Sean Mc on Skynet

NZ National Canoepolo League

At long last I've put some photo's up.

More to come soon.

posted by SeanMc @ 5:30 AM, ,

Ireland versus The All Blacks

Before coming to New Zealand I had decided that I wanted to see an All Blacks rugby game. What better time to see them than in a game against Ireland. This was my first time going to an international rugby game and not being exactly an expert on rugby I wasn't too sure what to expect, but I was hopeful of an upset by the Irish lads. Things were looking good until half-time with the score still all square. Unfortunately things changed in the second half when Ireland conceded a try. I thought they had a chance when things started looking up again in the last quarter when they brought Peter Stringer on. Unfortunately it was too little too late. I think that he should have been on earlier, but I guess it's easy to win games from the stands. Ireland finished up losing 21-11. Not a bad result some might say. We could of course blame the All Blacks secret weapon... Roy Keane! As part of getting his FIFA coaching licence Keane was spending time on the sideline with the All Blacks.

Half an hour before the game a storm blew in from the south brining cold wind and rain from the Antarctic region. Brian O'Driscolls post-match interview had to be cut short because he couldn't stop shivering! Apparently the temperature on the pitch was only 1deg centigrade. A few hours after the game the storm was gone and the weather was back to normal, not that it mattered as we were still in wet clothes and drinking in the Irish pubs. Given the weather it was a tough game on each team. Afterwards many players said it was the coldest that they had ever played a game in.

In most ways it was like going to any game back home, a few beers before the game, take a break for the game and resume drinking until closing time. Problem in NZ is that closing time is a lot later than at home. In spite of the loss it was a great night out, helped by there being so many Irish pubs packed with Irish supporters. We went to a few other pubs too but they were empty. Jerry Collins (former All Black) even paid a visit to one Irish pub.
With a night like we had it was a good thing we had nothing planned for the next day, and that we were going to fly back to Auckland instead of getting the train again.
All in but the craic was nowhere like the shed at Turners Cross for a City game!!!!

posted by SeanMc @ 11:17 AM, ,

Overlander Train to Wellington

We had plenty of time and there was a special off on train fares between Auckland and Wellington, so why not go on a train journey?
This wasn't like any train journey I'd been on, first of all we had to check in. This was more like getting on a plane than a train. Unlike at home where you grab a seat as quick as you can and throw your bags on the overhead shelves, here you go to the luggage carriage and check in, then the conductor will allocate you a seat. We only found this out when we were already sitting down and people started looking for their seats. After this we did go and check in, then when we went to our allocated seats we found 2 other Irish people already sitting in them, so much for seat allocation. Back to the conductor to explain and we were given two more seats, better luck this time.

Although the journey is only about 580km it takes 12 hours, so we were in for the long haul, we had food and drink with us, and books.

Almost all the people on the train were tourists or old age pensioners (both groups of people in no rush). With so many tourists on board the train manager was more like a tour guide, every few minutes she/he would make an announcement about what you could see out the windows. The most spectacular view was probably the view of a snow capped Mt Ruapehu. At the back of the train was a bay window so you could look out and enjoy the scenery, nice idea so I went for a look. I got tired of looking at two unending lines of steel extending towards the horizon fairly quickly.
The 12 hours did eventually pass and we arrived in Wellington at about 7:30pm. We were met by Alan and it was off for some food and drink. The big match weekend had begun in earnest...

posted by SeanMc @ 9:27 AM, ,

National League Finals in Wellington

This was the final weekend of the national league polo competition for 2008. As it was a long weekend (Queens Birthday on Monday) it allowed the organisers to schedule 3 days of games. Thankfully for us it was a long weekend as it's a 10 hour drive from Auckland to Wellington.
The problem with having so many games to schedule is that play must start early and finish late. On Saturday and Sunday the first games of the day were at 6am, and the last game finished at 12 midnight, play started at 6am on Monday too but finished a little earlier, 3pm, to allow people to travel home. Fortunately most people didn't need to be in the pool from 6am until midnight because the B-grade games were played until about 2pm and the A-grade games from then until midnight.

That's enough about the logistics, what about the polo? Well, the four Auckland teams were playing, 2 B-grade teams, 1 mens, A-grade and 1 womens A-grade team plus some Auckland players playing on other teams too.

For my team (Hammerheads) the was a slow day with only one game to play, at least we won that one. It would've been very annoying to play just one game and to lose it. We continued our wining ways on Sunday and won our remaining 3 group games, including the one against the other Auckland B-grade team. At the end of the group stage we were top of the group, no thanks to our flair and skill. We probably played some of the most boring polo ever! Our tactic was basically to get ahead early in the game and then to hold the ball for the remaining 15 minutes and only take a shot on goal if it was a clear chance. If we conceded a goal we reset and went for goal again before reverting back to our hold the ball tactic. Meanwhile the other Auckland teams were having mixed fortunes. Both A-grade teams finished in the lower half of their grades. Our good fortune didn't continue in the play off stages and we failed to win a single game, teams were ready for us this time and came out to attack us instead of sitting back and waiting for us to attack them(some chance of that happening). Our last game saw us play against the other Auckland B-grade team, Mako, for 7th and 8th places. Again we lost so yet again the policy of picking 2 evenly matched teams held true and we finised the whole league in consecutive placings.
The womens A-grade team finished 6th and the mens A-grade team finished 6th also.

With club players playing in all grades it was a very tiring weekend with early mornings and late nights, not to mention the long journey times each way.
For me it was a very enjoyable series of competitions and great to play a league competition instead of the more common stand-alone events that we have in Ireland. It would be good for polo in Ireland if we could have something similar but it's up to the teams to get off their asses and enter the league instead of complaining about not having a national league. Now back to Auckland for the week and back to Wellington next weekend to watch Ireland vs The All Blacks.

posted by SeanMc @ 9:09 AM, ,

Tamaki River Race

This is a 12km flatwater river estuary race that we somehow got talked into doing... bad idea. The previous week we were asked to take an adventure sport k-2 from work back to a friends house. That was all fine until someone suggested we hold on to the boat for the weekend and enter the race, the entry form was practically filled out for us, leaving us no room to back out and come up with excuses.

It's a while since I'd paddled a distance like that, I think since arriving in NZ the furthest I'd paddled had been about 4km or possibly even no further than the length of a polo pitch :), great preparation! In all, the race went ok and I was happy that we entered. What did annoy me though was that my left shoulder reared it's ugly painful head again. About 4km into the race it started to to seize up, being a race I wanted to keep going, even though a part of me wanted to quit. By the end of the race I struggled to move my neck the muscles in the neck/shoulder were so tense. Most of the pain went away within about 30-40 minutes but it took a few days for the pain to fully recede. Maybe it's time I visited an osteopath again.
Although neither of us had paddled much distance in the last few months, it was nice to know we could still paddle the distance and even better to take 1st place in our class.

posted by SeanMc @ 10:29 AM, ,

Christchurch A-grade national league Comp

This was the second A-grade polo competition in the national league. It was held in the QEII leisure complex in Christchurch. Like all the other competitions the days were long with not a lot of time between games to go off and get food and rest, not an ideal scenario.
The mens grade was won again by Justice(Burnside canoe club) with Expose(Wairapa Paddlers Inc) taking 2nd place. Kaos from Auckland dropped a few places this time and took 7th place.
In the womens competition Nemesis Red and Nemesis Blue (Burnside Canoe Club) took the top spots again. The Auckland women's team remained consistent in 6th place again.
No doubt the travel hassles of Friday took it's toll on all the Auckland players.
All that's left now is the National League Finals in Wellington.

posted by SeanMc @ 1:29 AM, ,

Flying to Christchurch

We were going to Christchurch for the weekend to play polo and a few weeks back we hit upon the idea of flying down, good idea, but what a day it turned out to be. Dam fog... here's the story
We had planned to get an early flight down to Christchurch and have a look around the city and get some food for the weekend, generally get sorted. Needless to say, it didn't turn out that way. We were booked onto a 09:30 flight from Auckland but there was a very dense fog lying over the airport and surrounding area. The flight was first put back to 10:00am then 10:30 and eventually at about 12:30 we were informed that the flight was cancelled and that everyone should get their bags and go to then service desk, fair enough as there's nothing the airline could do about the weather. We got to the desk to be told that we were already re-booked onto a 09:00 the next morning. Unfortunately Clare's first game was to be at that time. We asked what the options were and were told that there were no available seats that day. Disappointed but needing to get to Christchurch we asked could we go on standby, "sure no problem". Just call back at 17:00 to see what's happening. I asked what our chances of getting out this evening were? And was told "quite good". Of course I remained polite and cheerful all the time, it certainly helped. We called back at 17:00 to be told call back again as the incoming flight was delayed and no decisions would be made until the flight had landed, fair enough, but we did ask where on the standby list we were, numbers 1 and 2 we were told... sweet. We called back later on, this time we were told to wait a few minutes and we'd know our fate. Sure enough, in a few minutes time we were given our boarding passes. We glanced at the information board, it told us that our flight was boarding so it was time to put on the running shoes. We ran to the boarding gate, only to find that they were still unloading the incoming plane, more delays but at least we were checked in this time and there was no fog on the ground. We eventually took off at about 20:00, only a half day late.
In Christchurch we had intended getting a bus into town and then a bus out to New Brighton to Arno but it was so late we just settled on a taxi instead.

Well done to Pacific blue, they looked after us that day and their customer service was excellent. I look forward to flying with them again
Interestingly we did see one couple at the check in desk who were arguing a little with the woman behind the desk, we didn't see them on the flight that evening...

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posted by SeanMc @ 10:26 AM, ,

Hunting In Hawkes Bay

After the Hawkes Bay polo competition we hung around the area for a few days so that we could go hunting. We were going to go hunting with the Hawkes Bay Hunt. They are a harrier hunt and hunt in the area around Hawkes Bay. Today they saw several hare but didn't catch any, nothing new there I guess, most hunts never seem to catch anything.
The countryside was very different to at home, instead of hedgerows and stone ditches there was only wire fencing to be jumped. Even to me it didn't look like too much fun compared to at home. However the land was ideal for foot followers like us that day. It was very hilly countryside but we were able to perch ourselves up on the highest hill around and see most of the action, including the many hare that the hounds didn't get a sniff of.
It was a good day out in the fresh air, and a different days activity than what I'm usually used to. I was impressed with the turnout given that it was a weekday hunt, there were about 45-50 people out on horseback and about 15 followers on foot.

From here it was back up to Auckland so that we could fly down to Christchurch for the weekend to play canoepolo...

posted by SeanMc @ 10:11 AM, ,

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