Hard News by Russell Brown


I was so happy after the whistle went. I felt dizzy - I think I was hyperventilating from shouting at the top of my lungs. Then I felt a bit emotional. I hugged my friends. We'd won the final.

Saturday night's match at Eden Park wasn't the prettiest game of rugby you've ever seen - it was a clash up the middle of the park, in which the Blues eventually beat the Crusaders at their own forward game. I watched the Blues, as raging favourites, win the first two Super 12 finals, but this game was different. There were a couple of attempts to try and get up a Mexican wave, but it wasn't really the night for that. It was just too intense.

Indeed, I have been to only one sporting occasion to compare with it for atmosphere and tension, and that was the 1988 FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, when Sanchez scored to put Wimbledon up 1-0 over Liverpool in the 37th minute, and Wimbledon hung on till full time to win the Cup, with Dave Beasant saving a penalty in the second half. There was the same mixture of relief and elation afterwards.

Naturally, I was a bit excitable for the rest of the evening. We went to Galbraiths, where we ran into my old friend Bevan Rapson, who, despite being deputy editor of Metro, the magazine for Aucklanders, quite probably wears black and red undies. He was very gracious about the loss, and even admitted that he'd pick Carlos Spencer in his All Black side. I, in turn, agreed that I'd have MacDonald as my fullback and not Cullen. Turns out we both got our way. I'm delighted that Mils Muliaina has made the side - if anyone's played their way into a black jersey this season, it's him. Now they just need to appoint a minder to keep him out of trouble after the game

We wound up at Galatos, which was a bit quiet, but after being at a rugby game with nearly 50,000 people, that was okay. Lady6 performed both with her own group, Verse 2, and later on with Wellington's 50Hz. She sings, she raps, she has a real bearing and presence on the stage, and it's surely only a matter of time before she achieves higher honours. It was a delight to see her, and I thought to myself, still flushed with pride, elation and that strong Trappist beer they serve at Galbraiths: I love Auckland.

Anyway, the Herald stuck with - or possibly got stuck with - its "death knell" story on Saturday. Turns out its anonymous "official" source was a known loudmouth at the US embassy in Wellington, and most people took the press release the embassy issued on Friday, after the Herald's "death knell" headline as being something in the nature of a calming of the waters that left the way open for talks in future. The Dom Post, for example, had it that the statement had "breathed a glimmer of life" into hopes for a free trade deal with the US.

The Herald, on the other hand, said that "The US embassy in Wellington yesterday gave the clearest indication yet that the door has been firmly closed on New Zealand's hopes of free trade talks." Well, that's what the story on the Herald website said. By the time the paper made its final print edition, two words had been added to the end of that opening sentence: "for now".

There are a few other differences in the body of the story. For instance, the original sentence: "But it is also the clearest indication yet that non-trade issues such as New Zealand's position on Iraq were key factors in the decision," became "But the statement is the clearest indication yet that non-trade issues such as New Zealand's position on Iraq were not quarantined but were, in fact, key factors in the decision. It is also the firmest statement yet that the US has firmly closed the door on New Zealand for now."

Did they lose confidence in their somewhat extravagant angle some time in the wee small hours?