Quality Sports Journalism In NZ Cannot Be Replaced Swiftly

New Zealand’s media industry is reeling following a dark week which saw two of its biggest institutions shut down.

Let’s take a look at the week that was.

First, it was Radio Sport who stopped broadcasting on Monday after its owner NZME switched the frequency of New Zealand’s only sports-dedicated sports radio station over to Newstalk ZB. 

Hundreds of jobs were lost, and not just the voices you hear on the airwaves. You’re also talking about the producers, the reporters in the field and all the researchers. 

Furthermore, it all happened incredibly quickly, almost faster than the speed in which news breaks on a day to day basis. 

Radio Sport housed New Zealand’s best minds in the sports media business and their departure simply cannot be filled in terms of talent. When, or even if, Radio Sport were to return in some fashion, many of those talents won’t be coming back either. 

Some say that the decision had been a long time coming due to the network simply not making enough money for NZME to remain commercially viable, but that’s not a black mark against the journalists rather the model in which they were working. 

The media business relies on advertising to pay its workers and advertising has all but dried up since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in New Zealand, just take a look at newspapers recently or tune into the television, the same goes for radio. 

Then on Thursday, the shock of all shocks, Bauer Media announced its closure in New Zealand, bringing with it the death nail to some of the most beloved magazines that have served readers for multiple generations. 

Shortly after, speculation was similar to the Radio Sport closure, that it wasn’t so much because of COVID-19 alone, but the implications of not being able to print magazines during the lockdown served as the perfect excuse to make a decision that had long been in the pipeline. 

Today, the Government has been criticised by many in the media for not helping out Bauer Media with any financial assistance, but the Prime Minister herself says that the company refused to take wage subsidy allowances. 

Whatever the real truth, the impact on workers at Bauer Media makes the losses Radio Sport sustained look tiny. Journalists, columnists and editors for magazines like The Listener, the Woman’s Day/Weekly, and Metro Magazine (just to name a few) are well into triple figures when you put the entire New Zealand branch of Bauer together. 

So, with all this news and the hundreds of jobs lost to the business, where to from here to the New Zealand media? 

Filling The Void, But At What Credible Value? 

We’ve already seen many a social media pundit quickly try to turn the closure of media outlets into an opportunity to fill the void, so the answer about where to from here can be found in that, social media will give the opportunities for everyone to keep sports media going in different forms. 

But despite that, quality journalism for sports and magazine is in grave peril right now. 

COVID-19 and its impact on New Zealand will likely to be the single story for our media moving forward. For the established sports media, it’s a gigantic game of wait and see for the next while. 

Until the sporting landscape gets somewhere close to being back to normal then there really isn’t a sustainable market for it, because the news will quickly dry up and this will expose the flaws of opportunistic tendencies by those who think they can replace and do better. 

If anything, what COVID-19 should teach us is how important professional competitions really are to the business of sports journalism. 

If you break it all down, the news isn’t just what happens on game day and the fallout from it, the news is really about the stories within the sport, player transfers and injuries, what franchises are doing or not doing, etc etc. 

Don’t discount the importance of contacts that some of the sports journalists keep either. 

Social media pundits can and will successfully be able to keep the sports conversation going within their respective bubbles but without legitimate access to sources and the knowledge of journalistic practices, the value of their respective mediums will be low. 

If six years of doing this sports journalism thing (semi-professionally before transitioning into the mainstream) has taught me anything it’s that the story always matters, not the chatter. 

You don’t have a story without the sport and the access to it, what you have is chatter. 

That’s not journalism, it doesn’t require that hard work required to verify fact from opinion, the ability to be able to meet deadline multiple times per day, or to go back and re-write or re-produce content to meet the quality required for mainstream publication. 

The biggest test that’s about to face the business on these shores is ensuring that when sports media does return to what it was before COVID-19, it maintains the talents it had to ensure the quality and substance remains. 

Super Rugby 2019: Chiefs Squad Analysis

Like they have in seasons prior, the Chiefs will field a squad that features a mix of proven performers and unknown young talent ahead of the 2019 Investec Super Rugby campaign.

That unknown talent has a proven track record to defy all expectations in Chiefs country. Don’t believe this pundit? Look no further than last season. Several players with little pedigree went on to become top-level performers and influenced the games that the Chiefs managed to win.

In 2019, the Chiefs keep their members of the core leadership group (Retallick, Cane, McKenzie, Harris, etc). As expected, they welcome some exciting new talent also, such as rising Sevens star Etene Nanai-Seturo and All Blacks wider squad prop Reuben O’Niell.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Japanese international Ataata Moekiola joins the ranks, and a surprise selection for experienced Super Rugby utility back Jack Debreczeni provides cover in several positions. Debreczeni will be known to New Zealand rugby fans after stints for Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup, and regular selections for the Melbourne Rebels in previous Super Rugby seasons.

Colin Cooper Needs Consistency from Chiefs in 2019

For head coach Colin Cooper, embarking on his new coaching role with the Chiefs wasn’t a daunting experience, but a relishing one. Cooper frequently spoke about being more comfortable at this later point in his coaching career compared to his previous Super Rugby role at the Hurricanes. Added to that, Cooper’s successful time coaching the Maori All Blacks saw the proud Taranaki man arrive in Chiefs country feeling at ease and with little to prove.

Cooper’s first year at the helm was a reasonably successful one all told, but a high number of injuries to key players along the way was an unwelcome reality for a squad that was already depleted of some big names from the year prior. The likes of Aaron Cruden, James Lowe, and Tawera Kerr-Barlow (just to name a few) were gone, leaving some serious pressure on younger players in the backline to fill that void. The likes of Sean Wainui and Soloman Aliamalo stood into their respective roles and stood out in particular.

Injuries to Sam Cane and Brodie Rettallick hampered the forward pack throughout 2018, but it saw players like Mitch Karpik, Michael Allardice, and in particular, big props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Angus Ta’avao really shine when their moment came. Through these brave and forced selections, Cooper showed a keen eye to spot a mixture talent on different ends of the age spectrum, but all of which, with little experience at Super Rugby level.

Individual Stories of Intrigue in Selections for 2019

When you look at this Chiefs squad for 2019 on paper, it reads a lot as you’d expect, with a few exceptions.

Some of the new selections were scouted early on, including new midfielder Bailyn Sullivan. During his time with the Mooloos, Sullivan was reported to have been entering conversations with Chiefs coaches from as early as the opening weeks of the Mitre 10 Cup campaign with the Mooloos.

But for some of the more experienced and well-known names in the squad, like Brad Weber, the 2019 season presents the opportunity for one last shot at higher honors.

When The Real Michael Pulman spoke with Weber recently, the 27-year old said he was still gunning for a spot in the All Blacks ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The one time All Black has consistently missed International selection in recent seasons despite performing on the park across both Super and Mitre 10 Cup rugby. In 2018, Weber was overlooked in favor of fellow Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, and Weber himself, whilst happy for Tahuriorangi’s success, was left frustrated when he didn’t receive any communication from All Black coaches with guidance as to where he needed to improve his game.

Likewise with players like Shaun Stevenson, proven at Super Rugby level but seen to be “not quite ready” for the black jersey. 2019 presents players like Weber and Stevenson, amongst many others, with an unlikely yet still very achievable bolt into Steve Hansen’s All Blacks ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Super Rugby 2019: Chiefs Squad Analysis

So where to in terms of Super Rugby honors for this franchise?

In 2018, the Chiefs managed to make the playoffs but rued several basic mistakes on a terrible night in Wellington where they would lose to the Hurricanes by just a single point, but in a match where the scoreline really humbled the visitors.

Really, the performance that night was a fitting example of Chiefs season that was never able to maintain any real consistency, and one that also failed to secure results in the matches that really mattered.

The Chiefs have always had the ability to win the title since their back-to-back run in 2012/13, but a mixture of injuries and a lack of continuity of winning results have hampered those efforts significantly. At times, one could argue that there have also been some off-field dramas that haven’t helped the cause.

Furthermore, the Chiefs seem to be a side more prone to mass injuries if recent examples are anything to go by. Those injuries have left everyone involved with this franchise frustrated in recent seasons, so for Cooper and his fellow assistant coaches, the goal will just be to get through the November/December/January period with little concern in this area.

The 2019 version of this Chiefs squad doesn’t scream title-winning favorites by any stretch, but it certainly provides the depth, proven experience, and world-class talent to be a serious contender once again.

The Full Chiefs Squad For 2019:

Props
Kane Hames (Tasman)
Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)
Reuben O’Neill (Taranaki)
Nepo Laulala (Counties Manukau)
Atu Moli (Waikato)
Sosefo Kautai (Waikato)
Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki)
Hookers
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty)
Liam Polwart (Bay of Plenty)
Samisoni Taukei’aho (Waikato)
Locks
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay)
Tyler Ardron (Bay of Plenty)
Laghlan McWhannell (Waikato)
Michael Allardice (Hawke’s Bay)
Fin Hoeata (Taranaki)
Loose forwards
Mitchell Brown (Taranaki)
Taleni Seu (Auckland)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty)
Mitchell Karpik (Bay of Plenty)
Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)
Luke Jacobson (Waikato)
Pita Gus Sowakula (Taranaki)
Halfbacks
Brad Weber (Hawke’s Bay)
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki)
Jonathan Taumateine (Counties Manukau)
First five-eighths
Damian McKenzie (Waikato)
Tiaan Falcon (Hawke’s Bay)
Jack Debreczeni (Northland)
Midfielders
Alex Nankivell (Tasman)
Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato)
Tumua Manu (Auckland)
Bailyn Sullivan (Waikato)
Outside backs
Solomon Alaimalo (Tasman)
Sean Wainui (Taranaki)
Ataata Moeakiola (Japan)
Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau)
Shaun Stevenson (North Harbour)
Marty McKenzie (Taranaki)

“Photo credit”

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’sTcELJXWT49oSH9b3MsUOA’,sig:’uSBqHwdMlNIdlm_jq00KIf_Vk7iIuON3gNl7i0G9lCc=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’993179206′,caption: true ,tld:’in’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Kiwis World Cup Explosion A Long Time In Coming

The Rugby League World Cup is over for the Kiwis, but no one should be surprised at the shock result to Fiji. 

It’s baffling to see how Adam Blair, the captain of the Kiwis, can stand in front of a nation and say that the result isn’t a negative for the side. Because the result is beyond negative, it’s near disgraceful. For as good as Fiji were to hold onto the slim 4-2 win, the amount of basic mistakes the Kiwis made was a sign of a team not in sync as a unit. Furthermore, it was a sign of the chickens finally coming home to roost for league in this country.

Moments after those comments by the captain, Kiwi coach David Kidwell took aim at the New Zealand public, saying that he’d only accept criticism from supporters who bothered to show up to games. Then it was the captains turn again, this time Blair saying that the side deserved more credit than what was being given in the aftermath of the shock result.

All in all, the World Cup campaign which had started out so promisingly fell of a cliff and exploded at the bottom.

Kiwis World Cup Explosion A Long Time In Coming

The reason why this happened to the Kiwis starts with New Zealand Rugby League in general. For all the problems the Warriors have had in recent years, the Kiwis began to show similar cracks in their culture earlier this year when two senior players were busted for cocaine use in the hours after a Test against Australia. From there, the knives were out, and both players were axed from the World Cup.

Can you blame the New Zealand public for not having a lot of faith in this side? Culture issues aside, just look at the results in recent times. Mediocre at best, and that might be giving too much credit. Outside of the Kiwis, the Warriors have been less than inconsistent and have themselves had some major culture issues, many of which have driven some of the long-term leaders at the club away.

And for Adam Blair, the so-called captain of this side, here is a man who clearly preferred to keep his true feelings toward the situation well-hidden. PR training or not, comments such as the ones made last night show a true disconnect with the reality of what was, and forever will be, one of the darkest days in Kiwis league history.

That’s what it will be remembered for.

Cricket! Keep the bouncer in the game

The bouncer is an integral part of cricket, and nothing should change that.

mr729kp-20140101102218292069-620x349

The cricketing world is in a deep state of mourning, and this afternoon the world will pause for one final farewell to the late Phillip Hughes.

Players from all over the world are expected to be in Macksville, including the entire Australian Test team as well as legends of the game including Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath.

There is simply no denying that the sudden death of Phil Hughes is the most tragic story in the history of cricket.

But through all the sadness, the fundamentals of cricket should not be changed. Talks of banning the short pitched ball commonly referred to as a bouncer are utterly idiotic.

Yes, even with the death of Hughes, talk of banning the bouncer as a result of all this is completely and utterly idiotic.

Getting rid of short pitched bowling would further favor the game of cricket towards the batsmen, and undoubtably the impact of this would result in a game that would slowly over time become less and less exciting.

Stuff columnist Mark Reason wrote a column this morning titled “Phillip Hughes death highlights cricket hypocrisy” discusses this very issue, and is one of the most silly things to be written in the wake of the Hughes tragedy.

In one particular line in Reason’s column, he writes that “the circumstances that led to the tragedy have been fostered by Clarke and others”. This is not only untrue and unfounded, but quite a disgusting comment to make in light of the current heartbreak Clarke and his Australian teammates are going through at the moment.

Excuse me Mr. Reason.

Calling cricket players hypocritical because they are so sad at the moment and your implying that because bowlers in recent games prior to Hughes death bowlers have implemented the bouncer as a tactic to get batsmen out is somehow reason for them to not be allowed to grieve is one of the most disgusting things anyone has written on this situation in the last week.

Sometimes you wonder why the NZ media has the faith to hire such writers.

The battle between Mitchell Johnson and the English batsmen last summer, although brutal, was one of the most exciting and edgy things cricket has seen in a long time.

Let’s not forget it was the Ashes.

For god sake ICC, please don’t change the fundamentals of cricket. Change nothing, the death of Phillip Hughes which honestly was just a freak accident and the game shouldn’t suffer because of it.

International Twenty20 Cricket should remain a special rarity

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that Twenty20 Cricket was just a rare party like concept of our summer game.

38324-pst

This is not the case now.

Back in 2005 when the Blackcaps played Australia at Eden Park in the first ever Twenty20 international, the concept of the game was short, fast, and entertaining.

It was a new idea, and even more importantly, only something that happened once or twice a season, and it was a terrific success.

Now days there are Twenty20 Cricket World Cups, domestic Twenty20 leagues including the IPL and Champions League which take place on a yearly basis, and everywhere you look Twenty20 forms of cricket are becoming much more frequent.

Money is big in T20 cricket, as is corruption.

It could be argued that Twenty20 cricket has opened the door for for some of the minor associate nations as well, giving players in that under developed cricket countries an opportunity to be picked up by big IPL or BBL teams and given the opportunity to perform on the world stage.

There is also much more Twenty20 specific talent being looked for by cricket scouts and selectors the world over.

We sat next to Lance Cairns during the opening weekend of Georgie Pie Super Smash while he was scouting for NZ Cricket.

Twenty20 would have seemed a laughable concept of the game back in his hay day.

In Australia and England in particular, the international side for Twenty20 cricket seems to be its own operating enterprise as you often see specific coaches and specific players who get selected only for the handful of Twenty20 games that Australia play throughout their home summer each season.

The current series against South Africa was a good example of this.

Players that some cricket fans who tuned into Nine’s Wide World Of Sport cricket coverage wouldn’t have ever heard of before.

In Australia’s case in most Twenty20 internationals, only a handful of players who are regular ODI starters feature in the T20 side, and hardly ever does a test cricketer make an appearance these days accept for the recent case of Shane Watson. To kick off this summer, Aaron Finch captained the team, while Wellington Firebirds’ big signing Brad Hodge suddenly left the Georgie Pie Super Smash to become the batting coach for Australia’s Twenty20 unit.

When did you last see Mitchell Johnson play T20 cricket for Australia apart from in a World Cup?

But this exciting but not so much new form of the game has given certain big time players a foot in to international cricket early in their careers. It was only a few years ago that David Warner stormed onto the scene in T20, now days he is a regular test starter for Australia.

Otago Volts regular Ryan ten Doeschate is a good example of a cricketer who applies his trade all over the world and almost exclusively in the T20 form of the game.

Or how about a player like Quinton de Kock, a batsmen who can seemingly perform at both ODI and T20 level with decent results.

To a Martin Guptill, who showed just this past couple of weekends during the Georgie Pie Super Smash that T20 cricket can allow him to break the shackles and play what is clearly his natural game, leading to back to back scores past 50, including an unbeaten 84 against Otago, at a time where negative faithless Blackcaps fans were calling for his dismissal from the international level all together.

In many ways it is a shame that the concept of Twenty20 cricket has changed to a more standard business like form of the game compared to what it was back in 2005 and 2006.

Back then Twenty20 used to feel like cricket’s special event, something to bring a different audience than the traditionalists, and something that sides would do special things for to mark the occasion – the Blackcaps a good example of this when they wore the classic Beige uniforms and then later on some of the classic old school shirts from the early to mid 90’s era to mark these special Twenty20 occasions.

Twenty20 is more constant, and in a little ways not quite as impacting on the younger generation of fans especially that it once was. It is just another form of the game now, and some already believe that cricket needs a little bit of a change up or something big and new to garner more interest.

The latest experiment is the day/night test matches, trailed in the First Class scene in Australia this week.

Twenty20 is here to stay however, and this blog understands that buyers are rumored to be setting their sights on NZ Domestic Cricket associations.

The hope is to turn the domestic T20 game on these shores into an IPL/Big Bash like concept with big money behind it.