Neil Wagner And The Coming Golden Age Of New Zealand Cricket

Black Caps fans were disappointed to hear, last Sunday evening, that Neil Wagner had broken two toes batting in the first innings in the ongoing Test against Pakistan. The natural assumption was that the damage would prevent Wagner from bowling, and so the Black Caps were much less likely to win the match than they otherwise would have been. As it turned out, Wagner bowled 49 overs anyway, and the Black Caps won by 101 runs.

The win against Pakistan was important for a number of reasons. For one thing, it propelled the Black Caps to the No. 1 Test ranking for the first time in their history. For another, it meant that they still had a chance to make the World Test Championship final. But the main reason was spiritual.

There are many reasons why the All Blacks are infamously hard to beat. Their extremely high level of skill is one. The main reason, though, is will. The All Blacks go harder than any other team barring the Springboks. They and the Boks seem ready and willing to die to defend their line, a quality shared by no other teams. The All Blacks are even willing to play on with broken bones.

On the 1970 All Blacks tour of South Africa, Colin Meads played most of a match against East Transvaal with a broken arm. The near-demonic will necessary to do this has since become part of the All Blacks mythology. In the half-century since that tour, the All Blacks have built a winning record against every other side in the world, even the 3-time World Cup winning Springboks.

Part of the reason why the All Blacks are so good is their “aura”. This is the name given to the All Blacks egregore, which is powerful enough to influence games in its own right. This egregore has gained so much power because of feats like that of Colin Meads. Other teams don’t have players willing to play on with broken bones, which is why they keep losing to the All Blacks, who do.

When most Black Caps fans heard that Neil Wagner had two broken toes, they would have resigned themselves to a draw. Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner are fine bowlers, but it seems unlikely that they could take 20 wickets by themselves on a placid New Zealand pitch that would continue to flatten out.

That Wagner not only continued to bowl, but took 4-105, is a feat equal to that of Colin Meads half a century ago. Wagner has rightly been lauded for his influence on the outcome of the match, but the larger effect might be Wagner’s influence on the Black Caps’ egregore. The Black Caps are, now, also a team that fields players willing to play on with broken bones.

Wagner’s feat, and the subsequent Black Caps victory, may have created an egregore that is strong enough to win matches on its own. Every team that faces the Black Caps now knows that, as Wagner put it, their opponents would rather be carried off on a stretcher than lose. That is intimidation. That is an aura. That fact will create doubt in the minds of every team that gets ahead of the Black Caps in a match.

It’s also impossible to overstate the psychological effect that the Black Caps win will have on world cricket. The bar has now been set higher than ever before. Every cricketer in the world knows that, if they aren’t willing to bowl 49 overs on a broken foot, they don’t want it as much as the Black Caps do. Net bowlers the world over will tire and, thinking of Wagner, bowl for another hour anyway.

Thanks to the efforts of Wagner and others, the Black Caps are now the world’s leading cricket team.

What seems clear is that the Black Caps are about to enter the true Golden Age of New Zealand Cricket. From now until at least the retirement of Kane Williamson, the Black Caps will either be ranked No.1 or will be threatening it. They have a cadre of both batsmen and bowlers who will be able to perform at world-class level, and there won’t be mass retirements for at least one more World Cup cycle.

Over the next four to six years, the Black Caps will challenge in all conditions against all opponents. That they themselves believe they can do this has been ensured by Neil Wagner’s efforts this week. Both the Black Caps and their opponents know that not even broken bones are enough to stop the Kiwi pace battery. It will provide an invincible confidence.

This Black Caps side is already the No. 1 Test team in the world and easily the best squad that New Zealand has ever produced. The big question is whether they have what it takes to challenge Ponting’s Australia as the most complete side in living memory. The next four to six years should tell us.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.

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Is It Time For An Asian Quota In The All Blacks?

Japanese player Daisuke Ohata is history’s top international rugby union try scorer, proving that being Asian is no hindrance to rugby excellence

By the time of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, over 1,000 men had represented the All Blacks throughout history. Although the All Blacks are famous for being a successful multicultural operation, not a single one of those thousand plus All Blacks has been Asian. This essay asks whether it’s time for an Asian quota in the All Blacks.

At the time of the 2018 Census, some 15.3% of the New Zealand population were Asians, around 750,000 people. About a quarter million of those are Chinese, another quarter million Indian, and the rest a mix of Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino and a few others. It’s similar to the total number of Maoris and greater than the total number of Pacific Islanders.

Most of those Asians are relative newcomers to New Zealand, and therefore a historic lack of Asian representation is not hard to explain. However, 15% of the current population is a large number of people. On the face of it, it seems extremely improbable that none of these people would have gone on to be an All Black today. Indeed, there are very few Asians among professional rugby players full stop.

The conventional explanation for this disparity is a supposed inherent genetic disadvantage possessed by Asians.

Because rugby is an extremely physical game, the more effective rugby players tend to also be the more muscular ones. For the forwards, muscle power gives the wrestling strength to win possession of the ball; for the backs, muscle power gives the explosiveness to break tackles and to hit gaps. According to the common explanation, Asians lack this muscle power because they don’t have the right genes.

The idea that Polynesians and white people are genetically larger than Asians is part of a school of thought called scientific racism. This school of thought is the rhetoric of dressing up racism in scientific-sounding statements to give it legitimacy. People who adhere to this school of thought like to draw jargon from evolutionary psychology and genetics to create the appearance of support for their case.

Scientific racists will say that, when a people becomes civilised, the set of selection pressures in favour of big muscles are no longer as strong among that people. A capacity for violence gives way to a capacity to co-operate. Hence, the longer a people has been civilised, the smaller they will become. This is the reason why Indians have the least lean muscle mass in the world – they have been civilised the longest.

Scientific racists go on to say that, because Northern Europeans and Polynesians were the last to become civilised, that they have the most lean muscle mass, this being the inevitable consequence of selective pressures that rewarded the most violent and aggressive males with mates and social status. This lean muscle mass makes them better rugby players, and therefore the low level of Asian representation can be explained by Asian inferiority.

In reality, this is merely a “just so” story used to justify racist oppression of Asians.

The truth is that Asians have been discouraged from playing rugby because of the racism they have encountered from Polynesians and white people. Unfortunately, Asians have been stereotyped as small, weedy nerds who are only good at maths and computer science. This has led to an extreme amount of racist bullying from Polynesians and white people, which has discouraged Asians from pursuing higher honours in the game.

Further proof for this contention comes from the observation that all of the Japanese national rugby side’s players are much better at rugby than the average Polynesian or white man. It follows from this that excellence at rugby is primarily a question of dedication to training and not genetics. This proves that the over-representation of Polynesians and whites in the All Blacks cannot be because of inherent racial superiority.

If there is no inherent racial superiority, then anti-Asian racism is the only possible explanation for the lack of Asian representation in the All Blacks. This means that the existing New Zealand rugby structure is obliged to do something about their racism and the historical advantage it has given Polynesian and white players.

One way of rectifying this would be to use the South African solution of racial quotas.

There are 15 players in a starting rugby union team, and 23 players in a match-day team (which includes the bench). This means that fair and equal representation for Asians in the All Blacks (based on their proportion of the New Zealand population) would be something like two starting players and one on the bench.

This doesn’t mean that there should be a quota of three places for Asian players in the All Blacks straight away. A better way to do transformation, following the South African example, would be to have one quota place for Asians in the All Blacks but three quota places for Asians in all Super Rugby teams (at least to start with).

Until New Zealand Rugby can rectify their horrific failure to include Asians in the top levels of professional rugby culture, they will continue to be a racist organisation. They show no willingness to change their attitudes on their own, however. Therefore, a quota for Asian players in the All Blacks is necessary before the All Blacks can be considered, for the first time, a fully representative team.

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Note: this article is a pisstake. If you got trolled, the joke’s on you!

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

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The Government Should Legalise Cannabis For The Rugby World Cup

Kiwis are rejoicing at the news that our owners have permitted us extended hours to drink alcohol on licensed premises while Rugby World Cup games are on this Spring. It’s true that anything that facilitates New Zealanders coming together in a spirit of goodwill is a good thing, and VJM Publishing applauds this move for the sake of the nation’s mental health. The really great move, however, would be to legalise cannabis for the Rugby World Cup.

A famous half-truth about New Zealand culture is that rates of domestic violence spike every time the All Blacks lose. The full truth is that domestic violence rates spike when the All Blacks win, too, because every time the All Blacks play, men get together and drink alcohol. When they do this, a certain proportion of them will end up bashing their wives and girlfriends (or kids, parents, brothers/sisters etc.).

Alcohol is great fun, and the value it has in facilitating socialisation and enjoyment of life cannot be measured. It’s impossible to quantify the quality of life improvements that follow having a really excellent time partying with alcohol, or the warm memories that come from having a great time drinking with friends, or the value of the friendships made because alcohol broke the ice.

On balance, alcohol is a good thing – but the negatives of it are considerable nonetheless.

As mentioned in Chapter 12 of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, alcohol is present in an estimated 30% of domestic violence incidents that the Police attend, and is believed to be responsible for 3.9% of all deaths in New Zealand. Including sicknesses caused by it and lost work days to hangovers or other alcohol-related conditions, the monetary cost of alcohol use runs into the billions.

Again, in no way is this to make the argument that alcohol is bad or should be further restricted. The problem is that there is no recreational alternative to it. You’re not allowed to go into town and watch the All Blacks at a cannabis cafe, and you’re not allowed to sit in a town square and watch a public big screen while smoking a joint. You’ll get arrested and put in a cage.

If you want to socialise with other people this Rugby World Cup, you get the same deal as at all other times. Drink alcohol or just fuck off back home.

Imagine a Rugby World Cup where Kiwis could come together without being pressured into consuming alcohol in order to socialise. This would finally mean that there was a recreational alternative for all those people who knew that they weren’t good on alcohol (arguably some 20% of the population).

It’s not a secret that the participants in most of those 30% of domestic violence incidents will be people who already know that sometimes they don’t behave well on alcohol. Imagine if these people were able to use a recreational substance that allowed them to be part of the festivities but which did not have the side effect of inducing them to get violent or aggressive. Many of them would take it – to everyone’s benefit.

Liberalising drinking hours for the duration of the Rugby World Cup might lead to more violence, sexual assaults and people killed in car wrecks, but it need not do so. If the purpose of liberalising such laws is to create a festival atmosphere for the duration of the tournament (and nothing can bring the country together like a Rugby World Cup), then it is possible for us to have our cake and eat it.

The way to achieve this is to legalise cannabis for the duration of the Rugby World Cup.

This would not mean a repeal of cannabis prohibition, at least not yet. What it would mean is a moratorium on arrests for public outdoors cannabis use for the duration of the tournament (or at least for as long as the All Blacks are still in it). We could pass a law that said, while the World Cup was in progress, Police would ignore public possession, use and personal trading of cannabis (although commercial enterprises would still be illegal).

This would mean that people could smoke cannabis in public as they can now smoke tobacco. They could meet in bonds of love, and share good cheer with a smile and a laugh, as alcohol users are permitted to do.

One can confidently predict the result of such a move, because one can observe how people behave in places where cannabis is already legal. Making cannabis legal for the duration of the Rugby World Cup would serve to create a relaxed, convivial, celebratory atmosphere for what is arguably the Kiwi nation’s most cherished quadrennial religious festival. It would create many good memories.

This will have several benefits over and above creating a festive atmosphere. It would also show New Zealanders that they don’t necessarily have to shit and piss their pants in fear at the thought of cannabis law reform. If cannabis users were given the opportunity to show that their behaviour was preferable to drunks they would probably take it. It would allow for a much better-informed cannabis referendum debate.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Tao of Rugby

The Tao is in everything. More fundamental than words, more fundamental than forms, the eternal interplay of yin and yang is one powerful way of understanding the reality we are presented with. As the Super Rugby season begins, and in a year of fixtures that contains a Rugby World Cup, we take a look at the Tao of rugby.

The flowing blitzkrieg of an All Blacks backline move is often the first thing a person sees when they are new to the game. It’s impressive because it’s high skill executed at high pace. It’s all very yang and masculine, because it’s fast and dynamic, but there’s another side to the game, because the backs can’t do anything without the ball.

The forwards might be slow, but without the ball the team can only really go backwards. So it doesn’t matter that these players are slow, as long as they are strong, because strength is the main factor that determines who wins a contest for ball possession. The forwards are therefore like the yin: underappreciated, but just as necessary as the rest.

In this sense, a rugby team is like a taijitu. The backs as yang, and the forwards as yin. Both are entirely necessary for the correct operation of a rugby team, because the backs can score points but have trouble winning the ball, and the forwards can win the ball but have trouble scoring points. Neither is superior to the other, and neither can be complete without the other.

There is a deep spiritual truth in this. One solution to the question of the meaning of life is just to play one’s role, whatever that should be. A prop might envy the fitness and speed of the backs, and a winger might envy the strength of the forwards, but at the end of the day all either can do is just to play their role.

The rugby ball, being shaped in such a manner as to prevent it being passed along the ground soccer-style, represents the very centre of the taijitu. This is the position that Taoists refer to as the “unwobbling pivot”, on account of that the rest of the system revolves around it. Without a ball that can bounce in unpredictable ways, there is no game of rugby.

This ball is a very chaotic element, as can be seen on every occasion when a high ball is allowed to hit the ground (and often when it isn’t). In this sense, it also represents Fortune. For a New Zealander of the 21st century, instead of saying “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh”, we say “That’s just the bounce of the ball.” The sentiment is precisely the same.

These patterns within patterns are part of the reason why rugby is now more of a religion in New Zealand than religion is.

The purpose of religion is not anything to do with any spiritual insights that it may confer. This is merely a ruse. The real purpose of religion is to bind a society together by bringing all of the disparate groups together in a state of equality before something absolute. God knows no division of class or race, and therefore all are equal before God, whether rich or poor.

Coming together in the name of God is an extremely powerful tool for creating social bonds, but New Zealand can no longer attempt to do this in the name of Christianity. That tradition is dead, but it’s not the only way that Kiwis can come together as one.

Rugby also serves this purpose. Rugby serves to bring Kiwis together in a way that no religion or Government enterprise can. At an All Blacks game, one sits in the stand, and it doesn’t matter if the person next to you if of a different class or gender – you are there for the same purpose, to give your energy to the same spectacle. You are all equal before something greater: the ritualised warfare that is rugby.

All of this goes double for those who actually play the game. Because mainstream religion is not inspiring to New Zealanders, we have to learn our moral lessons elsewhere – and historically this has been on the sports field.

On the sports field, we learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you play well and lose, and sometimes you play poorly and win. We learn that arrogance usually leads to a comeuppance of some sort. We learn that a hard tackle is no less hard because the person delivering it was white or brown, or because the person receiving it was rich or poor.

We learn that the bounce of the ball favours neither the international superstar nor the 8-year old. All are equal before the whims of the prolate spheroid, which is, to the Kiwi, the form of God, distributing blessings according to a pattern that cannot be understood by mere mortals. We learn to adopt the humility that is the only correct response to such an almighty force.

So when people say that rugby is a religion to Kiwis, they’re more accurate than even they might realise. Rugby is to us what Taoism was to the everyday folk of ancient China, both bonding the community together and instructing its members about the mysteries of life, luck and death.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.