Blog Archives

The games we play, Owen Mann

Sport and the New Zealanders: A History
Greg Ryan and Geoff Watson
Auckland University Press, $65.00,
ISBN 9781869408831

On Christmas Day last year, many people around the country would have ripped open a well-wrapped gift to discover a sportsperson’s biography in their hands. A popular genre in New Zealand for many decades, these publications often span the brief career of the sportsperson and the figures who have influenced their lives. This Christmas it was NBA basketball star Steven Adams and league veteran Simon Mannering that were amongst the bestsellers. These books can, at times, be interesting and perceptive, but rarely explore beyond the biographical. If they do delve into the nature of sport and why it plays such an important part in New Zealand’s culture, then it is only for the particular sport the individual has excelled at, rather than sporting activities more generally, or how sport ties into the fabric of our society and culture.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sociology, Sport

Secrets of the All Blacks not all that secret, Spiro Zavos

The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team
Peter Bills
Pan Macmillan, $38.00,
ISBN 9781509856688

Murdoch: The All Black Who Never Returned
Ron Palenski
Upstart Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988516127

The cultural historian E H McCormick once noted that the only genuine masterpiece created in New Zealand was the Māori carved war canoe. The argument can be made that the national men’s rugby team, the All Blacks, can be added to McCormick’s list.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sport

Runs in the memory, Harry Ricketts

Dawn of the Golden Weather: When Kiwi Cricketers Conquered the World
John Mehaffey
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947493653

Cricket addicts, like most sports addicts, tend to look back to a golden age. This often coincides with their own first intense love affair with the game, the larger-than-life heroes of youth and memory forever towering above the moderns, however brilliant. John Mehaffey’s title, with its half-glance to Bruce Mason’s nostalgia-drenched play, acknowledges that pull, though in fact the “golden weather” nostalgically recreated here is that of the 1980s and the dayspring of New Zealand’s rise to serious ranking as a cricketing nation.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sport

Fifty years on, Spiro Zavos

The Team that Changed Rugby Forever: The 1967 All Blacks
Alex McKay
New Holland Publishers, $35.00,
ISBN 9781869664725

 

On the afternoon of the first test between New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions, the 1967 All Blacks held a reunion in the Barbarians room at Eden Park. The reunion marked 50 years from the team’s epic unbeaten tour of Britain and France. A photo was taken of the 11 survivors who could make the journey to Auckland. It is a poignant portrait of a famous group of the boys of winter in the winter of their years. 

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sport

War games, Ron Palenski

War Blacks: The Extraordinary Story of New Zealand’s World War 1 All Blacks Matt Elliott HarperCollins, $45.00, ISBN 9781775540366 Tom Ellison has a lot to answer for. One of the early All Blacks of erudition and original thought, he wrote a

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sport

Olympian heights, John Horrocks

Striking Gold: New Zealand Hockey’s Remarkable Victory at the 1976 Olympics Suzanne McFadden Mary Egan Publishing, $40.00 ISBN 9780473343729 Striking Gold is the story of one of the great moments in New Zealand’s sporting history. The 1976 Olympics are remembered

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sport

From the sidelines, Michele A’Court

Dan Carter: My Story
Dan Carter with Duncan Greive
Upstart Press, $50.00
ISBN 9781927262382

Here’s a crazy idea – get someone who doesn’t give a toss about rugby to review the autobiography of the world’s greatest rugby union fly-half. Madness.

Dan Carter: My Story has featured on the bestseller lists since it was launched just days after the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup win last October – the game (spoiler alert) New Zealand won, in which Dan Carter kicked four penalties, two conversions and a drop goal, and was named the Man of the Match. A game I didn’t watch. (I know – handing in my New Zealand passport now.) But, after initial hesitation, I figured Carter, his writing collaborator Duncan Greive, and their book, would cheerfully survive no matter what I thought. It seemed that me reviewing it was a risk that wouldn’t involve a knockout win or loss for anyone.

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Posted in Autobiography, Non-fiction, Review, Sport

In the pain, the pleasure, Mark Reason 

The Invisible Mile
David Coventry
Victoria University Press, $30.00
ISBN 9781776560431

David Coventry had a very good idea, perhaps a brilliant idea, of turning the 1928 Tour de France into an odyssey. It is a journey through spiritual and physical pain, through memory and shifting personality. It is a poetic novel in which war, religion and a bicycle race come to grief, a multiple pile-up of sacrifice and suffering.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sport

The bloody World Cup, John Saker 

Inside The Cup: Secrets Behind Our All Black Campaigns
Phil Gifford
Penguin Books, $40.00
ISBN 9780143573463

The next, as yet unwritten, chapter of this book has just been played out with the All Blacks’ ruthless, successful march through this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The bloody World Cup. That we weren’t able to win the thing more often over a 20-year period became a source of national angst. With Inside The Cup, Phil Gifford takes us through each painful derailment (and, of course, the two successful campaigns in 1987 and 2011). Before we get into that, here’s my own theory.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sport

It’s a knockout, Spiro Zavos

Fighting Talk: Boxing and the Modern Lexicon Bob Jones Random House, $30.00, ISBN 9781775534389 Bob Jones – aka Sir Robert – has written an engrossing book on the fight game. It is satisfying intellectually and emotionally. It involves an original

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