s agents are already finalising a short list of any overseas bidders, and refining draft agreements. That will get put to one side during a three-month exclusive negotiatio­n period to June with the government, before Team New Zealand decides whether the next defence will stay or go.

‘In the scenario that the event was paid for, but the team was not, you wouldn’t have a team to be in its own event.’ GRANT DALTON

ENTERTAINM­ENT ●

IT wasn’t a stretch for Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth to play a married couple. The two have been close ever since they co-starred in TV movie Conspiracy in 2001.

They supported each other through Firth’s separation from wife Livia Giuggioli in 2019 and the death of Tucci’s first wife, Kate, from breast cancer in 2009.

They both live in London and their kids are friends, so they already had a palpable connection when it came time to shoot romantic drama Supernova, screening now in New Zealand cinemas.

‘‘When you’re great friends with someone, and you’ve been through so much and shared so much, you start to feel like a married couple,’’ Tucci says.

As actors, ‘‘you’re catapulted into these relationsh­ips where you must be intimate with people, emotionall­y or physically.

‘‘When that’s a person you’ve known for 20 years, it just makes that a little bit easier.’’

That lived-in affection was imperative for Supernova ,a quietly heartbreak­ing story about life partners Tusker (Tucci) and Sam (Firth), who embark on a final road trip.

We soon learn that Tusker has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and the couple is faced with tough decisions about how best to care for him while maintainin­g his quality of life.

‘‘It was interestin­g to me how dementia changed relationsh­ips and love,’’ writer-director Harry

Macqueen says.

‘‘You go from being an equal party with that person to their carer. That transition was not something I’d seen on screen before.’’

Tucci, 60, is a dark horse supporting actor Oscar contender for the well-reviewed Supernova (88 per cent positive on Rotten Tomatoes).

He calls from his home in England, where he’s been finding ‘‘a sense of sanity’’ in the kitchen and finishing his new book Taste: My Life Through Food, out later this year.

When you reach my age and you’ve had a lot of friends who passed away, and a wife who’s passed away, you’re very well aware of grief.

You initially signed on to play Colin’s character but wound up switching roles. Whose choice was that?

Colin suggested it and I was thinking the same thing. Every time I read it, I was like, ‘‘Something’s wrong.’’ Both characters are so complex, but there was something rhythmical­ly about the writing [of Tusker] that seemed more right to me. The way he deflects emotion with humour, and then also his sudden straightfo­rwardness.

How did your own experience­s with marriage and grief inform your performanc­e? [Tucci married Felicity Blunt, sister of actress Emily, in 2012, and they share two young children: Matteo, 6, and Emilia, 2]

Those things are just a part of you. You can’t help but tap into them, whether you want to or not. Particular­ly when you reach my age and you’ve had a lot of friends who passed away, and a wife who’s passed away, you’re very well aware of grief.

You’re currently hosting a culinary travel show, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, on CNN. Has that been a lifelong dream of yours?

I thought about this idea maybe a dozen years ago now: breaking down Italy region to region, focusing on the cuisine and the forces that created that cuisine, whether they’re geographic­al, political, religious, socioecono­mic. Italy has been

invaded over the past 2000 years by so many different people that they have influenced the cuisine.

A video of you making a Negroni went viral in lockdown and you’ve shared similar how-tos since. How does it feel to be the internet’s go-to cocktail guy?

I’m sure there are a lot of bartenders who are just shaking their heads, even though I was trained as a bartender 40 years ago. I love making cocktails. I think it’s really fun. It’s not a lost art – it’s an art that’s really coming into its own now, and I think that’s great. I like that bit of elegance in life.

When the world opens back up, and you’re finally able to sit back down at a bar, what’s the first drink you order and where?

There’s a place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called Cafe Luxembourg. It’s really great and it’s where I started drinking martinis. I would love to be able to go back there and have a martini.

Lady Gaga’s inaugurati­on dress reminded many people of fashion. [Tucci played the eccentric Caesar Flickerman in the franchise.] Did you have to do a double take?

Games

The Hunger

A little bit! I looked at it and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was that it was reminding me of. Then one of my older daughters said, ‘‘Oh, my gosh, like The Hunger Games!’’ And I was like, ‘‘Oh, yeah, that’s what it is’’. On a larger scale, of course.

Speaking of your other films, The Devil Wears Prada turns 15 this year. What do fans quote back to you most from that?

People love ‘‘Gird your loins’’, of course. And they just ask what it was like and was it fun. Of course it was fun – it was a great group of people. Meryl Streep’s iconic cerulean blue scene, in particular, was beautifull­y written. And her delivery of it? Nobody could do that except her.

– USA Today

Supernova (M) is in cinemas now.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is being relaxed. But as soon as anyone mentions a wellness or relaxation escape, most of us assume two things. The first is that it involves yoga and kale smoothies, the second is that you’ll need to take out a mortgage to pay for it all.

We want to shatter those perception­s. Some of us relax by taking a road trip, walking, or lounging in a hot spring – so we’ve found a way to unwind for every interest. And best of all, these once-ina-lifetime experience­s don’t cost the earth, starting from just $15 a night.

Rainforest retreat

One of the country’s best-value wellness retreats is a Garden of Eden tucked away on an expansive plot of native bush 20 minutes outside the Coromandel township of Whitianga.

The moment you ascend the steep driveway to reveal Wairua Lodge, it’s as if you’ve arrived in paradise. Large flocks of quails parade around the grounds, alongside a welcoming committee of tu¯ ı¯.

After settling into your room, you can explore an extensive series of walking tracks along the river, with hammocks and relaxation chairs scattered along the paths, so you can find a secluded place to relax.

By evening, you can book (for free) a tree hut bath overlookin­g native bush, or a ‘‘star spa’’ – where you can marvel at the Milky Way without any light pollution.

End the night gathered around a fire pit where you’ll be supplied with everything you need to make s’mores.

Great Barrier’s green heart

If you’ve already knocked off the obvious Great Walks, like the Tongariro Crossing, you may want to try Auckland’s hidden gem: the Aotea Track on Great Barrier Island.

This two- to three-day hike around the island’s Jurassic centre passes through kauri forests, serene wetlands, up through dramatic boulders, across swing bridges, and even has a natural hot spring.

The two huts on the circuit need to be booked in advance. The Department of Conservati­on says: ‘‘The track is a combinatio­n of easy walking tracks, boardwalks, steep climbs, stairways and bridges. It’s suitable for reasonably fit beginners or experience­d trampers.’’

Unwind in Milford Sound overnight

To truly appreciate the solitude of Milford Sound, you need to stay overnight. The mountains, which soar from the sea, act as a barrier to the outside world and prevent any form of mobile reception. All those weapons of mass distractio­n we own, like cellphones, iPads, and laptops, are pretty useless here – meaning an overnight trip to Milford is a 24-hour digital cleanse.

The only place to stay (on land) is at Milford Sound Lodge, which has mountain chalets with spectacula­r views of the fiord. Cross your fingers for heavy rain; as soon as it’s passed, head to a lookout to see hundreds of waterfalls descend from the heavens.

East Cape escape

State Highway 35, around East Cape, is the best under-the-radar tourist highway the country has to offer.

A visit to remote communitie­s like Ruato¯ ria, Tikitiki and Te Araroa feel like a step back in time. Kids ride horses to the playground, there are empty beaches everywhere, and fresh kaimoana is served at most local pubs and fish and chip shops.

One of my greatest New Zealand travel memories is falling asleep to the sound of waves in a beachfront motel at Tokomaru Bay, after devouring a fresh seafood chowder at the Te Puka Tavern.

The next morning, we woke for a walk on the beach, where we found kids playing on their horses. We then joined queues at Cafe 35, where people come from far and wide for a pa¯ ua pie.

A trip around East Cape is like a nostalgic road trip through a 1970s version of New Zealand – where simple pleasures like the beach and food are all that matters.

Hot spring heaven

Nestled in the Lewis Pass National Reserve is a mountain hot spring retreat where it’s perfectly acceptable – if not encouraged – to stay in your dressing gown all day.

Maruia Hot Springs is found on the Lewis Pass alpine route, where most of the drive is gloriously empty of anything but nature. Even cellphone reception has no chance of penetratin­g the peaks – the retreat is entirely off-grid and is powered by hydroelect­ricity.

Although the resort caters for day-trippers, you’ll want to stay the night to take advantage of unlimited access to the hot springs, massages, free sauna infusions with the resident sauna master, free yoga classes, peaceful lounges for reading and relaxing and exceptiona­l food.

You won’t find burgers and chips here; this is a place to rest the body just as much as the mind.

Safari on home soil

The southern coast of the South Island is home to the Catlins, where you’ll find a magnificen­t mix of wildlife, Jurassic landscapes and magical waterfalls. For your best chance of seeing seals, penguins, albatross, dolphins and whales, you need to spend a little time getting acquainted with the area.

One of the best places to do that is Catlins Mohua Eco Park, a tranquil bush retreat with highly knowledgea­ble hosts who will point you in the right direction for finding wildlife, depending on the time of year.

Aside from wildlife, there are the Cathedral Caves (one of the longest in the world), numerous waterfalls and the Catlins’ version of Te Papa: The Lost Gypsy. This museum is a collection of weird and wonderful moving creations, with an exciting array of buttons and levers to push. Hit one, and a goat skeleton will start riding a bike. Another button will unexpected­ly start squirting you with water from behind. You never know what to expect when you push or pull the next lever.

Soar above Queenstown

Many of us have hot air ballooning on our bucket list. The thought of silently gliding above the countrysid­e is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that has captivated people since the first balloon took off in Europe more than 230 years ago.

As most of us only do it once, we wait for a spectacula­r location like Turkey’s Cappadocia region to give it a go. However, many don’t realise Queenstown is home to one of the most breathtaki­ng balloon trips anywhere in the world.

With Sunrise Balloons, you take off from Lake Hayes before ascending more than 1.8 kilometres (6000 feet) above sea level. At that height, you get expansive views of the Southern Alps over to the West Coast.

Wine holiday

If your idea of wellness involves wine, there is no better place to spend a few days than among the vines at one of the country’s top wine estates:

Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay.

The stunning Mediterran­ean-style winery and cellar door has a range of villas tucked away in the vines where two couples can share the cost and make it surprising­ly affordable.

Start the day reading in a quiet place among the vines, before a lunchtime wine-tasting with canapes. Don’t miss dinner at Craggy’s exceptiona­l restaurant, which elegantly embodies farm-to-table dining by showing you, in kilometres, how far away your food was sourced. Naturally, you’ll have an outstandin­g selection of wines to match your meals.

A journey to Siberia

One of the country’s most spectacula­r short walks is to the Siberia Valley, a remote but beautiful slice of Mt Aspiring National Park. Start the journey in Makarora – between Haast and Wa¯ naka – where you’ll board a bright yellow bush plane known as Buttercup. You’ll travel deep into a magnificen­t mountainsc­ape, before making a steep descent into the centre of Siberia.

You’ll then walk for three kilometres out of the valley to find a waiting jet boat that will whisk you back to the start. This day trip has it all for those who want a spectacula­r walk with a dash of adrenaline.

An unexpected star

When most people think wellness, few expect to point their cars in the direction of Palmerston North. However, 15 minutes out of town is a charming country estate offering a candlelit spa, massages and expansive grounds to relax in.

Hiwinui Country Estate is a place where you’ll find a roaring fire, plush furniture, and silence. Having only two rooms, you feel a sense of space and solitude. You’ll be hosted by Jan and Dave Stewart, alongside their daughter Julia, who serves a delicious cooked breakfast every morning.

Make sure to book the spa bath in the evening; an outdoor fire and candles will be ready for you to enjoy after dinner.

The authors were hosted by the properties mentioned in the article.

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Dame Val Adams
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Above, Akira Ioane with great mate TJ Faiane after winning a Super Rugby match for their beloved Blues; right, shaking hands after a job well done with brother, Blues and All Blacks team-mate Rieko; insert, taking time out at training to gather his thoughts and assess his best line of attack.
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GETTY IMAGES
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 ?? TRISH DUNELL, GETTY IMAGES, STUFF ?? Clockwise from far left, Danielle Johnson salutes the crowd after posting one of her many victories; wearing a winner’s grin after reaching the 1000-win milestone; Johnson shows her style in the saddle; and making weight has never felt so good.
TRISH DUNELL, GETTY IMAGES, STUFF Clockwise from far left, Danielle Johnson salutes the crowd after posting one of her many victories; wearing a winner’s grin after reaching the 1000-win milestone; Johnson shows her style in the saddle; and making weight has never felt so good.
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 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Claire Kersten took her chance at centre against England last year and deserves first crack against Australia. Inset, Kersten in action for Central Pulse in 2019.
GETTY IMAGES Claire Kersten took her chance at centre against England last year and deserves first crack against Australia. Inset, Kersten in action for Central Pulse in 2019.
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 ??  ?? Team NZ’s Te Rehutai, above, is the cutting edge of foiling yacht technology – but, like the now fraught relationsh­ip between Grant Dalton and Luna Rossa’s Patrizio Bertelli, left, it’s use will be over come the end of this year’s racing.
Team NZ’s Te Rehutai, above, is the cutting edge of foiling yacht technology – but, like the now fraught relationsh­ip between Grant Dalton and Luna Rossa’s Patrizio Bertelli, left, it’s use will be over come the end of this year’s racing.
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Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth have been close friends for almost two decades.
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Milford Sound Lodge
Catlins Mohua Eco Park Milford Sound Lodge
 ??  ?? So you think that a wellness holiday can only come with a hefty price tag? Think again. These beautiful escapes start from as little as $15.
So you think that a wellness holiday can only come with a hefty price tag? Think again. These beautiful escapes start from as little as $15.
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Hiwinui Country Estate
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Maruia Hot Springs
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Siberia Experience
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Craggy Range
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Wairua Lodge
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Aotea Track
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East Cape

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