Sports

Nostalgia: The sporting spectacles we must bring back right now

Why does golf still exist, but Cricket Max doesn’t? How does Strip Date make the primetime schedule at TV2 when we can’t even get a half-hour slot for Clash of the Codes? Sam Parsons goes on a quest to restore justice to the world with this list of sporting spectacles we should bring back.

Cricket Max

The short-lived game was basically one day cricket on steroids and a dangerous concoction of other drugs. Its rules were devastating in their complexity. Each side had two innings of 10 overs apiece. There were four stumps. Three bails. A max zone where hits were worth double and you couldn’t be caught out. Then there were the quirks, like the fact your third four in a row was worth eight runs.

The gloriously mind-bending game was the brainchild of Sir Martin Crowe. Its first match at Cornwall Park, (Auckland) on February 5, 1996, pitted the NZ World Cup selection squad against the Noel Leeming All-stars, which included Crowe, David Hookes, Richard Hadlee, Lance Cairns and more. But it reached new international levels the year after, when an English Lions side visiting for a three-game series against the Max Blacks, led by Roger Twose, who heroically willed his team to victory in one match with a series of 12s in the dying overs.

Unfortunately the format was short lived, killed off partly by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association strike in 2002, and also by the rise of the boringly sensible T20 format.

 India's wicketkeeper Ratra throws the ball to the other end as Black Max batsman Brendon McCallum runs past during the Super Max cricket international at Jade Stadium,Wednesday.  (Photo by Simon Baker/Getty Images)

BRENDON MCCULLUM PICTURED IN A SUPER MAX CRICKET INTERNATIONAL. PHOTO: GETTY

Why should we bring it back?

More than any other game, Cricket Max reflects the cosmic joke of our existence. Its seemingly arbitrary rules reflect the grand insensibility of our universe. Meanwhile, its disproportionate and unfair rewards systems act as a metaphor for the grand injustices of our society, where the rich are rewarded out of all proportion to their efforts, like Roger Twose accidentally skying top edges into the Max Zone.

On a more practical level, who doesn’t want a higher scoring game, an extra batting wicket, and no LBW? And let’s not forget the cool team names, like the English Lions, the Max Blacks, and the Caribbean Calypsos.

North Island v South Island Rugby Matches

Known sometimes as the Inter-Island Match, in which the best players from the North or South Islands of New Zealand played an annual union match at various locations, from the first game in 1897, through till the last annual game in 1995, with a one-off in 2012 to raise money for the Otago Rugby Football Union.

Why should we bring it back?

To put the gloating snow demons of Canterbury in their place. But less significantly, the 2012 game successfully saved the ORFU, and the 7427 spectators enjoyed an inspiring sideline brawl featuring Dane Coles, Tom Donnelly and Filo Paulo (who ended up with a five game Super Rugby suspension).

The real potential benefit however is the establishment of a definite winner in the annual argument over which island is more dominant and producing the best players. Also, people want it. However with New Zealand’s busy domestic rugby schedule, would this not be too much of a strain in the eyes of coaches and some players? The answer is a resounding no.

Probables v Possibles (All Blacks)

The All Blacks have had trials for their squad dating back to 1953, when the team tested players ahead of a tour of Britain. Those morphed into the Probables vs Possibles contests, where black-clad incumbent All Blacks were routinely mauled by white-clad pretenders to their jerseys. The matches were always a hit with spectators, but anecdotally less popular with incumbent All Blacks, who had to endure being viciously tackled by men intent on stealing their jobs for 80 bruising minutes.

The last match was held in 2005 in Napier at Mclean’s Park, where Ma’a Nonu, clad in white for the ‘Possibles’ team, helped inflict a humiliating defeat on the ‘Probables’ team coached by the national staff.

Probables v Possibles All Blacks match, 2005, Mclean Park, Napier.  Credit: Youtube

Probables v Possibles All Blacks match, 2005, Mclean Park, Napier. Credit: Youtube

Why should we bring these matches back? 

The Probables v Possibles matches were an opportunity for small towns and provinces to see All Black talent up close. Think of the possibility of these matches in areas like Timaru, New Plymouth, or even Whangarei.

Also, matching Sam Cane and Ardie Savea up in a trial setting might save us from the 364 columns and 463 talkback discussions comparing them after every All Blacks game.

The Queen Street Mile 

The Queen Street Mile began in 1972, where NZ Olympian Tony Polhill took the top podium spot in 3.47.6. Ten years later, the event returned with a roller coaster-esque dip in the course. That time, former US mile record holder Steve Scott won out in 3.31.25.

Then came the extraordinary performance by Mike Biot, the Kenyan Olympic 800m bronze medalist who covered the distance in 3.28.26, which to this day is still the fastest ever recorded mile. (Fastest ever track mile is different)

Thirty years later, John Walker’s son Richard gave the event it’s second revival, in which middle-distance international Ryan Gregson won in 3.48.58.Unfortunately, it’s now been amalgamated as part of the opening race of the ITU World Triathlon Series in Auckland.

Queen Street Mile, 1983. Credit: Youtube

Queen Street Mile, 1983. Credit: Youtube

Why should we bring it back?

This Mile needs the student treatment. Half the reason the race failed was due to lack of public interest. So take a page from the Queenstown Winter Festival and make it into a ‘real fun run’, AKA a chance for 4500 ‘slightly’ intoxicated university students to plunder their way down Queen Street in costume. What could possibly go wrong?

Clash of the Codes (TV show)

Clash of Codes was a New Zealand show that pitted teams representing various sports against each other in different physical challenges. The challenges included obstacle courses, mud runs and other strenuous exercises.

Over the four years from 1993 to 1997, four series were made, the first three hosted by Simon Barnett and the last by Robert Rakete. They all featured players from more mainstream sports such as rugby being challenged by sportsmen from new codes at the time, such as Olympic canoeing champion Ian Ferguson, and a young Hamish Carter.

Why should we bring it back?

Why wouldn’t we want to watch Aaron Smith versus Shaun Johnson in an obstacle course? Or Steven Adams and Kieran Reid in an agility course?

Or perhaps change it to “Clash of the Codes: Retired edition’. Chuck Mark Richardson on the presenting team, stick Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge in and see what juice is left in their tanks? Fish out the best and worst retired Kiwi athletes, chuck them on an army confidence course and film the ensuing carnage? Sold.

National Soccer League

The National Soccer League, which ran between 1970 and 2004, was the for New Zealand provincial clubs and determined the New Zealand champion annually. However it was arguably replaced by the AUS/US formatted New Zealand Football Championship, which lacks the relegation and promotion system the original NSL had. That system allowing clubs to “work their way up” and earn a place in the league (thus making the New Zealand championship a closed shop, eight team affair.)

The problem with this is simple. That means teams outside the current top eight can’t get into the league unless, as is happening next year, the League expands and allows for submissions for acceptance.

With WaiBOP United leaving, and the League expanding to 10 teams, we will see Hamilton Wanderers, Eastern Suburbs, and Tasman United enter the league, hopefully improving the calibre of the league and its players. 

Current NZFC format, with Team Wellington's Luis Corrales (C) competes with Auckland City's Takuya Iwata (L) and Angel Berlanga (R) during the ASB Premiership Grand Final match between Auckland City FC and Team Wellington at QBE Stadium on March 10, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Wellington’s Luis Corrales (C) competes with Auckland City’s Takuya Iwata (L) and Angel Berlanga (R) during the ASB Premiership Grand Final match. Photo / Getty

Why should we bring it back?

Organisation and administration of a National Soccer League that governed multiple leagues under one umbrella would be immensely beneficial to New Zealand’s football. It would not only allow for a higher class of football to be played, but the chance for up and coming clubs to utilise relegation and promotion to improve. 

A relegation system would mean smaller teams such as Eastern Suburbs, who have dominated in the Chatham Cup, could earn a much deserved promotion. Their chance has only arrived now because the League plans to expand to 10 teams next season. It’s a bad system.

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