Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: The pantheon of sporting dominance

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  • George Darroch,

    Outside of team sports, I can only think of Eddy Merckx, whose domination of cycling between 1968 and 1973 was almost complete. He won four consecutive Tour de France, four Giro di Italia, and almost every stage race he entered. Unfortunately he was probably doping.

    What speaks to me about this team is Kapa o Pango. Executed with such commitment and discipline, it is almost more important than the game itself. There was also a really good article about how the team is now coached by a gang of four, a very collaborative effort. It shows.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The Black Ferns win-loss-draw record is 62-8-1. (Or, looking at that table more closely, 9. I’m not great at maths, but I can’t work out how 7+1+1 is 8.)

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    This links in to the reason I believe McCaw is the greatest of all time. Before McCaw’s debut, the All Blacks lost about 2 games in 10. Since his debut, when he hasn’t played, the record is 17-7-1. They’ve lost nearly 4 games in 10. But when McCaw is playing is 131-15-2, they’ve lost only 1 game in 10. It’s reasonable to say that because McCaw is there the All Blacks win half of the games they would typically lose. That’s an incredible stat.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Statistically, we're simply not comparing like with like. Features of the games themselves and the nature of the competitions will account for most of the differences. The low scores, the sheer number of people playing, the number of people on the field/court/pitch/whatever, and the level of exclusiveness to the play. We're probably up there with Ozzie in sheep shearing and dog trials. The New York Yacht club held the America's Cup for over 100 years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to George Darroch,

    Yep, sadly anything from pro-cycling (and 90s era baseball) probably has to get a permanent asterisk in this type of conversation.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The Black Ferns win-loss-draw record is 62-8-1.

    Wow - that's impressive! For all-time win percentage, they're up there with the US basketball teams, and beating out the All Blacks all time mark (although over their most recent 71 games the All Blacks are 63-6-2.) Hope the Ferns maintain their form as their game history stretches into triple figures.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to BenWilson,

    Statistically, we’re simply not comparing like with like. Features of the games themselves and the nature of the competitions will account for most of the differences. The low scores, the sheer number of people playing, the number of people on the field/court/pitch/whatever, and the level of exclusiveness to the play. We’re probably up there with Ozzie in sheep shearing and dog trials. The New York Yacht club held the America’s Cup for over 100 years.

    Certainly you're right that any cross-code comparisons are going to be a little rough. But "win" and "lose" are reasonably universal in sports, especially in events where people play opponents one at a time, rather than everyone at once (like golf or cycling). And I feel OK about getting rid of ease-or-difficulty-of drawing by concentrating only on wins and losses where necessary.

    NY Yacht Club is a good comparator, though.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    This game completed an era. There is no doubt this year the All Blacks achieved the ultimate prize to confirm their world standing. Maa Nonu’s try from the ages and Beauden’s for the future. Two stunning tries.
    Whoever bet on A Yellow Card to Ben Smith would have made a killing.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    90s era baseball

    It’s probably easier to just twink over all MLB.

    With that in mind, who honestly believes steroids didn’t start impacting baseball until the 90’s? To believe that requires the kind of gullibility usually only seen in victims of Nigerian email scams. Even the fact that baseball finally outlawed steroids in 1991 is a sham, because they didn’t start testing players for them until 2005. What’s the point of banning them if you don’t check to see if anyone is complying? […] Baseball had a way bigger performance-enhancing drug problem than steroids on its hands for a long time. Since as far back as the days when Willie Mays (the 4th most prolific home run hitter of all time, for the record) allegedly kept a liquid version called “Red Juice” on hand in his locker at all times, baseball players have relied on amphetamines to provide the boost that becomes necessary so many times during a grueling schedule that sees major league teams play 162 mostly boring-as-fuck games in just over 180 days

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    Hamish Bond and Eric Murray:

    Since Bond, a 29-year-old from Dunedin, and Murray, a 33-year-old who hails from the Hawke’s Bay, first united in the pair after the 2008 Olympics they have never been beaten. That’s a seven-year winning streak that includes 20 successive major international regatta victories, 57 races, five world championship titles (as well as another in the coxed pair) and one Olympic gold.

    That was written pre-2015 World Champs … which they won again.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ross Mason,

    This game completed an era. There is no doubt this year the All Blacks achieved the ultimate prize to confirm their world standing. Maa Nonu’s try from the ages and Beauden’s for the future. Two stunning tries.

    And the other one wasn't too bad either. But yeah – there was nothing else for Nonu to do once he caught that offload but to go for it, and he did. And Barrett's elegant toe-on at full stretch. Wow.

    Two things about this All Black team: (1) There's a level of focus and intensity they know isn't possible every week, so they build to it. Hansen's strategy of having them do things in the pool games that put them under pressure is fascinating. (2) The composure shown in both the semi and final, when their opponents came back into it. The trust in themselves and their systems was key.

    I reckon this transcends a lot of the peak performance-type management-speak slapped on the modern-era All Blacks. Steve Hansen's a pretty special man.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    But isn't it just that New Zealand is super good at rugby because it's a sport that's only played at elite level in a handful of countries and New Zealand throws huge effort at being really good at it?

    That is, if all of New Zealand's rugby resources went to, say, football instead, it's not reasonable to expect the NZ football team would have the same of success because the competition in elite football is so much greater.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Gilbert Enoka sems to play a central part too. (This piece is nine years old but is the most revealing.) http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10405999

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2896 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    But isn't it just that New Zealand is super good at rugby because it's a sport that's only played at elite level in a handful of countries and New Zealand throws huge effort at being really good at it?

    Not quite, and that's what's fascinating. England, for example, has far more players and way more money. As I noted before the tournament, there's something else going on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Other contenders:

    Football's Real Madrid (European Cup 1955-60). If the test is winning knockout competitions against opposition that increases in strength with each round, they could boast 5 RWCs in a row - but only if the tournament is held every year. Tough to maintain over 20.

    Cricket's Australia in the era of Warne/Waugh etc. 16 wins in a row, twice. Beats 16 wins in soccer or rugby, all the variables mean you can dominate a draw and miss out on a win in Test cricket.

    But overall, if you weigh up the depth/breadth of the sports concerned, the All Blacks are probably the unofficial champions of the "middle ranking" sports - neither the narrowly-based (sorry, netball and rugby league) nor the global (athletics, basketball, soccer).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1324 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Merckx was definitely doping, but probably just speed or variants of, which are unlikely to have made any real difference to his performance. Certainly he wasn't doping in the way Armstrong was, and it was part of the peloton culture at the time.

    But it's difficult to compare Merckx's dominance with the All Blacks given the sports are just so different. Merckx dominated across a range of formats - time trials, hilly classics, cobbled classics, sprinters' classics, stage races, grand tours, the Hour Record. And he rode in a culture where even as someone notorious for winning everything he was still socially obliged to give away victories to his underlings - he never won Paris-Tours because he sat up in the sprint to let a teammate win in '68, for instance.

    Professional cyclists race far more frequently than international rugby teams play, and many races are just not that important - same is true of most domestic teams in any sport, and many international teams in sports with global international reach.

    (There is, of course, substantial reason to think that many rugby internationals were played under the influence of various things we'd now see as performance enhancing.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to simon g,

    Football’s Real Madrid (European Cup 1955-60). If the test is winning knockout competitions against opposition that increases in strength with each round, they could boast 5 RWCs in a row – but only if the tournament is held every year. Tough to maintain over 20.

    I guess another factor is the onerous nature of top rugby. As Hansen noted at today’s press conference, the remarkable thing about Richie’s 148 tests is that openside flankers just don’t get to play 148 tests. Their bodies break first.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Apropos Brazil: was talking to a Brazilian yesterday about the RWC and football world cup. Do they feel about Argentina (or Germany) the way we feel about Australia, etc. Anyway, apparently you can still get a shame-faced changing of subject in Brazil, just by saying "seven". You don't even need to say "7-1". The mere humiliation of allowing 7 goals to be scored, when you're supposedly best in the world, is enough.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    When you are involved with high performance sport the worst thing you can get your athletes to do is to play the hardest they can ever achieve every time they hit the field. Richie alluded to that in an interview this morning. The ideas of Hansen and co was to ensure they get the chance to test every nuance of the process of playing the game so that when the time comes for the ultimate performance they are prepared and the magic of instinct takes over. It does not look good to the media and I have (finally) been convinced that most of the media have cottoned on to things like “rotation”. It wasn’t rotation for rotation sake, rather it was part of the well executed plan to ensure those who are on the bench and the rest who are in the reserves are well rehearsed in the game plan. Every so often you have to include a player who is the bolter. And there is no doubt Milner-Skudder is THE bolter of the year. The Gallagher, the Cullen of 2015. That spark that one could see the oldies in the team embrace and carried him to one hell of an introduction. Hansen mentioned that the bulk of the team now has upwards of 20+ games under their belt. Take out those 700 caps as the retiring brigade leaves and the rest of the world can’t really think they will be getting an easier ride.

    Wonderful to watch. That last try epitomised the goal Hansen had of turning defence into attack literally at the drop of an opponents ball. Fantastic and unstoppable. The Aussies had thrown everything into that last attack and it was a #8 who was the last line of defence trying to haul Barrett in. Pocock.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Brown,

    Kelly Slater in surfing would be up there in individual sports. 11 World titles including 5 consecutive and both the youngest (20) and the oldest winner (39)

    Piha • Since Nov 2006 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    That's all pretty much how I see it too. There's a strong will to dominate this strange sport, so we do. I don't really think it detracts from the achievement of today to not find a killer statistic that says they're the best team ever. There's no robust metric for the comparison. But winning 3 world cups, two of them back to back, is remarkable enough without overegging it. It's a first for rugby.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    teed off...
    The papers seem strangely reluctant to give any oxygen, let alone much coverage or comment, to Lydia Ko regaining her Number One position.
    Heck they still seem to give more coverage to Tiger Woods' ex-caddy!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Since 1984, New Zealand's Men's softball team, the Black Sox, have won 6 of the 9 world championships (including 5 in a row), and were runner up in the other 3 ! Very few New Zealanders know about this incredible sporting achievement. And, in reply to Robyn above, the amount of resources and public support that the Black Sox receive is miniscule compared to the All Blacks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Heck they still seem to give more coverage to Tiger Woods' ex-caddy!

    Ah yes. I must have skimmed over that headline several times before realising that it wasn't Robbie Williams who'd been "'a slave' for Tiger Woods "

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Another World Championship series worth considering is Women's Squash. From 1987 to 1992 Susan Devoy won 4 of the 5 competitions, and was runner up in the other. From April '84 to Feb '93 she spent 105 of 107 months ranked as world Number 1. (Also note that of the last 10 Women's Squash World Championships, Nicol David of Malaysia has won 8 of them - including 5 consecutive).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

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