When it comes right down to brass tacks, there's nothing more annoying than a plethora of speculation and bull-pucky getting in the way of a sports fan and a sport. This is why the love-lives of sports stars are never writ large in the study of games. What's important is:
- Is your favourite athlete going to be able to come up with the goods?
- Who is trying to get in the way of your team winning the shield, cup, statue, silverware, girls next to the podium, big sports car, giant novelty cheque, or the undying adoration and admiration of you and other fans?
- Where is this game being played?
- When will all the crap masquerading as entertainment end, and the game begin?
- What can you shout at the TV at times of great stress to make your team win?
- Why was I never a contender?
- I need to pee, will I be able to hold on till half time?
These are the kinds of things that define sport. It's not "Who is doofing who?" or "Who is smoking P?" or "Who has the snazziest dress sense?" Granted, they are always considerations. But the Dropkicks think that there are more important issues, and it is to one of these that we now turn our collective consciousness. Demographics.
So did you know that the heaviest player at the World Cup is Namibian Marius Visser? He's a svelte 140kg, or, the total weight of any two of the three Georgian players, Irakli Abuserdize, Bidzina Samkharadze and Giorgi Shkinin, each a colossal 70kg. This suggests that if the big fulla was to be KO'ed and accidentally collapsed on any single one of them, it could take the combined strength of both the other two to rescue their comrade. That's something to watch out for on 26 September.
More important though is something that popped up in conversation over on PA System. Chris Stockton, of Wales (long time reader, first time commenter?) asked the question,
Watching the Italian game (yes! they have just scored!), I was wondering how many of your lot are from New Zealand? , and yes I have heard of Maoris"
Unfortunately, he copped a bit of flak for asking. Not biffo-type flak, but flak none the less.
And the Dropkicks thought, "Chris, we're here for ya man. We see you only commented once, so we're here to bring you back into the fold".
The All Blacks are 73% NZ-born. Of the eight born outside New Zealand, five were born in Samoa (Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe, Mils Muliaina, Rodney So'oialo and Isaia Toeava), two in Fiji (Josevata Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu) and one in Tonga (Sione Lauaki). It's important to note that all of these players are naturalised New Zealanders. Most came to New Zealand with their families when they were very young and have been through the public school system. It's probable they didn't really like the schoolroom, for, as we all know, they choose the professional sporting life. But, there are bound to be Pacific Islander imports who followed the same path as Jerry or Mils or Sione and who did end up as accountants, or policemen, or or doctors, or engineers. The closest we have to a "poached" player would be Sivivatu, who came to New Zealand in his later teens.
It is also interesting to note that of the 30 in the Samoan squad, 12 were born in New Zealand. We receiveth, and we giveth away.
So compare that to the Home Nations, who for all their bleating about player poaching (nothing personal), are as follows:
- Scotland: 67% homogeneous. The foreign-born players are Dan Parks (Australia), Nathan Hines (Australia), John Barclay (Hong Kong) and seven English: Craig Smith, Gavin Kerr, Andrew Henderson, Rob Dewey, Simon Webster, Hugo Southwell, and Jim Hamilton.
- Wales: 77% homogeneous. Their foreign-born players are Tom Shanklin (England), Will James (England), Colin Charvis (England), Chris Horsman (England), Sonny Parker (New Zealand), Ian Evans (South Africa) and Dafydd James (Zambia).
- Ireland: 83% homogeneous. Their foreign-born players are Frankie Sheahan (Canada), Malcolm O'Kelly (England), Simon Easterby (England), Isaac Boss (New Zealand) and Ronan O'Gara (USA).
- England: 87% homogeneous. The foreign-born players are Mike Catt (South Africa), Matt Stevens (South Africa), Perry Freshwater (New Zealand) and Simon Shaw (Kenya).
At the other end of the spectrum, both Romania and Georgia have benefited the least from foreign influence: they have exactly zero foreign-born players in their squad (a number of them play for and benefit French club sides though).
And of the big nations, South Africa is the most homogeneous: 93% (or 28 out of 30) of their players are South Africa born. Of the other two, one was born in Namibia (Percy Montgomery), and one was born in Zimbabwe (Bobby Skinstad).
So, I think what we can take from all this is that the All Blacks do benefit from Pacific Island immigration. But their are no New Zealand sporting scouts in the Islands spotting youngsters running around with a rugby ball and saying: "Oooh, gotta grab that one - he's the next All Black's second five eighth".
It's all to do with economics, gravitating to the centres with greater opportunities for jobs and education. It's a consequence of the modern world. And what is New Zealand to do with these people? They come here young, live most of their life here, speak with the Kiwi twang, get jobs here and see themselves as Kiwis. Sure, they don't forget their roots, and nor should they, but they benefit from New Zealand, and in return New Zealand benefits from them.
And it's not just the All Blacks, New Zealand as a whole benefits, to be honest. Here endeth, the lesson.