Wednesday, 26 February 2014

ODE TO STEPHEN DONALD

UNCANNY: The Tom Scott cartoon that appeared in The Dominion Post the day before the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.



Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Duck
-------------------------------------------------

 
The game had not gone quite to plan, for Henry's team that night.

France were there to win  this one... not give up the fight.

The question had been answered: "Which team will turn up?"

The French had sniffed a chance to win the IRB World Cup!



For, folklore has the Frogs the butt of many pointed gags.

“Their nation’s major industry? Production of white flags...”

The All Blacks had a legacy, as well, to overcome –

In five World Cups they’d ‘choked’, t’was said – they’d only won the one.



In ’91, and twelve years on – the Aussies spoiled their plans.

Campese’s try, and Spencer’s pass, had made them also-rans.

The Jappies’ kick in extra time saw hopes go down the drain

In’95 (though dodgy food may also bear some blame).



In ’99 – and last time ‘round – France was their bĂȘte noire.

In both those Cups New Zealand looked to be the best by far.

But, half-time leads – no matter how prodigious the proportion –

Are not to be relied upon, when France abandons caution.



When they unleash their Gallic game, which seems to be unplanned,

Their style of play is something even they can’t understand.

But it’s effective – and wins games – the All Blacks can attest

(It also helps to have a blind – and biased – Pommy Ref!).



With home advantage came the chance to set the record straight.

Twenty years without the Cup had been too long to wait.

New Zealand signalled their resolve, sweeping through Pool A,

Including a defeat of France (...or the team they sent that day).



In the Quarters, Argentina proved quite resolute,

But in the end they too succumbed – to Piri Weepu’s boot.

For Piri kicked a flawless game – the sort of ‘stats’ to die for –

And Argentina found that they had something else to cry for.  



Then the Semi versus Oz , the team they love to beat.

The game against the Wallabies had Kiwis on their feet.

Cooper failed to fire at all and Deans had no plan B –

The All Blacks’ power and pace gave them superiority.



The score was quite decisive as New Zealand turned the screw.

Their Stadium’s ‘four million’ fans (and the Aussies) knew

Relentlessness was aimed to put ‘pretenders’ in their place.

And Gregan’s taunt of  “Four more years...” was tossed back in their face.



Meanwhile, France’s World Cup hopes had not gone as envisioned.

Two losses left them, q’est-ce que c’est ‘delicately positioned.’

Defeat by Tonga! – ‘Gallic pride’: somewhat torn and tattered...

Yet, they had made the knockout stage – and that was all that mattered.



Their Quarter – uninspiring – with the Red-Rose squad in strife.

Sent home to face the English fans (and Tindall’s angry wife).

Then, pipping 14 Welshmen in a controversial Semi –

The righteous Welsh claimed they’d been robbed (and so it seemed, to many).



The French were riven by dissent, and only scraping through.

“Undeserving finalists!” (and only there in lieu..?)

Their coach called them ‘undisciplined’ – a ‘badly behaved bunch’,

But, was that just to set things up – before the sucker punch?



The All Blacks could feel confident – but, tinged, this time, with caution.

Over-confidence, before, had led them to misfortune.

But nothing short of victory would satisfy the mob:

“Stop peaking in between World Cups – get on with the job!”



So, each team had a point to prove: to lay down their own marker.

The All Blacks made intentions clear: starting with the Haka –

The ‘arrowhead’ response by France – the challenge taken up:  

There’d be no quarter given in the battle for the Cup!



The match was played as furiously as any could recall,

As each team tried to dominate and control the ball.

Players fought like men berserk and strove with might and main –

Some hits that they were putting in verged on the insane.



Although the All Blacks scored a try – to take an early lead,

It was by no means certain they were going to succeed.

In fact, of all the players, if you had to name a star,

That would be the No. 6, Thierry Dusautoir.



The All Black team, unstoppable, had they had their day?

The Black Machine was stuttering – a Blue Wall blocked its way. 

The cynics claim they 'choked' again, but that would be unfair –

The French had raised the tricolour and played with strength and flair.



Clearly under pressure, with half the game to play,

New Zealand:  only 5 points up –  their kicks all gone astray...

And every savvy rugby fan, with any pedigree

Knew from Cup experience, how vital kicks can be.



With Weepu's kicking boots left home, Cruden was the man.

But, he lacked experience – they really needed Dan.

When Cruden's ACL 'went South', the team ran out of luck,

For, who was left to 'save the day'? ... Waiuku's Donald Duck !
 


He warmed-up on the touchline – to face the men from France.

His stretching very cursory (like he was in a trance).

And as he strode out on the field, everyone could tell –

The All Blacks’ World Cup chances had a snowball's chance in hell.
 


For history has taught us Stephen Donald wasn't great.

His kicking was pathetic – his passing slow and late.

He even looked ridiculous – his shirt a size too small.

Each time he'd pulled a black shirt on, he'd not played well at all.

They remember he'd come on for Dan, with 15 left to play, 
In Hong Kong  in the Bledisloe... but, gave the game away.

A penalty – an easy kick – the test could have been won.

Your aging Mum could do it! ... not  Waiuku's favoured son.



Then there was that stupid chip – you'd think he played at lock!

Followed by a "clearing" kick, with full-time on the clock –

Straight down the throat of Kurtley Beale, then lobbed to a receiver –

Over in the corner – try! ...to winger James ‘O’Bieber’.



He didn't play much more that tour, and you could understand it.

Who wants a guy who loses games – almost singlehanded?

He failed to make the World Cup squad – relief then swept the nation: 

'Henry's secret love-child'? ... a previous ‘qualification’.


  
But, Fate is fickle, as they say, and won’t be pushed away,

As for who'd wear No. 10? ... it fell to her to say.

And, to test New Zealand's 'depth', seemed to be her whim –

As if to see, in harried times, if they would sink or swim. 



Carter was the 'golden boy', the best – and in top form. 

With 'dead-eye' Daniel in the team, they'd take this Cup by storm.
   
A 'groin strain' soon put paid to that and, as the news unfurled,

Carter's (and New Zealand's) groan was heard around the world.



Some blamed all those 'undies ads' – a gathering in the crotch –

A kind of 'choking', if you like (a nasty thing to watch...). 

In truth, Fate's hand was copying the 'tactic' of the French –

She just reached up his trouser leg and gave his nuts a wrench.


  
Then up-steps his deputy, the fresh-faced Colin Slade.

"Shit, he's just little kid – how many Tests' he played?"

Though nervous as a starting 10, at least he showed some pluck

And whilst "He's not a Carter!" ..."Thank God he's not the Duck!"



They say that lightning only strikes the same place once, not twice,

But fly-halves' crotches don't know that – and Colin paid Fate's price.

"Not again!" and... "What the hell?" –  the disbelief was real –

"This groin strain epidemic –  it's our Achilles' heel!"



With Aaron Cruden next in line, folks began to panic.

The struggle to secure the Cup could now become .... 'Titanic'.

"Jeez, where do they find these guys? He's smaller than the last!"

But,  Aaron stood at 10 feet tall when he kicked and passed.



He played the Semi – shone indeed – all fears were allayed.

He seemed to be the perfect choice – (why had they plumped for Slade?).

Now the ship was back on course and heading for the Final

And all those doubts and worries could be flushed down the urinal.



So all was well – or was it just? A problem still remained –

The Three Wise Men had rightly asked: "What if he gets maimed?"

"We need a boy to warm the bench, to sub him if desired,

But, with Weepu kicking well – we doubt he'll be required."



"Some lad who plays at first-five- eighth...  whose still on our list?"

"McAlister? That Evans chap?" (they're now sorely missed).

"Well, Nick and Luke have both pissed off – they weren’t inclined to linger,

We're the ones' gave them the shaft: they've given us the finger."

  

"Wait -- here's one whose not gone yet... but, he's been tried before.

He screwed up in the Hong Kong Test, so he got shown the door."

Ted said – "We won’t be popular, but I don’t give a toss!

Get Stephen Donald on the phone – tell him it's 'the Boss'!" 





"Steve my boy, how are you now? What are you up to mate?"

"Just a spot of fishing, Boss – for Waiuku whitebait."  

"Well, drop all that and join the squad – you're needed by the nation.

Get your arse back here my boy (it could be your salvation)."



A France/New Zealand Final – a First World Cup 'repeat'.

The French in disarray? Mon Dieu! That's when they're hard to beat...

The Three Wise Men had huddled and considered every option –

Then put their tactics to the squad for comment and adoption.



"Now, here's the plan to beat Les Bleus and see them off tres vite:

Hit them hard and early... and run them off their feet.      

Put the points up on the board during the first quarter –  

When heads go down, it’s going to be like French lambs to the slaughter!"         



As Ted and co. prepared the side, the Final fast approaching,

He laid out every player's role – which was his style of coaching.

"Piri, you're to take the kicks. Aaron is your 'main-man'.

Stephen, let me tell you how you fit into the game plan...."   



"Now, you're to sit there on the pine – we hope you'll stay in situ.

(Anyway, we're short on kit and there's no shirt to fit you).

Let Aaron Cruden do the job, then join the celebration –     

That way you’ll earn undying thanks from a grateful nation."



But, no-one showed the Frogs the script – they played with 'shock and awe'.

Now – Fate's torn Aaron's ligaments and Weepu's form is poor.

They're both off – and Donald's on – the fans' worst fears are met:

No-one's won the bloody Cup – without a kicker, yet.



"Just keep it tight, dont let it out, let the forwards score!"

“The only way we'll win this game is up front, on the floor!”

Disaster lurks at No.10, if the ball pops up –

"If Donald gets his hands on it, it’s goodbye to the Cup!"



Then that Fateful whistle blew – the Ref gave France some stick.

The penalty was kickable ... if someone there could kick!

Daniel, Aaron – Piri too...  even Slade could do it;

But this one could confound the Duck – and everybody knew it.



When Richie tossed the ball to him – most fans had a fit.

A collective moan rose round the ground: "The Duck's a crock of shit!"

They'd all been down this path before – and much to their chagrin,   

Waiuku's man had never failed – he'd always dropped them in...


He walked up to the kicking tee – the crowd was filled with dread.

He looked so lame and gawky – like his feet were made of lead.

When he bent down to place the ball – his arse-crack on display,

Half the crowd who'd paid to come, wished they'd stayed away.



He sized it up, he straightened it (like that would do some good).

Four steps back and two across and that is where he stood.

Fathers covered young sons' eyes to shield them from the shame –

The view when Donald skewed this one could put them off the game.



Now, Stephen's gait, when he trots up, is certainly 'bespoke'.

A bit like a giraffe would run if one leg had been broke.

You’d swear the French were sniggering, as he moved in to kick,

And every single Kiwi fan was ready to be sick.



The shot was short and simple – it was practically in front.

The fans had but a single thought : "Don't miss you stupid c...!"

For, three more points were vital – the Frogs would pay the price.

If the Duck could kick this one, they’d need to counter... twice!



He made the strike, his head stayed down, his limbs were everywhere.

For those who could still bear to watch, the pill was in the air.

High enough and long enough – and then the breathless wait...

'Cos there's no points for 'high' and 'long' – unless it's f.....g straight!



Now, balls used in this tournament had come in for some flack.

Successful kicks were 'down', they said – some balls were 'out of whack'.

Gilbert swore their balls were good: each one tried and true.

Stephen proved that statement wrong....  as through the posts it flew!



They say that  drunks, and children, are looked after by the Lord.

But, what about the Duck who put the Froggies to the sword?

Surely, 'ugly ducklings' must be added to that list –

'Cos only God could save him – if the bastard had've missed!



For, just as feared, the French struck back with one converted try –

Now their tails were up and they were only one point shy!

A one-point margin to defend – or to overcome –

The tension all around the ground was just too much for some.



The ‘stats’ of that last quarter made for interesting reviews –

The balance of the game took place between the ‘twenty-twos’.

Despite the teams’ best efforts, this strict divide held sway.

If neither side could cross the chalk – how could they win the day?



It meant the French would need a kick... it must be borne in mind

They did not hold the upper hand: they were the team behind.

The All Black camp knew they must not concede a kick at goal,

Or pressure they were soaking up might yet take its toll.



The last few minutes of that match were an eternity

As the Frenchmen tried... in vain, to force a penalty.

The rucks and mauls were bravely fought, mais malheureusement,

At the end the scoreboard showed New Zealand still in front.



As full-time blew, arms were raised, or heads were slumped in hands...

Not just exhausted players, but spectators in the stands.

Only then did it sink in – the full enormity:

The precious points from Donald’s boot had clinched the victory!



Winning by a single point led cynics to proclaim:

“New Zealand were just lucky, France should have won that game!”

No doubt the game was theirs to win: that onus lay on France.

They failed to breach the All Black line: and that cost them their chance.



It was New Zealand’s game to lose, just as equally –

But steadfast will and calm resolve were there for all to see.

Composure under pressure had stopped them from infringing.

To say their win was undeserved is nothing short of whinging.



So, that’s how ‘Bill” came ‘home’ again, from 20 years away,

And many were the heroes out there on the field of play.

But, Donald’s kick proved pivotal – deserving special praise:

He can dine-out on that kick until his dying days.



Now, elsewhere in New Zealand – when the talk comes 'round

To Men in Black who've worn the fern with legendary renown,

It's all Fitzy, Meads and Clarke, or Jonah, Mehrts and Buck –

And, lately, Richie, Mils and Thorn – (no mention of the Duck).



These yackers use hyperbole, with scant regard for fact,

Embellishing their tales of feats, whenever truth has lacked.

You have to take a pinch of salt, when listening to these clods –

The way they'd have it – they have seen, men turned into Gods!



But, in Waiuku, in the pub, when spirits start to soar,

If talk comes ‘round to legends, and the locals hold the floor,

They'll swear to one real miracle – and who can say they’re wrong?

They've seen an ugly duckling... turn into a swan.



He’s now called ‘Beaver’ by his mates and holds his head up high.

A Winner’s Medal says it all – respect that gold can’t buy.

He’s proof that rugby’s played in Heaven – part of God’s Great Plan:

His country’s hour had surely come, and surely had the man.

  

Beaver’s a real hero, in Waiuku River lore,

Their boy did good (God knows how) to clinch that vital score.

Some called it All Black magic. Or think Fate had a say.

We only know one thing, for sure: each Duck has his day!

  TINGSON

 Nov 2011

I went to watch the Highlanders play against the Auckland Blues last Saturday in the HOWZAT bar in Manila and I met Russell Lousich. We found we had a lot in common including rugby. Russell told me had written an ode to Stephen Donald so I asked him to share it. Yes, Stephen put Waiuku on the map that day with his famous kick.








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