Kieran Read Quits Rugby For Cricket, Citing Head Injury Concerns

Kieran Read speaks to the media outside his Papakura home this morning

New Zealand and the rugby world have been shocked this morning by the announcement that Kieran Read is retiring from rugby union effective immediately, and has set his sights on making the Black Caps squad “within the next 18-24 months”. Read, who has 108 caps for the All Blacks, told the nation this morning that several years of minor knocks to the head have made him decide that enough is enough, and he has been forced to make decisions with his long-term wellbeing in mind.

Read, who played for the Crusaders as well as the All Blacks, is convalescing from back surgery for a slipped disc. Spending this time with his family, including his two young children, gave him an appreciation for the long-term risks of brain damage from repeated blunt force trauma to the head.

“Rugby is a great game and always will be a great game, and I have had a great career,” Read explained to a media scrum outside his home this morning. “But I have also had a very long career, and a career in an age where rugby players are heavier and faster than ever before. I’ve taken a number of blows to the head in my dozen years as a professional rugby player, and the past few weeks have made me realise the importance of being there for my own kids, in the future, in good mental health.”

Reading from a prepared statement, Read mentioned the recent news coming out of the NFL about the long-term effects of repeated head trauma, and how this, along with increased attention being given to the issue by way of Head Injury Assessment protocols, changed his previously casual attitude. Recent research appears to be suggesting that up to 40% of former NFL players suffer from brain damage – and they have helmets. Rugby players don’t tackle with the head, but rugby is still a collision sport.

“Spending time playing with my kids, and feeling headaches like I do, forced me to ask whether it was necessary to risk further brain injury. I have given my all for the All Blacks and for the various teams I have been involved with, and on balance have decided that it’s time to put my family and my head first.”

Speaking exclusively to VJM Publishing’s Dan McGlashan, Read says that he’s put out the feelers to New Zealand Cricket but isn’t expecting miracles. “I’ve spoken to Hess [Black Caps coach Mike Hesson] and he’s made clear to me that there are no guarantees about selection. I’ll be judged on my merits, primarily as a batsman and initially for my Papakura club side, and we’ll take it from there. No guarantee about any ‘X-Factor’ weighing in my favour like Jeff Wilson got.”

Read was a useful cricketer in his high school days, going as far as representing New Zealand in Under-17 cricket, but felt forced to make the decision to focus solely on rugby as a demanding professional career loomed. In an age of cricket where the importance of defence is minimised in favour of massive hits, the 6’4″, 111kg Read stands in the same category as Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen as a man who can swing the willow extremely hard.

It’s not yet known who will replace Read as All Blacks captain, but the front runners are believed to be Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock, who has taken more of a leadership role in recent years, and openside Sam Cane, who captained the All Blacks during their 2015 Rugby World Cup match against Namibia.

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Dan McGlashan is a regular contributor to VJM Publishing and is the author of Understanding New Zealand.

Why Are The English So Poor At Sport?

Sometimes it hurts to be English – especially when playing against Southern Hemisphere sports teams

It could never be said of the English that they are poor sports, but they are poor at sport. Almost astonishingly so. For a nation of 50 million, their historical sporting achievements are dismal: one Soccer World Cup, one Rugby World Cup and a small hatful of Olympic medals are all they have gathered thus far. This article looks at why England is so poor at sport despite massive population and economic advantages over most of their opponents.

There may not be any sport more English than Test match cricket. Not only did England invent the predecessor – first class cricket – but they were also the first to start playing the highest level of the game internationally, with Tests against Australia and South Africa. They’ve been at it the longest, and they have more money behind it than anyone else.

Despite that, their Test cricket record isn’t the greatest. They just got a hiding in their most recent Test – losing by an innings – to New Zealand, a nation with less than a tenth of the population and economic resources. Not only did England lose, but they were bowled out for 58 in their first innings – an outcome that can be rightly described as a humiliation.

Nor was this a fluke – New Zealand are ranked higher than England in Tests, as are Australia, South Africa and India. This outcome is an unlikely as America inventing basketball yet being ranked lower than, say, Argentina.

England doesn’t do any good at rugby union either, despite having invented that also. Although they have been hyped for months by the media as the No. 1 challengers to Steve Hansen’s All Blacks, the English side crashed to 5th place in this year’s Six Nations, a result almost as bad as their group stage exit in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. They are regularly destroyed by teams like New Zealand and Ireland, and this year copped a hiding from Scotland, despite that these nations are but one-tenth of England’s size.

At this point, an Englishman might contend that both cricket and rugby union were relatively niche sports in England and that the major sporting preoccupation was and is, by far, soccer. Australia’s favourite sport is cricket and New Zealand’s is rugby, so those sports attract their best athletes – it’s not surprising they win. England’s best athletes play soccer.

The obvious problem here is that the English don’t do any good at soccer. Despite winning the World Cup in 1966, they haven’t come close since. Nations of similar size and economic power, such as France, Germany and Italy, put English achievements on the soccer field to shame. England hasn’t won a Soccer World Cup in half a century; Germany has won three, Italy two and even Argentina has managed a couple of wins in this time.

England’s best result, in their favourite sport, at any point in the past 50 years was a 4th place finish in 1990. So given the size and power of England, their lack of sporting success demands an explanation.

In essence there are two major reasons why English sporting prowess is so feeble: one eugenic, one spiritual.

The eugenic reason is a question of history. The British Empire was the largest that the world had ever seen, at one point covering one quarter of the world’s land area. Considering that Britain itself is just a small speck off the European coast, it meant that there were enormous new frontiers of land that needed men to work them.

These frontiers needed a certain kind of man. The land was untamed; it needed muscle to clear it and to build the new settlements and roads. Roads had to be dug from hillsides, forests had to be cut down by hand. There were frequent military threats from angry natives, and these needed to met by men with the strength and will to defend a plot of land with violence. Big, strong, tough men.

Over the course of a few centuries, the English divested themselves of their most physically impressive genes, as the carriers of them, being naturally more adventurous, tended to move to the colonies, leaving the sickly, lethargic and weak behind. This means that the modern English population bears all the hallmarks of centuries of dysgenic selection in favour of physical weakness.

The spiritual reason might also be a question of history. For whatever reason, English people no longer have the will to assert themselves. It may be guilt arising from having built a gigantic colonial empire in which many native peoples were brutally oppressed, or it could be residual trauma from many years of horrific warfare over the past century.

In either case, the English people have been so brutalised by their ruling classes over the past millenium that the populace essentially lives in a state of permanent abuse-generated submission, in contrast to the free and easy Aussies and Kiwis. Muslim rape gangs prey on English girls without fear, knowing that the locals are too cowed to do anything about it.

These historical processes have led to a spiritual vacuum, crippling the English from within. It may be that this absence of spirituality has led to English sports teams lacking the will the assert themselves on the sports field.

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Henry Nicholls is Legitimately Good – Time to Accept It

Hammerin’ Hank Nicholls is inviting comparisons to Andrew Jones with his bulldog tenacity, scoring solid runs despite an ungainly style

Fewer Black Caps players in recent times have come in for more stick than Henry Nicholls. Frequently derided as a passenger, many commentators have been calling for Hesson to get rid of him for good. This article will argue that not only is Nicholls a legitimately good batsman already, but we ought to accept that he’ll be in the Black Caps for a very long time.

Black Caps supporters have been spoiled rotten in recent years. We have Kane Williamson averaging 51, Ross Taylor averaging 47, and a bunch of players like Tom Latham, Jeet Raval and BJ Watling averaging around 40. It’s probably our best ever batting lineup, even surpassing the Wright-Jones-Crowe one of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

It’s so good that we’ve failed to appreciate the quality record that’s slowly being established by our incumbent No. 5, Canterbury’s Henry Nicholls. After 17 Tests, Nicholls has 837 runs at 38.04 – not spectacular on the face of things, but if we look deeper there are some very encouraging trends in those numbers, not least an average of 49.25 over his last ten Tests.

The vast majority of quality international batsmen don’t hit the ground running, as it takes a while to adapt to the top level of the game. Let’s contrast Nicholls’s returns after 17 Tests to the great Kiwi batsmen: Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Martin Crowe et al. After 17 Tests, Williamson averaged a mere 29.80; Crowe 24.88. Taylor did not get thrown in the deep end as young as Williamson and Crowe, but after 17 Tests he was barely ahead of Nicholls, at 39.46.

Tom Latham’s average after 17 Tests was also 39. All this tells us that, even by way of comparison to New Zealand’s best, Nicholls stacks up pretty good. Some might criticise his style, but he’s scoring the runs. Leaving aside the overall numbers, Nicholls has succeeded in playing a number of excellent innings in tough conditions.

His first excellent innings may have been the 116 he scored in the Second Test of South Africa’s 2017 tour to New Zealand. Nicholls came in at 21/3 after the dismissal of Neil Broom and scored a counter-attacking 116. The Black Caps still lost, but Nicholls’s maiden Test century came against incredibly skilled bowling that had already done early damage.

Less heralded is Nicholls’s 76 in this Test against South Africa in South Africa. The Black Caps lost heavily – the reason why Nicholls’s effort is not feted – but it would have been a humiliating loss were it not for the 76 he scored in the Black Caps’ second innings, coming in at 7/4 after Williamson had edged a cut to slip. 76 runs might not be many, but coming in on a tricky wicket against superb bowling when his team’s top order had been obliterated, it was an innings of exquisite skill.

The crowning work was of course this week’s 145* against James Anderson and Stuart Broad, on a pitch where England had been dismissed for 58 and no other batsman had passed 33 aside from Kane Williamson. Anderson came into the match as the world’s No. 1 Test bowler and with conditions expected to suit him, but neither he nor Stuart Broad succeeded in dismissing the Black Caps No. 5.

If one considers these innings in tough conditions alongside Nicholls’s generally excellent shot selection, it seems like he has all the tools, including the most important one – the right mind for the game. His numbers might not be outstanding, and no-one’s claiming that he’s going to be another Williamson, but if he keeps improving at this rate he could fashion an excellent career.

It’s time for Black Caps fans to accept that Henry Nicholls belongs alongside Williamson, Taylor, Latham and BJ Watling as an established batsman in this Black Caps Test side.

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Could New Zealand Ever Imagine Banning Rugby?

When even men built like this don’t want their kids playing rugby because it’s too violent, you know the sport has a problem

For decades, Kiwis have got used to the idea that wintertime means rugby. Well, we better start getting used to the idea of wintertime meaning soccer, because soon we’re going to have a lot more awareness about the effects of repetitive head injury than we do now, and when we do, there are going to be a lot of shrieking violets trying to get the game they play in heaven banned.

Rugby is popular in New Zealand for two major reasons. The first is that it’s fun as all hell both to play and to watch, the second is that rugby has been an important part of the masonry that cemented white people and Maoris together into a functioning modern culture. For over a century, rugby fields have been the places where Kiwis learned to set aside their racial and class differences and unite of their own free will towards a common goal.

There has always been an undercurrent of concerned mothers, however, who didn’t let their kids play rugby out of fear of head or brain injury. It’s an entirely legitimate concern – rugby is a collision sport, after all, and it’s evident from watching ten minutes of an All Blacks match that not even the best tackling technique in the world is a guarantee that one can avoid head injury entirely.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, even the best of the best rugby players in New Zealand are aware of the risks they are taking. Kieran Read has said that he intends to encourage his children into cricket on the grounds that rugby is too dangerous, and Richie McCaw said, post-retirement, that “I don’t miss getting smashed.”

The question is this: what risk of permanent brain injury is considered too much, given the positive physical and social benefits that come from the game? Because if that limit is exceeded, it may be that the responsible thing to do, from the Government’s perspective, is to ban it. After all, New Zealand schools banned Bull Rush with very little sentiment because of head injury concerns, so why couldn’t they do the same for rugby?

Recent studies on NFL players suggest that the incidence rate of brain damage in adult professional collision sports is many times higher than was previously suspected. It seems that, as brain scanning technology continues to improve, we are gathering a more refined appreciation of how vulnerable the brain really is to repeated blunt force trauma.

Rugby is different to American football, of course, because in rugby the tackle is made with the shoulder, whereas in American football tackles are often made with the head in a manner akin to a charging rhinoceros. But that’s merely a difference in degree, not in category. Rugby is still a sport based around putting the ball carrier on the ground through physical force, and this means the risk of head injury can only be minimised, never eliminated.

Already we’ve been able to observe a change in the culture of the sport in recent years. Avoiding head injuries is sometimes prioritised to an absurd degree, highlighted by the incident in the recent Lions tour when a Lions player leapt into the air to catch a loopy pass from halfback Conor Murray, was tackled before he hit the ground, and then was awarded a crucial penalty for having been taken out in the air.

This looks set to get even more extreme. It won’t be long until a professional match has to be stopped part way through because (for example) two tighthead props on one team have both failed head injury assessments.

This column has previously pointed out that the Government never gives rights back to the peasantry; they always take one new right away for every one they give back. Recent discussions about whether to change the cycle helmet laws have been centred around the idea that forcing people to wear a helmet discourages them from cycling. One can be certain that if we get our rights to cycle without a helmet back, pressure will begin to build to have them taken away somewhere else.

We would never argue for the game of rugby union to be banned, at any level. We don’t even support the softening of the game with the repeated TMO checks for suspected head-high tackles. But there are some wowsers and control freaks out there, and we can confidently state that they would happily ban rugby if they thought of the children long enough. It pays to stay one step ahead of them.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Tim Southee, Mike Hesson and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Matt Henry has a better ODI strike rate with the ball than even Shane Bond, but can’t make the current Black Caps ODI side over players with much worse numbers

A sunk cost is an economic concept that refers to an expense that has been already paid for, so that this expense is irrecoverable. It sounds unremarkable, but sunk costs do funny things to the human brain. The Sunk Cost Fallacy, and a little game theory, may help explain why Mike Hesson refuses to make the hard call and drop Tim Southee for Matt Henry in the Black Caps ODI playing XI.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy is an example of a reasoning error that is commonly made when sunk costs are involved. It refers to when people do something irrational because they have sunk costs (in the form of money, time or energy) into a line of reasoning already.

The common example given is the Concorde project, during which the French and British governments realised that the project would never make economic sense, but which they continued with anyway on the grounds that they didn’t want to waste their sunk cost.

This is a well-known phenomenon in economics because it often leads to horrific waste, particularly when people throw good money after bad in the hope that their initial investment will be recouped (it’s also a well-known phenomenon in poker when players go broke). As far as Mike Hesson is concerned, the same psychological process may be occurring with his obstinate refusal to elevate Matt Henry to the opening bowler’s position alongside Trent Boult.

Southee is only 29 years old, but he has been playing for ages. He debuted as a teenager, and looked incredibly promising with a five-wicket haul and a run-a-ball 77 in a Test against England. Since then, New Zealand Cricket have invested substantial resources in him, giving him every opportunity to take the new ball against all comers. No less an authority than Allen Donald touted Southee as potentially a great swing bowler, but it’s hard to deny the raw numbers.

The numbers argue confidently that Southee is not as good as Henry (in ODIs at least), and probably never has been.

Since the loss to Australia in the final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Southee has averaged 42.77 with the ball. He has taken 45 wickets in this time frame at an economy rate of 5.72. Henry has taken 44 wickets at an economy rate of 5.81, which is similar, but has an average of 28.13 thanks to a strike rate of 29.

This is, amazingly, a better strike rate than Shane Bond managed over his career (29.2), and means that Henry has been 50% more likely to take a wicket on any given ball than Southee during this time.

Southee is striking at 44.8 since the last Cricket World Cup, and has not taken four wickets in an innings since then, despite playing in 38 games. Henry has only played in 25 matches since the final loss but has already managed three four-wicket bags and one five-wicket bag in that time – only one of each fewer than Southee has managed in a 132-match career.

In fact, Southee has not managed to get four wickets in an innings one time in the last three years, whereas Henry took four wickets in his last match.

Mike Hesson might be thinking here in terms of potential, in that, theoretically, Southee has the potential to be another Jimmy Anderson. Like Southee, Anderson is also tall, bowls with an open stance and relies on swinging the ball to nick batsmen out. Also like Southee, the Englishman didn’t achieve anything particularly special in his first 132 ODIs, returning an average of 30.18 for his 179 wickets.

But in 43 matches since the start of 2012, Anderson has taken 65 wickets at an average of 23.97. Hesson might be expecting a similar transformation to come over Southee, but it’s also very possible that he has invested so much time and energy in Southee that he sees this investment as a sunk cost that he is compelled to recoup.

A solution that would save everyone’s face would be to demote Southee to third seamer. This would be the best of all worlds for everyone except for Lockie Ferguson, who would then struggle for a starting berth.

The positives are that it would allow Boult and Henry, with the best strike rates, to bowl with the new ball when they are the most effective, and it would allow Southee to utilise his skill set of varied deliveries at the death while minimising his weaknesses of being slow and inaccurate. Southee also has 33 wickets as third seamer, averaging an entirely acceptable 28.18 (compared to over 35 while opening). It seems like a solution whose time has come.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

How To Fix All of Cricket’s Problems At Once: Introducing the T0 (T-Zero) Format

Taking thirty overs out of the middle of ODIs has been such a success, we need to consider removing a further twenty

T20s were invented to fill a specific niche in the cricket market. It was believed by some great, visionary minds that cricket fans were turning away from ODIs because of the “boring” middle overs between ten and 40. Apparently these 30 overs had too many balls that resulted in neither a wicket nor a boundary, causing viewers to switch off from a lack of action. This essay proposes that we reduce limited overs cricket by a further 20 overs.

There have been experiments with reducing cricket matches to less than 20 overs, such as the recent T10 tournament in Sharjah. Some brave souls have talked about T5 cricket, but what is being proposed here is the advent of zero-over cricket, hereby dubbed the T0 (pronounced “tee-zero”) format. It’s technically a form of limited-overs cricket in the sense that overs are, indeed, acutely limited.

Many people say that Tests are boring because the result is often a foregone conclusion. Over five days, it’s as likely as anything ever is in sport that the most skilled side wins. This contrasts sharply with soccer, and with T20 cricket, because these sports have a much greater luck component. This luck component means that weaker teams can upset stronger ones more often, making for a much more engaging spectacle.

Why not maximise the thrill of potential upsets by deciding the match at the coin toss?

Purists will likely dismiss the idea at this stage, pointing out that reducing the contest to zero overs also reduces the batting, bowling and fielding components of the game. While this is a fair criticism, it needs to be balanced against the fact that the boring aspects of the game would also be reduced. T0 cricket completely does away with the notion that the players are just going through the motions; every moment of every game would be crucial to the outcome.

In all, there are at least three major reasons to support the expansion of T0 cricket. Each of these reasons solves a major problem with the current state of the longer formats of world cricket.

One of the foremost is that it would enable cricket to be expanded into markets where people have not been able to play because of the expense. Cricket is a fairly expensive sport to play, especially when compared to rugby or soccer, and this puts an upper limit on its market appeal to the poorer demographics of the world. Many interested people just don’t have the spare cash for several bats, balls, a set of pads, box, helmet, thighguard etc.

In T0 cricket teams don’t need anywhere near as much equipment as they need in the longer formats – for some players a uniform would suffice. Moreover, maintenance of that equipment is also reduced to a minimum on account of being used less often than in the longer formats of the game. Limiting the equipment factor will also have the effect of reducing gear envy among teammates.

The effect on wear and tear on the players’ bodies is another problem solved by T0 cricket. England head coach Trevor Bayliss was in the news recently for saying that T20 internationals should be dropped from the schedule to help with player burnout. Bayliss contends that the cricket schedule is so jam-packed nowadays there is no time for players to rest.

T0 cricket takes away the physical exhaustion factor. By minimising the incidence rate of high-risk physical exertions, T0 cricket also minimises the chances of injury or burnout. Also, with awareness growing about the long-term dangers of concussions, mothers of young keen-on-cricket children will be relieved to hear that T0 cricket offers very little risk of players getting hit in the head by a hard, rapidly moving ball. The biggest risk is getting a coin in the eye.

Modern life has a peculiar obsession with equalising conduct between the sexes, and T0 cricket can proudly claim to have solved the gender problem. At the moment, men and women can’t really play cricket together because of the fact that men are much taller and stronger, which provides immense advantages when it comes to bowling a ball fast or swinging a bat hard. The differences are so vast that leagues currently have to be separated by gender.

Many would argue that these gender differences, like the personal differences in height and muscle mass, make the game of cricket inherently unfair. Instead of everyone having a reasonable expectation of being able to pull off a win, the longer forms of cricket reduce batting to a mere contest of strength, timing and hand-eye co-ordination, and bowling to a simple process of repeating a single action with maximum shoulder leverage.

T0 cricket would provide a truly level playing field, as all players would be limited to their own ability to pick which side the coin was going to land on – a tricky skill to master even for the most dedicated or gifted athlete.

In summary, there are a number of reasons to think that this revolutionary proposal could rejuvenate the public’s appreciation for the sport. T0 cricket offers the perfect solution for busy people in our modern world who don’t have copious amounts of time to set aside to watch a match, and is surely the future of our beloved game.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Will We Ever See Tactically Dropped Catches in T20?

Pictured: not a deliberate drop

There is a nightmare scenario lurking in the future shadows of T20 cricket. It’s unexplored territory that arguably goes against the spirit of the game, like the underarm delivery or the Mankad. The possibility of it is so unpalatable that few have thus far dared think about it. The nightmare scenario is this: Will we ever see a T20 match in which a fielder deliberately drops a catch?

The reason why this might become an issue is because of scoreboard pressure. Considering the following scenario:

It is the second innings. The team batting first scored 200, and in response, the chasing team is 141/1 after 15 overs. This means that the chasing team needs 60 runs off 30 balls, a RRR of 12 per over. This is a challenging task but not ungettable. The No. 3 batsman is in, but has struggled to get the ball out of the middle all day and is striking at less than 100. The Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 batsmen are all established hitters who reliably strike at 125+. The No. 3 batsman has just hit the first ball of the 16th over in the air towards mid-on, who is lining it up.

The question: Is it in the interests of the fielding team for the mid-on fielder to complete the catch, or is it better for him to deliberately palm the ball into the ground?

Consider the match situation. The chasing team needs 60 runs off 30 balls, which essentially means that they have to score boundaries. The No. 3 batsman has had trouble hitting boundaries all innings, which means that the chasing team has a fair probability of losing if he remains at the wicket, because he will use up deliveries that the Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 batsmen could be using to strike boundaries.

If he gets out now, on the other hand, those batsmen will be able to come in and strike at a higher rate, meaning that the chasing team would have a much higher chance of winning the match.

In simpler terms, what happens when the wicket count is meaningless on account of there being so few overs left and the current striker has a lower strike rate than the next man in (or, at least, the fielding team anticipates that he will have a lower strike rate)?

Against this, it might be argued that a set batsman will have his eye in better than the next batsman in, and so taking the catch will always benefit the fielding team. Moreover, taking the catch makes it more likely that the bowlers can get into the tail.

But that doesn’t negate the possibility, however unlikely, that a match situation may arise in which the fielding team calculates that the match is unwinnable for the chasing team while a certain batsman is at the crease on account of the intensity of the scoreboard pressure.

What may happen in the end is that batsmen are simply sent to the crease in descending order of strike rate.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

New Zealand Can Top The 2020 Olympics Medal Table With a Team Full of Transgenders

It’s now possible for men to compete in women’s sports if their feelings would be hurt by being excluded. New Zealanders can use this to our sporting advantage

The fashion of the zeitgeist is to ignore biology and to deny that it has any effect whatsoever on the patterns of conduct of human affairs. This has had a number of unforeseen consequences, all of which are taboo to speak about on account of going against that fashion. However, there are ways that astute observers can use these fashions to their advantage, and New Zealand could use it to beat both America and China in the next Olympics.

New Zealand had never won a weightlifting world championship medal until transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard did so on Wednesday. Born a male named Gavin, and doing a lot of weightlifting training as an adult male, Gavin decided that he was Laurel and is now a she. Because the fashion of the zeitgeist is to ignore biology, no-one dared say anything about the colossal advantage Laurel was inevitably going to have in a strength-based sport on account of being a man, and he duly achieved something never before achieved by a Kiwi athlete.

No New Zealander had ever won a world championship medal in weightlifting before, unsurprising for such a small country in such a popular event. But no New Zealander had ever had the advantage of a man’s wrists, forearms, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, shoulders, abdominals and calves in the women’s division before either.

Comically, if Hubbard had lifted his personal best in the snatch event at these world championships, he would have won the gold medal, smashing his next opponent by 5kg.

Some might think it astonishing that this kind of thing is even allowed, because it clearly goes against the Corinthian ideal of fair play in sport. But in any case, it isn’t for us to set the direction of the social narrative. That is done by the major media enterprises, who spend millions where we spend hundreds; we can only watch, question, and share observations in the hope that those wise enough to listen will survive the coming catastrophe.

It’s enough to say this: New Zealand needs to invest some serious money into recruiting a contingent of transgender athletes to dominate the women’s events at the 2020 Olympics. We may never get a chance like this again.

If we invested in about 150 transgender athletes to compete in female Olympic events, New Zealand could realistically have a chance of topping the world medal count at the next Olympics if the example of Laurel Hubbard is anything to go by. America won 46 gold medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and New Zealand won four, meaning that we need at least 43 men to compete as transgenders in women’s events and to win for us to top the Olympic rankings.

The obvious events to target are the ones where men have massive physiological advantages on account of the different selective pressures facing men and women in the evolutionary history of primates. Men have not been rewarded by nature for our nurturing abilities, but for our abilities to smash skulls and rip out throats and crush scrotums. So the Olympic events that share similarities with these things should be at the top of the hit list.

If Laurel Hubbard can win silver in this world championships, we can count on transgenders being able to smash foreign women in all events involving upper body strength. Probably we could get a transgender to win every weight division in the weightlifting, as well as all throwing events such as shotput, discus, hammer and javelin, and perhaps we could also dominate the swimming events. All of the fighting events should be easy wins for Kiwi men competing in international women’s divisions: certainly wrestling and boxing can be targeted.

Winning all of these events and divisions would give us 50 gold medals and an almost certain top spot on the next Olympic medal table. No doubt the rules on this will be tightened up after Hubbard’s win, so we ought to act now to seize this unprecedented opportunity to win an absolute swag of medals.

Why New Zealand Should Make Cricket Our National Sport

Kane Williamson is ten times more famous on the world stage than any All Black realistically ever could be – and a hundred times less at risk for head injury

It’s over. The Scots have beaten us for the first time in rugby history. It didn’t turn out quite like that, of course, as Beauden Barrett’s covering tackle forced a knock on from the Scottish fullback, but when Stuart Hogg broke the line and then defeated TJ Perenara’s ankletap, it looked like the Scots were going to score, making it 22-22 with a kick to come.

If Finn Russell had slotted that, Scotland would have beaten the All Blacks for the first time in over a century of trying. It would be a dark day for New Zealand rugby, especially having conceded a first-ever loss to Ireland only a few years beforehand.

Considering that the Kiwis were bundled out of the RLWC at the quarterfinal stage, it would be an incredible dual blow to the country’s self image within 24 hours. Our aura of rugby invincibility would be shattered. It would be emasculating. Kiwi men wouldn’t be able to look their wives in the eye for weeks.

Hell, it was bad enough for the Kiwis to lose to Fiji and for Scotland to not get thrashed. We might do well to see the writing on the wall now and realise that our historical advantages have been eroded, and that there is every chance of us being just one of the pack from now on.

All these are just superficial reasons for questioning the primacy of rugby as the national sport, though. They are fashions, that come and go.

What will mark a permanent change is our ever-increasing awareness of the severity of brain trauma endured by constant heavy collisions. Fifty years from now, it’s possible that no-one will be playing rugby at all, whether league or union, for the same reasons that other extremely violent things don’t happen anymore. We became aware of the actual consequences.

Rugby is fun as all hell to play. Maybe it’s because of the danger inherent in the game. Tackling is dangerous, because if you go too low you can take a knee to the head, and if you go too high you can talk an elbow to the head, and the ruck is dangerous because someone might drop a knee or elbow on your head, and the high ball is dangerous because you might land on your head, and so on.

It’s hard to avoid playing rugby without head injuries. Richie McCaw said, shortly after his retirement, that “I don’t miss getting smashed,” and Kieran Read is on record as saying that he will raise his son to play cricket instead of rugby because of the risk of head injury makes rugby a poor choice.

This latter point regarding Read is something to think about. If a man as brave and mean and big and athletic as Kieran Read is going to steer his sons away from rugby because of the risk of head injury, what hope do the rest of us have?

The lifelong effects of repetitive brain trauma on NFL players are increasingly becoming known. Mounting evidence suggests that the brain trauma from tackling and being tackled is strongly correlated with future neural disorders, early dementia, strokes etc. There must be tens of thousands of young mothers who are now aware of this risk from playing collision sports and we shouldn’t be surprised if rugby went the way of bullrush and got banned in all schools on account of the risk to developing brains.

Already the international game is being affected by the head to send players off for head injury assessments, and the more this happens the more people realise that head injury is really an ever-present risk for rugby players.

From a cultural perspective, the risk here is that these mothers steer their children away from rugby and into a shit sport like soccer, thereby exposing them to moral and physical degeneration and teaching them to glorify cheating and disrespecting the referee.

For this reason, it’s imperative that cricket steps into the gap left by the impending withdrawal of children from the rugby paddocks and fills a national need for a sport that allows for competition in a high-trust environment. Furthermore, cricket will soon become a much more realistic career path than rugby for talented Kiwi athletes on account of the IPL and other international T20 cricket leagues.

A switch to cricket as our national sport might be a wise move now, because it may be forced on us in the future by an increasing appreciation of the risk of brain damage.