Archive for November 18th, 2006

Hamilton – Part 1

Like most of NZ, Hamilton is named after somewhere in Scotland. Unlike most of the rest of NZ, Hamilton seems to have weather to match it. It appears to consist of dairy farms and fields and lots of rain. I suppose on a two day trip, that may be being a bit harsh.

I was in Hamilton for the weekend cause that where Sue Cuthbert was/is. And I was on a mission to deliver a pressie.

It’s about a 4 hour drive from Napier to Hamilton and I left about 8am on Saturday. It was cloudy in Napier, as soon as I got over the first mountain range it started to rain. And it just got heavier the closer I got to Hamilton.

The other reason I was going to Hamilton was to see one of the guys from the Senegal team – Wayne or Oz as we called him (he was a Kiwi, so the Oz thing came naturally). Oz had kindly offered me a game of footy with some of the guys he worked with, and I of course obliged. I figured a friendly Saturday afternoon kick about would go down well.

It however turned out to be something else entirely.

I arrived in Hamilton (in the rain) and met up with Suey, got some quick lunch and headed to the city to find Wayne and the footy. As we near the city, sue points out the stadium where we’re playing. I swerve slightly on the road and correct her and say “surely we’re not playing in a stadium�.” Suey doesn’t seem to grasp the significance. She’s a girl, it’s unfair to expect much else.

So we roll up to Waikato Stadium and I’m getting nervous. This is a proper international rugby stadium, the All Blacks frequently play here. It holds 20 000 people. It has marble hallways and the security guard wears a proper suit and has a tie.

How may you ask have I got here?

Oz works for the Waikato District council, doing some engineering type job I don’t really understand. They have a yearly match between the district council and the city council. Because the city council runs the stadium, they get to use it.

Oz’s team got beat 7-1 or something last year, so apparently I was invited in as a ringer (a novel experience for me!) to tilt the balance. Apparently I’ve worked for the district council for years, my accent just hasn’t wore off yet.

So I find myself in a fancy changing room (where the flipping well all-blacks get changed) with a bunch of random Kiwis, ready to run out onto one of the top pitches in NZ. I pinch myself and I don’t wake up. I pinch Wayne and he just looks at me funny.

I’m decidedly nervous. Even worse they want me to play out field. Already I can hear the sniggers of the guys back home as they read this.

Kiwis aren’t really natural footy players. Their short-necks, stocky builds and exceptional ability at rugby means it’s not their game. Some of the guys playing don’t even know he rules. Some of them are girls. There is a five minute team talk, involving a white board and a marker and lots of stick men as the coach tries to explain the off side rule, the 4-4-2 system and the Bosman ruling.

We run out onto the best pitch I have ever played on, to the roar of 7 supporters perched in row z to keep out of the rain. I pinch myself again.

I end up playing 40 minutes at right back and right wing, I have no boots so I slip over a lot in the rain. For a goalie, I do myself proud. My best moment is dragging the ball back, nutsing the best player on the park and then falling flat on my ass. Wayne plays a blinder and gets two goals, deserving at least four.

We draw 4-4 thanks to a last minute pinball equaliser for city and some dubious refereeing. The crowd has swollen to 11 and I get my standing ovation as I get substituted. I think the person standing was going to the loo or something.

I leave before the press conference. Garth Crooks wasn’t even there anyhow�

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