Monday 11 December 2017

Haunted by House of Pain heroes

The advent of the new indoor Otago Stadium in Dunedin has not come without its share of upset among the 130,000 population of this city. Specifically, they are dreading the day when Carisbrook, the home of Otago rugby and scene of many New Zealand rugby and cricket triumphs down the years, makes way for whatever is going to be laid down on that footprint.

So while everyone will be glad to get indoors from what is frequently pretty rough south island weather, their hearts are still outdoors in what was lovingly known around these parts as the House of Pain.

There is also the small matter of how to deal with the ghosts of sportsmen past. Or rather their ashes. Charlie Saxton, captain of the famous Kiwis who toured Europe immediately after the War, probably tops the list of rugby players whose charred remains were spread on the turf. It gets a bit trickier however with cricketing legend Bert Sutcliffe.

His ashes are interred in the north-east corner of the ground where he took a stunning catch in the Test match against England in the 1947/48 series. The only problem is they don't know exactly what part of the north-east. So that puts the kibosh on the idea of digging them up and moving them to the new stadium, and his son has said that Carisbrook is his dad's spiritual home so that's where the ashes should remain.

It will be a sad day, however, when they are covered over by an outlet warehouse promising that no one will go home without a bargain.

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We have been intrigued by the war waged by chocolate soldiers on the motorists of New Zealand, which is like a twisted version of the Passover.

Here's how it works: traffic warden on scooter speeds from car to car chalking the tyres of vehicles at risk of a ticket. If the car is still there when he gets back then out comes the black book.

Witnessing this through a restaurant window the other day we asked would it not be possible to nip out and wipe the chalk mark off? Now this is a country where the next car could be two parishes away and the locals still remain obediently on the footpath waiting for the green man, but the spirited reply was: "Of course you can -- go for it!"

Not that you'd want to get caught of course, for the Dunedin wardens in particular are a determined bunch, driven we discovered by the need to pay off the debt on the stadium -- nobody seems sure exactly how much this is, but NZ$200m is the most common figure used. The city council needs every penny it can find, and are chalking it up to motorists.

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We've asked a few times where the idea of nude rugby came from, without receiving a satisfactory answer. The best we could do was establish that it started in Dunedin against an Irish selection on St Kilda beach as a warmer-upper for the New Zealand versus Ireland Test in 2002. Well, not that warm as it turned out. A crowd of 150 turned out on the frozen sands and with the snow-covered hills in the background, seemingly it made a pretty picture.

The Nude Blacks have been strutting their stuff ever since. This morning they were at it again, playing an Irish-Italian selection. New ground was broken earlier this year with a game against a women's team from Barcelona. The Spanish girls promised to remove an item of clothing every time they scored. Remarkably, they ran up a massive tally.

Brendan Fanning

Sunday Indo Sport

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